Ancient Chinese medicine introduced the world to acupuncture several thousand years ago. This practice can effectively complement many traditional techniques to decrease pain and inflammation in your pet, and improve their overall well-being. Our team at Marina Village Veterinary and Integrative Care wants to educate you on this safe alternative to manage pain and many other diseases.

What is pet acupuncture?

Acupuncture involves inserting fine sterile needles into your pet’s skin at certain points where blood vessels and nerve bundles intersect, to treat disease or reduce pain and inflammation. These acupuncture points are connected by energy channels, known as meridians. Insertion at each point stimulates specific responses in your pet’s body. The stimulation technique and the duration also affect your pet’s response.

How does pet acupuncture work?

Inserting needles in the acupuncture points stimulates the neural-hormonal pathway causing hormones, such as endorphins and cortisol, to be released. Endorphins help your pet handle stress and decrease their pain response. Cortisol is a natural steroid that also helps your pet handle stress and influences their immune response. In addition, acupuncture can increase blood circulation, relax muscles, and stimulate nerves at the insertion sites.

What conditions are treated by pet acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a supplemental therapy to traditional approaches to treat and manage numerous conditions.

  • Ocular conditions — Conditions that affect the eye, such as glaucoma, dry eye, and corneal ulcers can be managed using acupuncture points around the eye.
  • Arthritis — Acupuncture can decrease inflammation, lessen pain, and increase mobility in pets suffering from arthritic joints.
  • Intervertebral disc disease — Pets suffering from a slipped disc, spinal arthritis, or pinched nerves can experience relief when acupuncture points near the spine by the shoulders and above the pelvis are stimulated.
  • Cancer side effects — Acupuncture points can be stimulated to decrease pain, inflammation, and nausea, and increase appetite, energy levels, and immune function.
  • Surgery — Acupuncture can decrease anxiety, pain, and inflammation for your pet before and after surgery.
  • Skin conditions — Acupuncture can be used in addition to traditional therapies to help mitigate the issues seen in pets suffering from allergic dermatitis and lick granulomas.
  • Idiopathic epilepsy — Pets may experience fewer seizures if they receive acupuncture treatment.

What pet acupuncture treatments are available?

Inserting needles alone can have beneficial effects, but other methods to stimulate the acupuncture points can enhance your pet’s response. 

  • Acupressure — This procedure uses pressure at the acupuncture points instead of needles and can be used for pets who are needle-phobic, as well as for hard-to-reach areas on a pet’s body. A pet’s owner can also be taught how to use acupressure to offer some relief between acupuncture sessions.
  • Electrostimulation — Estim involves using an electric current to stimulate the inserted needles, and may be beneficial for repairing nerve damage.
  • Aquapuncture — Further stimulation is provided by injecting diluted vitamin B12, homeopathics, and glycosaminoglycans.
  • Moxibustion — Further stimulation is provided by burning dried mugwort at the acupuncture points. This method is especially beneficial for older pets suffering from joint pain and muscle stiffness.
  • Laser therapy — Low-intensity, non-thermal laser irradiation is used to stimulate the acupuncture points instead of needles. This method is another way to treat needle-phobic pets.

What happens during a pet acupuncture session?

Acupuncture sessions tend to be most effective in a quiet environment where your pet is relaxed. The first session may take about an hour to allow your pet to acclimate to the procedure. The trained veterinary professionals at Marina Village Veterinary and Integrative Care will insert the sterile acupuncture needles in the appropriate points. The insertion alone may be enough stimulation for your pet, or further stimulation may be provided as the veterinarian deems appropriate. Future visits typically last 20 to 45 minutes.

Your pet’s problem will determine the number and frequency of the acupuncture sessions. Initially, sessions tend to be spaced close together, but the time between treatments can be lengthened as your pet’s condition improves. Pets being treated for an acute condition, such as a corneal ulcer, or as part of a surgical procedure, may only need a few sessions. Pets suffering from a chronic condition, such as arthritis or cancer, may need life-long treatment.

What side effects are possible after pet acupuncture?

Side effects are mild and include soreness, bleeding, and bruising. Your pet may also seem sleepy or lethargic after treatment. Electrostimulation should not be performed on pregnant pets or on pets who suffer from seizures, heart disease, and certain cancers.

What credentials should a veterinarian have to practice pet acupuncture?

Before allowing an individual to perform acupuncture on your pet, ensure they are a licensed veterinarian. They also should have formal training in veterinary acupuncture, and preferably be a professional who is a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist (CVA) or trained at the Chi Institute.

Acupuncture can be a significant adjunct treatment to alleviate your pet’s distress from several diseases. If you would like to find out more about acupuncture, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, do not hesitate to contact the team at Marina Village Veterinary and Integrative Care.