What is acupuncture and how can it help my animal?
Acupuncture is a system of healing which has been practised in China and other Eastern countries for thousands of years, and has increasingly gained in popularity in western veterinary medicine over the past century. Acupuncture is just one approach of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) which is holistic and works on the basis that there is inter-connectivity between all aspects of the body, including to create balance between "Yin" and "Yang". A whole range of animals today benefit from acupuncture, from pets to horses and farm animals.
Acupuncture is based upon the concept that the body has meridians, or energy lines, running along it, and when the body is out of balance the energy lines are blocked or deficient in some way. The use of needles at appropriate acupuncture points will rebalance or redirect this energy and balance the body. The acupuncture points have been mapped over thousands of years by the Chinese and now have even been identified with modern scientific techniques. Horses can selectively have substances such as vitamin B 12 actually injected into the acupuncture points to give a longer lasting effect, and this is often makes things easier to handle than having to wait for ten or twenty minutes while the needles remain in place.
Why use veterinary acupuncture?
Whether it is a large or small animal, acupuncture can treat many different conditions including:
- Musculoskelatal problems, (back problems, etc)
- Tendon injuries or other muscle & ligament sprains/strains
- Skin problems
- Nervous system problems
- Stress related disorders
- Respiratory problems, (COPD in horses, feline asthma in cats)
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Some reproductive (fertility) problems
Is veterinary acupuncture safe?
Yes.. but…..Acupuncture should always be administered by a professionally qualified Veterinary Surgeon who has also successfully completed additional veterinary acupuncture training. Your specialist Veterinary Surgeon can ensure proper oversight of your animal, as acupuncture is capable of masking pain or other clinical signs and so it's critical that no delay is made to using other treatments ('conventional' or complementary) if required. Also if your animal is feeling better from the acupuncture, he/ she may increase activity and delay healing or causing the original condition to worsen - so following your Vet's advice post-treatment is vital.
Some of the effects of acupuncture include pain relief, a strong sense of well-being, decreased inflammation and increased blood flow to the area being treated. Additional benefits can include longevity and this refers to an increase in both the quality and quantity of life.
Vets have noted that many old dogs who receive acupuncture have increased energy and it is a joy to watch them respond. Acupuncture offers a viable alternative to the use of pain killers and steroids (or a reduction in the use of), as well as surgery and has few, if any side effects when used appropriately.
In addition, regular acupuncture sessions can treat minor sports injuries as they occur and help to keep muscles and tendons resistant to injury. World class professional and amateur athletes often use acupuncture as a routine part of their training as a preventative measure. If your horse or other animals are involved in any athletic endeavour, such as racing, jumping, or showing, acupuncture can be used to assist in helping to keep them in top physical condition.
Choosing an animal acupuncturist
Only ever use a qualified veterinary surgeon and who's completed specialist training to carry out acupuncture on your animal. This is because acupuncture in animals may only be performed by vets with a thorough knowledge of veterinary anatomy and physiology.
Find out more
Ted Talk with veterinary surgeon Lara Sypniewski
BBC article (2017) - Pet acupuncture, would you try this treatment?
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