What is Acupuncture Therapy?
The use of acupuncture therapy for canine conditions is becoming more widely accepted in the Western world as an acceptable form of treatment for a myriad of canine ailments. Joint mobility, muscle tension, and osteoarthritis are a few of the conditions commonly treated with the acupuncture method. In some veterinary practices, the use of acupuncture is the primary treatment protocol for many conditions, while in other clinics this method is used when conventional care is not successful.
Needles used for acupuncture vary in gauge (size) according to the size of your dog. Where the needles are placed, how long the needles stay in the body, and the size of the needle can also be determined by the illness or health condition that is being addressed. Your veterinarian may offer the services of a veterinary acupuncturist or may be able to recommend one if discussion of your pet’s health condition leads to an alternative therapy choice.
Acupuncture therapy in dogs is becoming more widely used in North America as a recognized treatment for many health conditions. Needles are strategically placed by a qualified veterinary acupuncturist as therapy for pain, endocrine disorders, cancer care, behavioral problems, and many others.
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Symptoms of Acupuncture Therapy in Dogs
Acupuncture is used in the field of veterinary medicine for a variety of conditions. Symptoms of pain, signs of lack of motion, and dysfunction of organs can all benefit from the use of acupuncture when performed by a qualified veterinary practitioner. The following conditions are a few examples of types of illnesses that may be treated by this method, with a relief of symptoms.
- Hip dysplasia
- Dermatological issues
- Strain of muscles
- Geriatric pain
- Degenerative disc disease
- Renal failure
- Urinary bladder conditions
- Gastrointestinal conditions
- Cervical disc pain
- Intraocular pressure
- Reproductive disorders
Acupuncture needles are placed at points, within what is called a meridian, which is mapped throughout the canine body. Inserting needles of the proper size into specific locations is thought to make positive changes in the health condition as a result. For pets who cannot tolerate the placement of a needle, a veterinary acupuncturist can use acupressure which works along the same principles.
Causes of Acupuncture Therapy in Dogs
Therapy given by acupuncture is sometimes used when conventional methods of relief are not successful. However, many veterinarians who practice, or are associated with acupuncturists, may use this method of therapy concurrently with medications they would regularly prescribe. Acupuncture can cause the following changes within the body:
- Improves blood flow
- Skin temperature increases
- Relaxes muscles
- Improves range of motion
- Benefits immune system
- Increases release of metabolic waste
- Anti-inflammatory hormones are released
Diagnosis of Acupuncture Therapy in Dogs
A veterinary acupuncturist will agree with your primary veterinarian that a specific diagnosis of the original problem is important before beginning this alternative treatment. If you use the example of a skin condition and allergies, treating the skin problem is necessary but cannot be done properly and safely, nor can you expect complete resolution, without addressing the allergy first. Acupuncture works the same way in that the benefits given to your pet by the insertion of the needles into specific points on the body may indeed mask a serious problem if diagnosis is not attempted.
The veterinarian will take a complete history of your dog’s recent medical state including travel, diet, medications, supplements, previously diagnosed illnesses, and behavioral changes that you may have noticed. Standard testing that is ordered when verifying animal health are blood testing (such as complete blood count and serum chemistry for blood markers that may stand out as pointing to illness), urinalysis (to check kidney and liver function), and fecal sample (to check for parasites or bacteria).
A physical examination will be done in order to note vital signs like pulse and heart rate. The skin, ears, eyes, nose, and mouth will be viewed, and the abdomen will be palpated for tenderness. Depending on the symptoms that your dog is displaying, and the results of the testing, further tools may be utilized (x-rays, endoscopy, MRI, and ultrasound to name just a few).
Treatment of Acupuncture Therapy in Dogs
Once the veterinarian has determined the reason for your pet’s malaise, decisions will be made as to whether conventional treatment will be tried first or whether acupuncture will be utilized alone or concurrently with the conventional therapy. As a pet owner, you will be given instructions as to how to prepare for the first treatment (for instance, whether or not to feed or bathe your dog before or after the appointment). If there are issues that need to be dealt with, like a skin infection that has to be cleared up first, or whether to try acupressure first if your pet does not tolerate needles, the consultation will cover these areas.
The needle concentration on specific areas will depend on the condition. The type of acupuncture will be determined this way as well. There are several different approaches to treatment, such as laser acupuncture, aquapuncture, and the dry needle method.
The length of the therapy will vary between every few days to once or twice a week, and after improvement or resolution follow up appointments will be determined.
Recovery of Acupuncture Therapy in Dogs
Not every pet will respond to the acupuncture therapy. The success rate is good, but all will depend on the severity of your companion’s condition and his response to the treatment. Some pet owners will see marked improvement after just one treatment, while others will realize that the therapy will improve the condition of their pet’s health but not cure it. Acupuncture can work very well as a complementary therapy to conventional veterinary medicine; discuss these alternatives with your veterinarian to be sure what is the best solution for the betterment of your dog’s health.
Acupuncture Therapy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
my jack russell has a herniated disc in his back and the beginning of one in his neck. I cannot afford the surgery right now and meds aren't working like I thought they would. My question is if acupuncture will help
Whilst I am not familiar with acupuncture (it is the next on my list to study), there has been positive results published using electroacupuncture in dogs to treat herniation and other intervertebral disk disorders. I’ve added two links below. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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