Acupuncture for Pets and Animals
While acupuncture is an ancient system of medicine practiced in Asia for centuries, it has only recently come to be accepted by Western standards. Veterinary acupuncture, in particular, has also experienced significant growth in recent years. While there are several studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of acupuncture in humans, there is little in the medical literature about its efficacy in animals, such as dogs and cats. However, interest in this area is also expanding, and many veterinary schools are beginning to solicit funding for such studies, most notably Glasgow University Veterinary School.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture, which derives its name from the Latin 'acus' to mean ‘needle’ and 'pungo,' or ‘puncture,’ is a branch of medicine that has been practiced for more than 3,000 years. The basic principle behind acupuncture is to release blockages or disturbances at one of 14 meridian points, channels that provide a pathway of energy flow between 365 acupuncture points, or acupoints.
In Chinese theory, qi or ch'i (life force) flows through these channels to regulate all physical and mental mechanisms, with specific meridians being associated with certain organs. When the flow of ch'i is blocked, the health of the individual is thought to suffer and, through the use of acupuncture, the blockage may be removed and balance restored.
What are the Tools of Acupuncture?
Acupuncture involves the use of special long, thin needles carefully inserted into select meridian points to stimulate the flow of energy between channels. Depending on the condition being treated, a single needle may be sufficient, or a number of needles may be inserted at different points. The depth to which a needle, or series of needles, may be inserted will depend on the nature of the condition being treated, as well as the amount of manipulation of the needle, if any. In any case, needles used in acupuncture treatment are used only once and are then discarded.
While the use of needles alone is characteristic of classical acupuncture, there are additional tools being applied concurrently today. Electrical stimulation of meridian points though laser techniques may be employed during an acupuncture treatment, or more permanent tools may be utilized, such as magnets.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
While the total mechanism that drives the health benefits of acupuncture is not fully understood, it seems to work on a variety of levels. First, the stimulation of meridian points has a positive impact on the immune system. As a pain management tool, acupuncture appears to block the transmission of pain signals from receptors to the brain. Acupuncture also stimulates the secretion of certain hormones, such as endorphins, that assist the mind and body in coping with injury, stress or trauma.
Acupuncture also increases the production of white and red blood cells, as well as gastric acid secretion. It has also been shown reduce blood pressure, increase overall circulation and to help regulate heart rhythm.
How Can My Pet Benefit from Acupuncture?
While clinical trials on the benefits of acupuncture in animals, such as dogs and cats, are nearly non-existent, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence to suggest that acupuncture is a useful tool to the holistic veterinarian to treat several conditions, such as:
- Spinal injury
- Hip dysplasia
- Chronic digestive disorders
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Heart problems
- Respiratory problems