In the UK now, there are dozens of vets trained in veterinary acupuncture. Between them they treat Rats, Birds, Horses, Elephants, Dogs, Ponies, Pigs, Cats and Rabbits. Most are in regular practice, but have a special interest in acupuncture. Almost every county in the land has at least one vet whose interests include acupuncture. At Capontree we are delighted to offer Acupuncture through Andy Reid.
Your animals' first acupuncture consultation will usually take 30-60 minutes to take a full history, treat the animal and discuss aspects of the case. Further consultations are usually about 30 minutes. Acupoints used by the vet are generally transposed from human acupuncture. We have a skeleton very similar to horses, dogs and cats and so points can be located fairly accurately from species to species. Points can be found all over the body, from the little toe to the tip of the nose. They are areas rich in nerve and blood vessel supply; the skin actually looks microscopically different at these foci. Points are distributed along lines of 'energy' called meridians or channels. These energy highways have associations with the organs and are called, for example, the Bladder Vessel, or the Large Intestine Meridian to emphasise some of their uses. When your vet has taken a history and examined your pet, they will select points that need stimulation to free up 'blockage'. The idea of energy blockage can be thought of as a way of explaining the effects the needles have to make animals and people better.
Some vets are uncomfortable with the concept of energy. That's ok. They think of the flow of blood and get equally good results. Stimulation of acupoint sites can be by inserting very thin, one or two inch (2.5cm in cat and dogs to 5cm in horses) needles through the skin to prompt a response. It can also be done by using an intense light source, laser light and by using pressure, a technique known as acupressure. Needles need to be left in for 15-20 minutes and can be stimulated gently by twisting. Once needles are in they are painless. I have even had dogs falling asleep during treatments! Needles are removed carefully at the end of the session of 10 - 20 mins. Sometimes the needles have worked their way out themselves and are just holding on by the very tip. Most needles will loosen in the skin. This is a good sign and suggests good response. When we start an animal on a course of acupuncture, the frequency of treatment will depend on the condition, but weekly sessions for 4 - 6 weeks initially is typical. After this time, progress will be assessed and you will be guided as to how to go on from there by your veterinary acupuncturist.
IS ACUPUNCTURE PAINFUL?
This is a question I'm often asked. I'll go through the various arguments with you here to let you see all sides of the argument. The first thing to say is that it is impossible to put a needle through the skin without provoking some sensation. It is not always painful, but can sometimes be a sharp sensation. If the acupuncturist has chosen a point that is very blocked, then sometimes stimulation of the point when the needle gets through the skin is uncomfortable. So why do we do it if it is painful sometimes? Answer: the benefits outweigh the mild discomfort of the treatment. The first thing vets are taught, the first thing that all animal and human healers learn is 'First, do no harm'.
If acupuncture really was excruciating and the results were equivocal, then it should be stopped. But the opposite is true. When we humans make a decision to go to an acupuncturist, we do so not for fun, but because we have a problem that we want fixed. Animals don't see it like that. They see it as 'I have this really sore back or leg and now they take me to see this person and all they want to do is put needles in me!'. This is why some pets are pretty confused the first time they go for treatment. So, our job as owners and vets is to reassure them. Pets can be brave or quite timid, just like us. So some will take acupuncture in their stride, some will need reassurance because they are scared. There will always be those pets who really hate needles of any kind. In these cases, the vet can use photonic therapy or laser. Both use light to treat the acupoints in the same way as needles, except nothing solid goes through the skin. The down side is that sometimes the effect of using light is not as long lasting as using needles.
Another alternative is to use gold bead implants at the acupoints. This is done under general anaesthesia and is usually done for conditions that need continual stimulation e.g. hip dysplasia in larger dog breeds. Three or four beads are placed in the tissue around the hip joint, in the case of hip dysplasia, at the acupoints, to maintain the mobility of the dog without the need for weekly treatments for years.
Conditions where Acupuncture can Help
To give you an idea of some of the conditions in your pets where acupuncture might help, below is a list of the type of problems where it has helped other animals.
If you have a problem with your animal and would like to have acupuncture, please remember that first getting a diagnosis is a good idea – visit one of our vets. This is very important as there are conditions that need surgical treatment, not just medical/acupuncture treatment. Once a diagnosis has been made, or a surgical condition has been ruled out, then this is a green light to go ahead with acupuncture. We are also using acupuncture with great success post-operatively.
- Lameness of unknown origin
- Hip Dysplasia
- Arthritic and Rheumatic joints with or without bony exostoses
- Back pain/Wincing when touched
- Cruciate Ligament Damage (in conjunction with acupuncture)
- Chronic bronchitis
- Coughing unresponsive to treatment
- Persistent or Periodic Kennel Cough
- Incontinence in bitches
- Old age incontinence
- Ovarian dysfunction
- Persistent diarrhoea
- Persistent constipation
- Lameness of unknown origin (with Acupuncture)
- Cruciate damage
- Arthritic/Rheumatic problems
- Back pain
- Feline Asthma
- Chronic nasal discharges
- Chronic Cat Flu
- Chronic sneezing
- Kidney disease
- Persistent diarrhoea
- Persistent constipation