With the advancements in veterinary medicine and technology, you may not expect that some veterinarians would turn to acupuncture, the ancient form of traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM). Historically, TCVM was used to treat and prevent a multitude of ailments. Today, clinical research has proven its efficacy, and many veterinarians choose acupuncture in conjunction with Western medicine for their patients. 

How does acupuncture work in pets?

The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society defines acupuncture as “the insertion of needles into specific points on the body to produce a healing response.” There are a set of acupuncture points, called meridians, where the blood vessels and nerves converge that, when stimulated, promote energy transmission through the body. This boosts blood circulation and stimulates the nervous system, causing the release of anti-inflammatory substances, endorphins, cortisol, and other hormones that promote healing. 

What conditions in pets does acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture is meant to help treat functional problems of the body. Common ailments that acupuncture can address in small animals include:

  • Musculoskeletal problems, such as osteoarthritis, nerve pain, intervertebral disc disease, or paralysis
  • Pain associated with minor muscle, tendon, or ligament injuries
  • Allergy problems, such as asthma, dermatitis, atopy, or lick granulomas
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea

Acupuncture’s positive effects build up over time with cumulative treatments. Typically, the more chronic the disease, the more treatments are needed to reduce signs and symptoms and achieve relief. However, while acupuncture is a successful treatment modality for many common problems, it is not indicated as the sole treatment for diseases such as bacterial infection, cancer, or organ disease, although it can be used as a supplement to help alleviate the nausea or visceral pain that pets may experience with these conditions. 

Is acupuncture painful for pets?

Acupuncture involves the insertion of tiny needles into the skin, which may sound painful, but most animals—especially dogs and cats who require small needles—find acupuncture to be essentially pain-free. When the needles are inserted into the skin, a tingling sensation or numbness may occur that may bother some animals, but most become quite relaxed and may even fall asleep during treatments. Most patients require repeated sessions, and you may find your pet relaxes more with each treatment as she realizes how good acupuncture makes her feel.

Is acupuncture safe for pets?

Veterinary acupuncture is one of the safest treatment modalities available. Since acupuncture can mask pain, your pet will need to be examined and diagnosed prior to treatment. Veterinary acupuncture should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian who has had formal training in the practice of veterinary acupuncture. Dr. Erica Kim, a certified veterinary acupuncturist with Acupets Holistic Veterinary Services, provides her services at Monrovia Animal Medical Center on Wednesdays.

Are there side effects for pets after acupuncture?

One of the most appealing features of veterinary acupuncture is its lack of side effects. Many veterinarians turn to acupuncture for their patients when modern medicines fail to relieve pain or produce too many undesirable side effects. Acupuncture also can be used in conjunction with other treatment modalities. 

At Monrovia Animal Medical Center, we believe acupuncture is an effective option for many veterinary conditions, and we are pleased to offer these services on Wednesdays, when Dr. Erica Kim sees patients at our hospital. Contact us if you would like to schedule a consultation.