WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture means penetrating the skin with a fine needle.
It is a drug free, complementary therapy and is becoming more widely used.
There is growing evidence for the effects of acupuncture in mammals and birds.
Although the therapy is relatively novel in the West, it has been used in China and the East for thousands of years!
Imagine your pet running around with much reduced pain or feeling less stiff than he/she has for years!
Here at South Moor Vets, acupuncture is practised by an experienced veterinary acupuncturist.
The majority of insurance companies will now cover the cost if treatment is recommended by your vet.
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE USED FOR?
Indications include for chronic (ongoing) conditions eg. osteo-arthritis, back pain, skin conditions and sometimes for gastro-intestinal disease including inflammatory bowel disease in dogs and constipation and cystitis in cats. There are some pets that are very sensitive to some of the commonly used medications for musculo-skeletal conditions or osteo-arthritis and for those individuals acupuncture can offer a vital treatment modality.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING TREATMENT?
Fine needles are inserted in to the skin at specific points over the body. Sometimes the vet may adjust the needles during the treatment to increase the stimulation of the nerves.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
It stimulates nerve fibres to provoke the same reaction as occurs when tissues are damaged but with out the damage. This causes the body to release chemicals called enkephalins which switch off the nerve fibres producing the chronic pain.
IS IT SAFE?
There are few recorded cases of safety issues in animals.
HOW LONG DO SESSIONS LAST?
Usually 30-40 minutes although the first session may be closer to an hour for a full examination and discussion of the problem.
HOW MANY SESSIONS WILL MY PET NEED?
Usually at least four- six sessions are required initially, usually weekly. The effect of the acupuncture will vary in different individuals but often after initial treatment top-up sessions may be required depending on the response.
DOES IT HURT MY PET?
Most animals tolerate the needles well and become very relaxed and sleepy. It is very unusual for them to need to be sedated for treatment (even cats and rabbits). The insertion of the needles is not usually painful but if pets have particular joint pains then those sites can be painful and the acupuncturist may need to use needles further away from these sensitive points especially at initial treatments.
WHAT ABOUT AFTER THE TREATMENT? ARE THERE ANY SIDE-EFFECTS?
Pets can be very sleepy or even very happy. A quiet time after the treatment may be beneficial.
HOW WILL I KNOW IF IT HAS WORKED?
3 outcomes are likely:
- If treatment is for a musculo-skeletal condition or osteo-arthritis then an increase in stiffness for a few days may be noticed at first. The vet may then use fewer needles or simulate the animal further from the painful site at the next session.
- There may be no change. It may be, especially with some chronic conditions that several sessions are needed before changes are noticed. The vet may need to increase the level of stimulation or possibly use some electro-acupuncture which uses a tiny electric current between some of the needles. There are thought to be a group of individuals, between 10-20% who will not respond well to acupuncture. However, as some conditions require more sessions to elicit a good response some patience may be required.
- Your pet is happier and moving better within 3 days. Great. The improvement may not last until the next treatment but as the course continues improvements should be more longer lasting. Sometimes, it is small subtle changes that are noticed eg. A pet will go to fetch a toy that had been discarded for many weeks previously or will get up to go to the door when his/her owner returns home.
Veterinary surgeon Lou and veterinary nurse Vicky are both experienced acupuncturists.