What is Acupuncture?

According to the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society:


Acupuncture may be defined as the insertion of needles into specific points on the body to produce a healing response. Each acupuncture point has specific actions when stimulated. This technique has been used in veterinary practice in China for thousands of years to treat many ailments. The Chinese also use acupuncture as preventative medicine. Acupuncture is used all around the world, either along or in conjunction with Western medicine, to treat a wide variety of conditions in every species of animal. Clinical research has been conducted showing positive results in the treatment of both animals and humans, and the use of acupuncture is increasing. Acupuncture will not cure every condition, but it can work very well when it is indicated.

Acupuncture is indicated for functional problems such as those that involve paralysis, noninfectious inflammation (such as allergies), and pain. For small animals, the following are some of the general conditions which may be treated with acupuncture:

  • Musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis, intervertebral disk disease, or traumatic nerve injury
  • Respiratory problems, such as feline asthma
  • Skin problems such as lick granulomas and allergic dermatitis
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea

For large animals, acupuncture is again commonly used for functional problems.
Some of the general conditions where it might be applied are the following:

  • Musculoskeletal problems such as sore backs or downer cow syndrome
  • Neurological problems such as facial paralysis
  • Skin problems such as allergic dermatitis
  • Respiratory problems such as heaves and “bleeders”
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as nonsurgical colic


How Does Acupuncture Work?

A simple explanation compares acupuncture treatments to electrical systems. After all, the body does have an electric field. When you flip a light switch, it may turn off a light in a distant part of the room, but we all know there is the invisible connection between the two parts. So it is with acupuncture, and that is why needles are not always places at the place where the problem seems to be!

The biochemical explanation is that the acupuncture points contain a large number of capillaries and nerve endings. Stimulation of these points by needling, pressure, or electrical impulse will cause release of nerve signals and endorphins into the nervous system and bloodstream that have systemic effects on the body.

A third way acupuncture can be explained is through neuroanatomical connections. All body structures, including internal vital organs, have a nerve supply and a blood supply that is governed by vascular constriction (narrowing) and dilation (widening). All this nourishing blood flow is controlled by nerves that can be traced back to the spinal cord. Thus, this explains chiropractic benefits as well as acupuncture benefits by treating important points along the spinal column.


What Can I Expect with Animal Acupuncture?

As reviewed above, conditions where you may wish to consider acupuncture for your pet include back pain, paralysis, hip dysplasia, neck pain, allergies, skin conditions, immune mediated diseases, seizures, kidney disease, liver disease, and behavioral issues. Acupuncture can be performed with fine needles that don’t hurt a bit, with injections of vitamin B-12 into the points, or by sending mild electrical currents through the selected points. With all of these options, typically between two and ten needles are used, and they are left in place for 20 minutes.

Deepwood Technician Rosanna, Lola's owner

When clients see their animals responding to acupuncture, they know that “believing in it” has nothing to do with the effects, and that the effects are real. Sometimes several treatments are needed to get the Qi, or bioenergetic force, moving. Certain cases are not appropriate for acupuncture treatment, but may be better treated with herbal or chiropractic care. The vast majority treated with acupuncture will have some noticeable change after the first treatment!

Several treatments from an experienced holistic veterinarian at weekly intervals are usually recommended. Many cases will be started on herbal therapy and their acupuncture treatments will be reduced in frequency as the herbs start to maintain the patient. Some patients come back monthly for treatments. Each case is individualized with respect to the owners schedule, the patient’s needs, and the condition being treated. For geriatric patients, acupuncture and herbs may be a long-term need. For other conditions, complete healing is expected and treatments are short- term. Nutrition will also play a significant role in maintenance of health for your animal companion.

If you have any additional questions about animal acupuncture or the services Deepwood offers, please do not hesitate to ask us.

  • Deepwood Veterinary Clinic

    Deepwood Veterinary Clinic
    7300 Ordway Rd.
    Centreville, VA 20121
    (703) 631-9133
    email: [email protected]
  • Office Hours

    Monday 8am - 8pm
    Tuesday 8am - 6pm
    Wednesday 8am - 6pm
    Thursday 8am - 6pm
    Friday 8am - 8pm
    Saturday 8am - 8pm
    Sunday 8am - 6pm (emergencies only)
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