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Is Acupuncture Safe for Dogs?


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Acupuncture involves the stimulation of acupoints, which are areas of high electrical conductivity on the body, with the insertion of fine needles to provide therapeutic effects. Because the nervous system has connections throughout the body, stimulation in one area can affect tissues and organs in another area of the body by causing a chemical release of endorphins that act on the nervous system. These endorphins cause physiological changes that control pain, stimulate the immune system, and may benefit organ systems. Acupuncture can be used in dogs to treat a variety of conditions, especially musculoskeletal conditions, and relieve pain. Few side effects are noted with acupuncture. Ensuring therapy is provided with an appropriately trained practitioner, that safe sterile conditions are provided, and that traditional veterinary care has been sought to address medical conditions will ensure that acupuncture therapy is safe and effective for your dog.  Acupuncture should not be solely relied upon in situations where it will not adequately address medical conditions.


When to Try Acupuncture

Acupuncture should be attempted to provide treatment to your dog after traditional veterinary diagnosis and treatment has been sought and on the advice of your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help ensure a qualified practitioner is acquired and that conditions requiring traditional western veterinary medicine are treated appropriately.


Who Should Perform Acupuncture

Acupuncture in your dog should only be performed by a qualified veterinary acupuncture therapist. A qualified therapist will ensure that the chance of infection or passing disease from needles is mitigated by using fine disposable needles in a sterile environment. A qualified practitioner will take a medical history of your dog prior to treatment and ensure that acupuncture is appropriate for your dog and that relevant conditions are being treated as required. Acupuncture is considered to be effective for musculoskeletal conditions and may be helpful in the treatment of other immune system and organ system disorders, but it is not appropriate or effective for many conditions and a qualified therapist will recognize when traditional veterinary medicine should be applied.


What to Expect

As small fine needles are used the procedure is not painful for your dog.  Many dogs find the process relaxing and may even fall asleep during treatment. Your dog may experience some soreness and stiffness after treatment, but this is usually minimal. In general, acupuncture is well tolerated by dogs and there are few significant side effects.


The effectiveness of acupuncture has been a subject of debate over the years, however, most veterinarians recognize that it has positive benefits for many musculoskeletal disorders, immune system disorder, and for the reduction of pain, and may be beneficial for other disorders as well. If used in conjunction with veterinary advice and traditional treatments, to ensure that all treatment options are explored and effectiveness and alternatives used when required, there is little risk to your dog. Because it is less invasive and does not require anesthesia, several risks associated with traditional therapies are mitigated. Acupuncture may be especially useful when a dog has medical conditions that prohibit traditional invasive procedures. Veterinary advice ensures that if the treatment is not appropriate or effective, alternatives can be applied.


Several treatments may be required for effect to be seen and a drawback to acupuncture therapy is that effectiveness may not be determined until some time and multiple treatments have occurred.


Acupuncture as an Option

Because acupuncture has few, if any, side effects and risks are low, attempting it as a therapy for your dog has few drawbacks, providing appropriate veterinary care is obtained to ensure that conditions that will not benefit from acupuncture are treated with traditional medications. Since anesthetic and other medications are not required, this therapy may be an effective tool for dogs that can not tolerate anesthesia or medications. Acupuncture for dogs should be performed by a qualified, licensed veterinary practitioner, and your veterinarian can provide a referral for a local practitioner where available. Use of a qualified professional will mitigate the risks associated with pain and the possibility of infection during the procedure, as a trained therapist will use appropriate procedures to ensure your dog is not at risk. Also, a trained professional will recognize signs of disorder that can not benefit from therapy and require alternative treatments, thus reducing the risk that disease or disorder are not adequately treated.

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