What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the ‘practise of inserting fine, solid needles into the body for the purpose of therapy, disease prevention or maintenance of health.’
Vets generally use acupuncture to help with painful conditions with joints and muscles, such as osteoarthritis. It can also be useful for certain skin disorders and gastrointestinal inflammation.
Does it hurt my pet?
The needles used are extremely fine and usually patients don’t notice them being placed. Occasionally an animal will jump when a needle is placed into a particularly painful spot. They are designed to side into tissue without traumatising it. Most dogs and cats tolerate acupuncture very well and as they get used to the process of being treated, relax and lie down during treatment. Owners will stay with their pets during the treatments (unless you would rather not).
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture needles stimulate the same response in the brain and body that would be stimulated by actual tissue damage (without that damage having to occur). This new damage is prioritised by the body and overrides the chronic condition. New nerve fibres are stimulated and ‘switch off’ the nerves sending messages about the chronic pain.
It also works by causing the brain to release natural painkillers (similar to morphine) that ‘damp down’ the perception of pain being felt by animals suffering from painful conditions.
Does it work on all patients?
Some animals are much more responsive to treatment than others. It largely depends on how sensitive each individual patient is and on the nature of their condition. 4 out of 5 patients will show an improvement in clinical signs after the initial course of treatment. Some animals show a dramatic improvement in mobility and general happiness after acupuncture. These animals seem to be super-responders and acupuncture suits them well.
Acupuncture is more effective at the earlier stage of disease, the quicker treatment is initiated, the better pain relief is achieved.
There will be some patients that don’t respond to or won’t tolerate acupuncture and other means of managing painful conditions will have to be relied upon.
How often would my pet be treated?
The usual primary course is once a week for four to six weeks. You should allow 45 minutes for the initial consultation and then 30 minutes for each session. 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.
Some pets benefit from regular sessions every month, others have occasional courses of two – four sessions and some clients just book an appointment when they feel it would be beneficial.
What should I expect after treatment?
Sometimes animals go home and sleep deeply. This is a good sign and shows that your pet will probably respond well to acupuncture.
Sometimes your pet may seem a little more euphoric than usual; this is also a good sign, but keep them quiet for the rest of the day or they may overdo things.
Sometimes pets may seem a little stiffer or more uncomfortable after the first treatment, but this usually only lasts a day or two and can indicate that your pet will respond well to the course of treatment. If this occurs we will reduce the time the needles are left in next time.