Acupuncture is an ancient art of medical practice, utilized originally in China. This technique has been documented about 2,700 years ago in one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world. The goal of acupuncture is to maintain balance or to correct imbalances in the body through insertion of needles in specific anatomical locations. This procedure is virtually painless, although certain animals and certain points may be more sensitive than others.
There are several proposed mechanisms as to how acupuncture works: it stimulates local nerves, changes blood and lymphatic flow, stimulates the immune system, relaxes muscles, and releases endorphins in the brain and spinal cord. Scientists are actively researching the exact reasons why acupuncture has proven effective for so many human and animal patients.
Acupuncture can be used in conjunction with traditional western medications to achieve a synergistic effect. In many cases, either the dose or frequency of these medications can be decreased while the patient is receiving acupuncture therapy. Acupuncture therapy is appropriate for many diseases including, but not limited to: orthopedic diseases (osteoarthritis), neurological conditions (seizures, interverterbral disc problems), gastrointestinal or urinary diseases (inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation and urinary incontinence), dermatologic issues (chronic lick granulomas, pressure sores, open wounds and atopic dermatitis) and respiratory problems (asthma and bronchitis). Patients undergoing chemotherapy can also be treated with acupuncture to support the immune system and decrease adverse side effects such as nausea, vomiting and inappetance. Senior and geriatric patients may benefit from decreased pain and increased quality of life.
The most common type of acupuncture is called dry needling where several thin needles (anywhere from 2-20) are placed in specific anatomical points on the patient’s body for 5-20 minutes. Aquapuncture is a method where a solution (often vitamin B12) is injected into the acupoints and is most commonly used for patients who do not tolerate sitting still for the 5-20 minute treatment time. Electroacupuncture is where a machine is connected to the needles to introduce a mild electric current. Finally, some patients will receive moxibustion where a heat source is touched to the needles to warm them. Moxa is more frequently used in the wintertime and can be very helpful to those patients who tend to have painful flare ups of osteoarthritis in the cold weather.
Clients often ask how quickly they will see results in their pet. This partly depends on the disease we are treating and how chronic the problem is. Sometimes as some symptoms improve or resolve, other symptoms will surface. Traditional Chinese practitioners liken this to “peeling an onion” before getting to the center of the problem. Some patients will feel results after the first, second or third treatments. Others may take up to eight treatments before noticeable results occur. If after eight treatments the patient is not showing some improvement, it is reasonable to say that acupuncture is likely to be ineffective for that patient. A typical treatment course is once weekly for 3-5 weeks, then treatments will then be tapered so the pet feels as good as possible for as long as possible between treatments. Each patient is approached and treated individually.
Hickory Veterinary Hospital gladly accepts referrals for acupuncture cases. If you think you have a patient who may benefit from acupuncture therapy, please feel free to contact Dr. Michelle Rupp. Dr. Perone has undergone extensive training through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and is currently pending certification in both acupuncture and physical rehabilitation.