Acupuncture for Your Pet

Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness

Acupuncture is the practise of inserting fine, sterile needles into specific sites in the body. The procedure is most commonly used for pain relief or in some cases, to help the body deal with other diseases.

Acupuncture works through the nervous system by altering pain messages reaching the brain. The needles block the pain messages and encourage the central nervous system to produce more of the body’s own natural ‘painkillers’. It also relaxes painful muscle spasms and in conditions where pain is not being treated the function of acupuncture is to reset the normal nerve pathways that have been disrupted by other disease processes.

An acupuncture course is usually a session once a week for four to six weeks. After four weeks we will know whether acupuncture is working for your pet and then a treatment plan is worked out that usually involves tailing off the treatment, so that the positive effect is maintained for as long as possible.

Acupuncture is very safe when practised correctly and is well accepted by the majority of animals. Legally it must be performed by a veterinary surgeon.

What can I expect during treatment?

After an examination, needles will be put into various parts of the body and moved or stimulated a few times. There is not a set ‘dose’ of acupuncture as there is for a medication, it will be based on your individual pet’s response both at the time and after the treatment. They often become sleepy and relaxed during the treatment. This is a good sign and shows that your pet will probably respond well to acupuncture.

Your pet may show one of three responses to treatment:

  1. They may seem a little stiffer or more uncomfortable. This shows that they should respond well to treatment. After a day or  two they will improve again and should be better than before and any follow up treatment will be adjusted accordingly at the next visit.
  2. You may see no response. This is always disappointing but does not mean your pet will not respond. It may just be that they will take a little longer or that their improvement after the first treatment was too brief for you to see. We cannot say that they will not respond until after the fourth treatment. Not all animals are acupuncture ‘responders’, but about 80% will be.
  3. You may see an improvement. This may occur anytime in the three days after treatment. The signs that we are trying to treat may then return before the next treatment, but this is fine. After each subsequent treatment the effects of acupuncture should last longer, so that your pet may eventually not need more treatments for some time.

If you are interested in acupuncture for your pet contact your vet for a referral to a vet registered to perform veterinary acupuncture.