What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the practise of inserting fine, solid needles into the body for pain relief or, to treat other diseases. Acupuncture can only be performed on animals in the UK by a qualified veterinary surgeon who is a practising member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture has been practiced by Chinese populations and other Eastern cultures for thousands of years. There are many traditional Chinese Medicine explanations on how acupuncture works. Western medicine has embraced the practice of placing fine needles in specific points of the body and has developed scientific explanations for its results. The needles block the pain messages and encourage the brain and central nervous system to produce more of the body’s natural painkillers, improving local blood flow. In conditions that are not painful, acupuncture may help to reset the body’s normal functioning.
Acupuncture needles stimulate nerves that do not cause the unpleasant feelings of pain that we are trying to treat. They stimulate other nerves that send a more important message to the brain, which is how they block pain.
Sometimes animals may react to this sensation as though they are expecting pain, but then relax because it does not occur. Most of the time they accept the fine needles very well and often become relaxed and sleepy during the treatment.
What kinds of conditions are treated with acupuncture?
Chronic pain is the most common indication for acupuncture. Usually this means pain associated with arthritis, but also muscle strains, pain secondary to disc disease and bony changes of the spine. Other kinds of pain may also respond. Acupuncture can work in conjunction of physiotherapy in the rehabilitation of orthopaedic and neurological conditions. Acupuncture can reduce the need for pain medications or help in reducing the pain medication dose.
Functional conditions such as constipation in cats and irritable bowel type problems in dogs may also respond. Here at North Downs we focus mainly on acupuncture for pain relief alongside medical or physical therapies.
If you think that your pet could benefit from acupuncture, the first step is to talk to your own vet. Your vet can then refer your pet to us for an initial assessment.
How often would my pet be treated?
The usual course is once a week for four to six weeks. After four weeks we will know how well your pet has responded to the treatment and make a long term plan tailing off the treatment so that the effect is maintained for as long as possible. Usually is the owner that picks up changes in their pets’ behaviour and schedules the next appointment when necessary.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is safe, in the right hands. Legally it must be performed by a veterinary surgeon. There have been no official reports of problems in animals, but there are some in humans and these can usually be avoided with care and a good knowledge of anatomy. There are a very few cases in which we would have to be very cautious about using acupuncture, including skin disease, but your veterinary acupuncturist can advise you of these.