By Sari Reis
Acupuncture is a non-drug treatment that was developed in China about 5,000 years ago. Its goal is to encourage the body to heal itself by correcting energy imbalances that exist. The philosophy is based on the concept of “Qi”, the life force of energy, which when out of balance, causes disease.
By inserting tiny metal needles into “acupoints,” physiological changes occur. These acupoints run along meridians which connect the entire body and are pathways through which the Qi circulates.
Acupoints in dogs are sometimes called transpositional points because they have been transposed from humans to canines. The benefits of acupuncture include enhancing blood circulation, spurring the release of pain-controlling endorphins and the release of natural anti-inflammatory hormones.
Dr. Fleckenstein, a Cornell graduate certified in veterinary acupuncture, has incorporated acupuncture into her practice for two decades. She believes that since pet owners have experienced the benefits of integrative medicine in their lives, they want the same type of care for their pets. More and more veterinary colleges are seeing an increase in enrollment in acupuncture training, as hundreds of studies have shown its effectiveness in animals. The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture was recently admitted to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s House of Delegates. Although the interest in acupuncture for animals continues to grow, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society stated: “Further research must be conducted to discover all of acupuncture’s effects and its proper uses in veterinary medicine.”
Meanwhile, anecdotal reports on the use of acupuncture therapy in animals continue to grow showing benefits in: arthritis, muscle spasms, degenerative joint disease, Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, diabetes, heart, kidney and liver disease, ruptured discs, dermatological conditions, asthma, epilepsy, and even provides supportive care in cancer patients. Veterinary acupuncturists state that many of the pets actually fall asleep during treatment.
One might ask if acupuncture is safe for pets. The answer is a resounding yes if the acupuncturist is licensed and has received formal training. Acupuncture causes no undesirable side effects and works well in conjunction with Western medicine. Since each animal is unique and each condition is different, the frequency of treatment and the duration of treatment will vary. Sometimes a positive response can be seen after just one treatment, but more often, more treatments are needed to get a noticeable result. Treatments are usually provided in a quiet room where they may last from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. Sessions can vary in cost from $70 to $150. Some pet insurance companies will cover it, but if you have pet insurance, it is best to check with them in advance.
Dr. Karen Becker, a well-known holistic vet, has been using acupuncture for years. She stated that about 25 percent of her patients experience a very positive response showing major improvement to the point of full recovery. About 50 percent of patients have a dramatic improvement but with some lingering symptoms, while 25 percent have no response at all. Based on these statistics, it would appear it is definitely worth giving it a try if your pet has not responded as well as you might like from traditional medicine. After all, isn’t she/he worth it?
—Sari Reis is a Certified Humane Education Specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services. For more information on where to find a certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, please contact her at 760-644-0289 or missionvalleypetsitting.com.