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What is Acupuncture and How Does it Work?

Acupuncture (acus=needle, punctura=puncture) involves the insertion of very thin needles through the patient’s skin and often into muscles at specific points on the body.  These points are associated with the paths of nerves and vessels. By stimulating these specific points on the body we have the ability to “talk” to the nerves and ultimately the spinal cord and brain affecting the body both locally and globally.  In this way, through “neuromodulation”, acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself by affecting certain biochemical and physiological changes.

It is perhaps one of the oldest forms of medicine in the world, and one science continues to understand the mechanisms of its success.  Although the appreciation of its benefits in dogs and cats is relatively more recent, in China, people, horses, cows and pigs have been treated successfully for well over 3000 years.

Other forms of acupuncture used at Metropolitan Veterinary Center include: Electroacupuncture, Laser acupuncture, Trigger Point Therapy and Acupressure/Massage.

Conditions in which to Consider Acupuncture:

  • Skin Problems
    • Lick granulomas
    • Allergies
    • Wound healing
  • Behavioral
    • Anxiety
    • Phobias
  • Cancer Support
    • poor appetite
    • pain relief
    • combat side effects of chemotherapy and radiation
    • reduce anxiety
  • Central Nervous SystemDisorders
    • vestibular disease
    • cognitive deficits
    • seizures
    • paralysis
    • traumatic nerve injuries
  • Musculoskeletal and neurological
    • Arthritis and hip dysplasia
    • Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
    • Cruciate Ligament Injury
    • Nerve injuries/paralysis
    • Back pain
    • Shortened stride
    • Lameness
    • Tendon injuries
    • Hip Dysplasia
    • Elbow Dysplasia
    • Neck Pain
    • Back Pain
    • Trauma
    • Facial Paralysis
    • Trigeminal Neuritis
    • Trigger Point Therapy
    • Polyarthritis
  • Urinary Tract Disorders
    • Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder
    • Urinary incontinence
    • Cystitis
    • Kidney disease
  • Gastrointestinal
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting
    • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
    • Constipation
    • Poor Appetite
  • Respiratory Disorders
    • Asthma
    • Sinusitis
    • Rhinitis
    • Cough
  • Ocular Disorders
    • KCS
    • Corneal Ulcers
    • Conjunctivitis
  • Reproductive problems
    • Infertility

How Does it Feel?  Does it Hurt?

The needles are very thin and the tips are very smooth and sharp allowing them to pass to the desired location readily and without pain.

Sensation ranges from: not felt at all to “Pin prick”.  Sometimes a particular point may be more sensitive if it is associated with pathology.  These may be uncomfortable to needle, but are important points to treat. Also, there may be a dull ache sensed during the treatment and there may be a sensation of an impulse traveling from the needle insertion site.

Generally though, pets LOVE their time receiving acupuncture. They are often relaxed during and sleep well post treatments.  Many patients look forward to their acupuncture treatments.

Sometimes following treatments, a client will call concerned that their pet is sleeping more than normal.  In general, this is likely a GOOD thing!  Your pet is likely more comfortable and without pain and finally able to rest!  As always, call Metropolitan Veterinary Center at 312-583-1921 if you have concerns.

  • Pregnancy
  • Cancer patients undergoing active treatment may have low platelet and white cell counts. Current platelet and white cell counts should be within a normal range prior to performing acupuncture.
  • Electroacupuncture is contraindicated in epileptic patients.
  • Acupuncture may precipitate a reduction in blood sugar levels therefore ensure diabetic pets have eaten prior to treatment.
  • Bleeding Disorders
  • Electroacupuncture is contraindicated in patients with pacemakers.

Is It Safe?

Yes, we use sterile, thin stainless steel needles.  Side effects are rare but may include:

  • Drowsiness, nausea, sweating or fainting associated with acupuncture treatment occurs on average at a rate of 1.3% per thousand treatments.
  • Bruising or minor bleeding from the needle site
  • Broken needle. The incidence of broken needles is rare. However a tip may break off and remain in the patient.
  • Swallowed Needle. Yes, in rare cases pets will ingest the needles.
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Increased sleep
  • Soreness at the insertion site of the needle, may last for a few hours to a few days.
  • Very rare risks include nerve damage, aggravation of existing symptoms, pneumothorax, organ puncture, infection, and shock.

Can Acupuncture be used with medications?

Acupuncture can be safely used with conventional medications, treatments and surgery.

What is Electroacupuncture?

Electroacupuncture is the same as traditional acupuncture except a small electrical current is passed between pairs of acupuncture needles.  This practice augments regular acupuncture and is most beneficial for pain, nervous system and musculoskeletal disorders.

Patients may experience a tingling sensation while being treated with electroacupuncture.  This is most likely due to the electrical current.  Typically however, the tingling sensation will not be felt. Some minor bruising or bleeding may occur, which is the result of a needle hitting small blood vessels.

What is Laser Acupuncture?

Some animals and some conditions may be too sensitive to undergo traditional acupuncture in which very fine needles are inserted through the skin. For these animals that are not amenable to needle insertion, there is the option of laser acupuncture.  Laser acupuncture is similar to regular acupuncture however, the method for stimulating the points is with a Therapeutic Laser.  The laser can be directed onto an acupuncture point, stimulating it in a similar fashion to the way acupuncture needles do.

Generally, this method can treat a similar range of complaints as needle acupuncture; however, if needles can be used, their effect is often better. 

How many treatment sessions will my pet need?

The number of acupuncture sessions your pet will need depends on the nature and duration of your pet’s condition, and other factors. Some acute conditions will respond in 6 or fewer sessions, whereas chronic conditions may take 15 or more treatments. Some chronic conditions require ongoing care to sustain pain relief and functionality.

A common treatment plan is:

  • Acute: twice a week for 6 treatments
  • Chronic: 3x a week first week
    • 2x a week second week
    • 1x a week for week 3,4, and 5.
  • In some cases, daily treatments will be recommended.

Followed by maintenance treatment when needed

Please complete the consent form found by clicking here prior to your first treatment.

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