Acupuncture is the practice of inserting fine, solid needles into the body to assist in pain relief.
It is thought to work through the nervous system blocking the pain messages and encouraging the brain and central nervous system to produce more of the body’s natural painkillers. It is used as part of a multi-modal approach to the treatment of painful conditions. Whilst acupuncture needles stimulate nerves, they do not cause unpleasant feelings of pain. Sometimes animals may react to this sensation as though they expect pain but then relax because it does not occur. They usually accept the fine needles very well and often become relaxed and sleepy during the treatment. Often, they appear to look forward to the next treatment when they come back to the practice.
This treatment is non-invasive and is carried out in the consulting room without the need for sedation, with most patients accepting the treatment incredibly well.
Treatment courses will vary depending on the issue that we are treating; the therapist will discuss this with you. After four weeks, we will know whether acupuncture is working for your pet and then, depending on the condition and how they have responded, we will work out a plan that usually involves tailing off the treatment so that the effect is maintained for as long as possible.
Acupuncture is very safe in the right hands. There are very few cases where there may be contraindications when using acupuncture, but your veterinary acupuncturist can advise you.
There are many reasons why acupuncture may be indicated for your pet, the most common being pain. Usually, this means pain associated with arthritis and muscle strains secondary to disc disease and bony spine changes. Other kinds of pain may also respond.
After examination, needles will be put into various body parts and moved or stimulated a few times. There is not a set “dose” of acupuncture as there is for medication, so your vet will judge how much to do based on your pet’s response at the time and after the treatment. They may become sleepy and relaxed during the treatment.
It is common for pets to go home and sleep very soundly for a long time. This is a good sign and shows that your pet will respond well to acupuncture. Do not worry if they are not sleepy – this does not mean that they will not respond. Sometimes your pet may seem a little more euphoric than usual; this is also a good sign, but try to keep them quiet for the rest of the day, or they may overdo things.
Otherwise, treat your pet normally after acupuncture. Only change exercise, diet or medication if it has been discussed with your vet.
Three Possible Responses to Treatment:
- They may seem stiffer or more uncomfortable. After a day or two, they will improve again and should be better than before. However, you must tell your vet so that they can adjust the treatment next time.
- You may see no response. This is always disappointing, but it does not mean your pet will not respond; it may just be that they will take a little longer or that their improvement after the first treatment was too brief or small for you to see. We cannot say they will not respond until after the fourth treatment. Not all animals or humans are acupuncture “responders.”.
- You may see an improvement. This may occur anytime in the three days after treatment. The signs we are trying to treat may return before the next treatment, but this is fine. After each subsequent treatment, the effects should last longer so that your pet may eventually not need more treatments for some time.