As our country slowly returns to normal, Americans continue to add pets to their household. And as the status of pets continues to shift from that of animals to that of family members, the demand has increased for modern and advanced veterinary diagnostics and care.
In some cases, however, pet parents are turning to a modality that has been used to treat a myriad of conditions for thousands of years – acupuncture.
When our old dachshund, Grendel, started showing clinical signs of back and neck pain common to his breed, our treatment options were limited. She suffered from congenital liver disease and was in the early stages of kidney failure. These conditions can be exacerbated by long-term use of veterinary NSAIDs that are often prescribed to treat chronic orthopedic pain.
Faced with limited options, we called in a colleague who specializes in veterinary acupuncture.
In the field of traditional Chinese medicine, disease is the result of an imbalance of the life force called Qi (pronounced “chee”) that passes through the body of humans and animals. It is believed that Qi flows through the channels or meridians of the body.
These meridians, along with the energy flows that accompany them, are accessed through acupuncture points on the body. By inserting tiny needles into said points, practitioners can restore the right flow of energy throughout the body and thus naturally stimulate the healing process.
While the terminology is often criticized for its New Age-y or obscure sound, acupuncture points are actually located where nerves, muscles, and connective tissue can be stimulated. This stimulation increases blood flow, while activating the immune system and triggering the release of the body’s natural pain relievers.
When discussing acupuncture with animal parents, the first question is usually whether or not it is painful for the animal.
Granted, I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Grendel’s first treatment. A drama queen at heart, she turned every nail cut and ear cleaning into a shattering tantrum of screaming and screaming. To my amazement, she screamed once when the practitioner touched her for the first time. She did not respond when the first needle was inserted. Neither the second. Nor the third. By the time the last needle was placed, she was dozing peacefully in her bed.
As her treatments progressed, her mobility improved. She was more active and alert, and even initiated play sessions with our other dog – which she hadn’t done for several years. When her kidney disease became more problematic, the practitioner changed her treatment plan to focus on the meridians that govern kidney function and appetite. We have been truly fortunate to have him in our lives for seventeen years.
In the state of Florida, only licensed veterinarians can perform acupuncture on pets. Since knowledge and experience of acupuncture is not required to graduate from veterinary school, it is important to find a veterinarian who has the additional training and certification to perform acupuncture on animals. of company.
Once you’ve found a licensed veterinarian who is comfortable with acupuncture, the next step is to schedule an initial exam to determine if your pet is a suitable candidate for acupuncture.
It is quite possible that this first session does not involve any sting, because the practitioner collects as much information as possible about the ailments, the environment and the personality of your animal. This way, he or she can formulate a treatment plan that not only meets specific needs, but also complements any treatments your pet may already be undergoing.
Acupuncture sessions generally last around 30 minutes, but the duration may vary depending on the needs of the animal. The practitioner may also add pressure, heat, or mild electrical stimulation to further enhance the effects of the treatment. The number and frequency of treatments will depend on the animal’s response.
Grendel was initially treated twice a week, before gradually moving to monthly sessions.
Veterinary acupuncture can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions including, but not limited to arthritis, neurological pain, paralysis, soft tissue damage, anxiety, kidney disease. , inappetence and gastrointestinal disturbances. The risks are minimal and side effects are rare.
Acupuncture is generally referred to as complementary alternative medicine, which means it can be incorporated into existing treatment plans with your pet’s regular veterinarian. Perhaps more importantly, it can provide a quality of life for pets who may have limited options due to advanced age or illness.
While I was blessed beyond words to have had Grendel in my life for seventeen years, it was important for me to know that she was free from discomfort and pain. Regular acupuncture sessions played a vital role in ensuring that all of her years were good years. Like all pet parents, that was all I really wanted for her. Acupuncture helped achieve this – and made me a believer.
Dr Kupkee is the leading practitioner of Sabal Chase Animal Clinic.