ACUPUNCTURE – WHAT IS IT?
Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, but it is most commonly known as a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. However, the practice of inserting sharp objects (stones, bones, and later metal) to promote health was used by many ancient civilizations across the world and only organized into a formal complex system by the Chinese.
Acupuncture was first introduced to the West in the 1600s but only really gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, as scientific studies determined the mechanisms on which it has effects on musculoskeletal pain, like arthritis and chronic back pain. Further studies have shown it to even have effects on improving nausea, vomiting and bladder irritability. In modern day practice, both the traditional and western practices are used, either alone or in combination.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Veterinary acupuncture is the placement of needles into the bodies of our companion animals, from dogs, cats and horses, to rabbits and cattle. It is most commonly used to relieve pain caused by arthritis, but also releases muscle spasms and can help normalize functions in the body, like the bladder, immune system and intestines, and improve wound healing time.
The needles stimulate at their point causing a release of natural pain killers, healing substances and increase blood supply to that area. The local effects can be quite profound, but there are also messages sent to the brain through the central nervous system. Molecules, such as endorphins, are released, bringing about an improved state of mind. This is important for us, as we don’t only want our patients to be pain free but also have a better quality of life. Some pet owners have noticed after initial treatment that, even though their furry companion doesn’t run with the same mobility, they are now more excited to play and go for walks!
DOES IT HURT?
Animals usually accept the fine acupuncture needles very well and usually very relaxed during a treatment session. Some may even seem to look forward to this when they visit the practice again! Almost all patients do not require any sedative but some with such severe pain may require some sedation to allow us to just touch them. During a session, we may find the patient becomes sleepy or relaxed, indicating that they are good responders. It is also very normal for animals to be very sleepy after a session and pass out on their favorite bed for the rest of the day.
IS IT SAFE?
Acupuncture is a very safe form of treatment when performed by a qualified veterinarian, who will know the different anatomies and techniques specific to the species they are treating. There are very few cases where acupuncture should not be used, but this will be discussed with you by the attending vet.
Acupuncture is a cumulative treatment and, initially, at least 4 sessions is the suggested to determine if your animal is or is not a good responder. Each animal is different, hence why they all respond differently. Some will show improvement within the first few hours of treatment, while others may take a few days or a few sessions before we see noticeable improvement. Some may even look stiffer for a few days after treatment. This is normal and they should show some improvement before their next session. Regular treatment means we can continue giving relief to areas that are giving our pets their problems, and eventually reach a point where they only need one session every couple of months.
Veterinary acupuncture as a form of therapy is growing internationally and is being taught in leading veterinary schools across the world. Using it in conjunction with prescribed, allopathic (mainstream) medicine, alongside physical rehabilitation, is encouraged. This holistic approach to pet health care means we can do more for our furry companions than ever before.
We are now able to offer acupuncture at our practice. If you are interested in this form of treatment for your pet, please do not hesitate to contact us for further details.
021 671 5018