What is the Chinese philosophy?
Acupuncture points are located on energy flow pathways
called meridians. There are 104 meridians in the body, but 14 of these
are located at skin level and are used therapeutically. In healthy
animals energy or Qi (pronounced ‘chee’) flows smoothly. In disease the
Qi does not flow smoothly and causes pain and malfunction in the body
systems. Acupuncture is used to stimulate
specific points to correct the movement of Qi , thereby allowing the
body to heal itself and relieve pain.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine
needles into specific points on the body, which have the
ability to alter various body functions. It is a means of allowing the
body to heal itself. In addition to needles other methods may be used
to stimulate the acupuncture points such as laser, electro stimulation,
acupressure (applying finger pressure), moxibustion (applying heat),
aquapuncture (injecting liquids) and gold bead implants.
Esther performing Laser
Acupuncture on a cat:
How does it work?
Acupuncture is known to affect all major physiological
systems. Acupuncture increases blood circulation, causes the release of
many neuro-transmitters and neuro-hormones, some of which are
endorphins (the bodies “natural pain killing hormones”). It relieves
muscle spasms, stimulates nerves and stimulates the body’s defence
systems. Scientifically it has been proven that white blood cell counts
and the body’s own cortisone levels are increased following acupuncture
treatment. Acupuncture points are different from the surrounding skin
as they have a higher concentration of nerve bundles, blood vessels and
What conditions respond to acupuncture?
In the Western world acupuncture is used primarily when
medications are not effective, are contraindicated due to possible side
effects, or when surgery is not feasible. However in many conditions
acupuncture should be offered as the initial therapy.
Around 80% of veterinary acupuncture treatments are
for musculoskeletal conditions such as hip dysplasia, arthritis,
intervertebral disc disease and chronic injuries. Many other conditions
respond very well to acupuncture and these include diseases of the
skin, urinary tract, gastro-intestinal tract, respiratory tract,
cardiovascular system, nervous system, eyes, ears, immune system and
many others organs.
How will my animal react?
Acupuncture is performed with sterilised single-use thin
stainless steel needles. The needles are rounded at the end and do not
have a cutting edge unlike the needles used for injections. Therefore
they separate the skin and muscles rather than cutting them. There is
occasionally a brief moment of sensitivity as the needle penetrates the
skin in certain sensitive areas. Once the needles are in place, most
animals relax, often falling asleep during the treatment. For certain
points, such as those around the eye, sedation may be recommended. In
some animals and on some points the use of laser acupuncture may be
Photos of cats and dogs, none of which
have been sedated:
Note the open catcage on the table, while the cat is lying there with
acupuncture needles in place.
Is it safe?
Acupuncture is one of the safest therapies utilized if
practiced by a competent veterinary acupuncturist. Occasionally an
animal’s condition may temporarily deteriorate before improving.
Acupuncture balances the body’s own system of healing and no chemicals
are administered. Hence complications and side effects rarely, if ever,
When is it not recommended?
Certain acupuncture points should not be used during
pregnancy as they can induce labour.
Acupuncture increases blood flow in the body and is
therefore contraindicated in malignant cancer as it could facilitate
the spread of the cancer to other organs.
The benefits of acupuncture are diminished when cortisone
medication has been administered. For certain conditions it is still
beneficial to start the acupuncture treatments despite this.
A full conventional veterinary consultation, along with
any necessary tests or procedures, needs to completed, to provide a
definitive diagnosis of the problem. This ensures that all treatment
options are offered, including acupuncture if indicated.
A detailed questionnaire is completed at the first
consultation. An accurate medical and surgical history of the animal is
obtained. The animal then has a conventional veterinary and a full
Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) examination. After considering all of
this information acupuncture points are chosen and the first treatment
is performed. Revisits require short questionnaires on progress and the
treatment is altered if indicated.
Treatments may last from 10 seconds per point for laser
acupuncture to 20-30 minutes when using needles. A
response can occur from the first treatment but improvement
and recovery is often a gradual process requiring multiple treatments.
Usually patients are treated once weekly for 4 to 6 weeks. Follow-up
treatments may be necessary.