What is Veterinary Acupuncture?

Elsie Lacy

“Elsie” Lacy being a great acupuncture patient

Information provided by: Shelly Marquardt, D.V.M. with Veterinary Medical Clinic and After Hours Urgent Pet Care of South Tampa

Acupuncture is the treatment of conditions or symptoms by the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body, acupoints, in order to produce a response.  The ancient Chinese discovered acupuncture points for both humans and animals, and these points were found to be connected with each other and various internal organs via meridians or channels.

Modern research shows that acupoints are located in the areas where there is a high density of free nerve endings, mast cells, blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels.  When stimulated, each acupuncture point has specific actions causing release of beta-endorphins, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters.  Combinations of points are often stimulated to take advantage of synergistic reactions between them, particularly healing and pain relief.

Any condition may potentially benefit from acupuncture.  In veterinary medicine, there is evidence of the success of acupuncture for treating many disorders:

  • Musculoskeletal – osteoarthritis, intervertebral disk disease, degenerative joint disease
  • Neurological – seizures, laryngeal paralysis, facial and nerve paralysis
  • Gastrointestinal – vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, impact impaction
  • Respiratory – asthma, coughing, upper respiratory
  • Dermatological – allergic dermatitis, lick granuloma

 Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Qi?

A: Qi (pronounced chee) is the life force or energy that sustains the body.  There are two opposite forms of Qi: Yin and Yang. Physiologically, Qi flows throughout the body, maintaining as balance of Yin and Yang.  When the flow of Qi is interrupted, the balance is lost and disease can develop. 

Pain is defined as a blockage of Qi.  Acupuncture can resolve the blockage, allowing Qi to flow freely, and enabling the body to heal to restore balance.

 Q: What is the history of acupuncture?

A: Acupuncture was developed thousands of years ago by the ancient Chinese to treat conditions in both humans and animals.  In North America, the use of acupuncture outside of Asian-American communities was infrequent until the early 1970s.  Since then, as more clinical research has been conducted showing positive results in the treatment of both animals and humans, its use has been increasing. There are now many veterinarians adding acupuncture into their practice.

Q: What are the methods and goals of acupuncture?

A: The goal of acupuncture is to restore the flow of Qi in order to restore balance.  This can be achieved by stimulating the acupoints in a variety of ways, such as dry needling, moxibustion, aqua-acupuncture, and electro- stimulation.

 Which acupuncture points are stimulated, the depth of needle insertion, the type of stimulation applied to the needles, and the duration of each treatment session depends on the patient’s tolerance, the experience and training of the practitioner, and the condition being treated.  

 Q: How safe is acupuncture therapy?

A: it is very safe when administered by a qualified practitioner. Very few side effects have been found in clinical cases.

 Q: Does acupuncture hurt?

A: Most animals are comfortable with acupuncture treatment and some will fall asleep during the treatment.  A proper treatment may cause a mild sensation of heaviness with some muscle contraction.  It may be necessary to gently restrain the animal during the first treatment to minimize discomfort.  As a rule, animals relax and sit or lie quietly for subsequent treatments.

 Q: What species of animals can receive acupuncture?

A : Acupuncture can be used on all species of animals, and has documented efficacy on a wide range of species, including elephants, cattle, horses, dogs, cats, monkeys, and rabbits.  However, it tends to be more frequently used in companion animal species such as the horse, dog, and cat.

 Q: How much does a veterinary acupuncture treatment cost?

A: Cost can vary widely based on location, practitioner, species, and disease being treated. It is best to contact your nearest practitioner to discuss their fees.

Don’t Ignore Warning Signs of Cancer in Pets

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M.

Eddie Garcia, D.V.M. – Clinic Director at Veterinary Medical Clinic

Cancer is the ungoverned growth of cells on or within the body. The terms “cancerous” and “malignant” are synonymous. The term “tumor” refers to a cancerous local growth. Tumors are characterized by rapid growth and local invasion into surrounding tissues. Tumors may also metastasize, that is spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to distant sites within the body. The lungs are a very common site for tumor metastasis. The prognosis for tumors is often most dependent on whether they have metastasized prior to the diagnosis.

Many signs of illness would prompt a suspicion of cancer among a host of other problems.

Cancer warning signs include foul odor, persistent lameness, difficulty urination or defecating, abnormal growth, weight loss, bleeding, wounds that won’t heal, difficulty breathing, weakness and lethargy.

Fatigues is definitely a sign to watch out for that most people might miss.

To catch the disease in the early stages, dog & cat owners need to be alert to changes in their pet’s behavior and seek medical care as soon as possible. By the time cancer is discovered, it can be fairly advanced, and a cure isn’t always possible.

There are no preventive measures to ensure your dog doesn’t get cancer, but spaying before the first heat will almost completely remove the risk of mammary cancer. Testicular tumors in dogs are common, but when dogs are neutered, the risk is eliminated.

Breeds at Risk

Certain breeds seem more susceptible to inherited types of cancer. In some forms of cancer, body type is also important. Larger or giant breeds have a higher incidence of bone cancer. Dogs with dark skin are more susceptible to melanomas.

Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers are at risk for lymphoma and osteosarcoma. Scottish Terriers and Shelties are susceptible to bladder cancer. Bernese Mountain dogs tend to contract lymphoma, mast cell tumors and histiocytosis, a rare cancer, which oncologists treat with chemotherapy and radiation.

Cancer is not one disease, so the breed and cancer associations are endless.

Today cancer is now one of the most common causes of death in pets.

Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine

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