Veterinarian Dr. Erica Monaco of Craig Road Animal Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, discusses the benefits of acupuncture therapy in cats and dogs.
By: Erica F. Monaco DVM MSPH cVMA
Acupuncture is a technique that allows the practitioner to interface with the nervous system and tap into the body’s own mechanisms for modulating pain perception, inflammation, endocrine and metabolic functions as well as healing. This complementary therapy is used to treat pain and other conditions in humans and animals. We integrate traditional and non-traditional approaches to medicine to provide high quality evidence-based veterinary care.
Acupuncture is administered by strategically placing very thin, sterile needles into specific points on the body commonly referred to as “meridians.” There are 150 main acupuncture points on the animal that serve to treat different illnesses and ailments. By stimulating these points the doctor can alleviate a host of health-related conditions in your pet.
The body naturally makes its own narcotics to manage pain sensation. Acupuncture works by changing the way that the brain perceives pain signals, by discharging pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory neurotransmitters into the body. Neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins modify and lessen the pain felt by patients.
Veterinarians use this therapy in conjunction with modern medicine to help decrease inflammation in their patients, promote healing, stimulate neuro-retraining, and break chronic pain cycles. Clinical studies that have been conducted show progressive results in both human and animal trials.
According to research conducted by Georgetown University Medical Center” The practice of acupuncture blocks the chronic, stress-induced elevations of blood hormones and peptides secreted by the sympathetic nervous system.”
The hair-like needles used in acupuncture are so tiny that they activate different nerve receptors than those triggered by painful stimuli. These needles are designed not to cause tissue trauma but rather go between tissue fibers to elicit nerve responses. A licensed veterinarian, who has completed formal training in the practice of veterinary acupuncture, is the best person to recognize and properly diagnose an animal’s health related problems to determine if the pet will benefit from the treatment.
Acupuncture is beneficial for neurologic pain conditions as well as sports injuries in agility dogs. Pets that experience muscle and or joint pain should be seen to discuss a trial round of acupuncture with a veterinary acupuncturist. If your pet is currently undergoing chemotherapy for cancer or post-operative rehabilitation you should talk to your veterinarian about beginning an acupuncture regimen as it will aid in the speed of the recovery process.
Acupuncture session times vary depending on the animal’s specific needs. First time sessions are scheduled for 60 minutes while subsequent sessions are between 20 -30 minutes. As certain points on the body that produce a calming effect on the patient, after your session, it is not uncommon for your pet to sleep for several hours after returning home. Pain relief from acupuncture can take place as quickly as 20 minutes to a few hours or days depending on your pet’s response to treatment.
There are three types of acupuncture that we may choose to administer to your cat or dog.
Traditional: The needles are strategically placed into the skin at named acupuncture points.
Electro-acupuncture: Electrodes are hooked onto the needles and low levels of electricity are slowly released to help stimulate nerves an increase neurotransmitter release.
Dry Needling: Needles are placed into muscle bellies where there is increased tension or knots
To determine how your pet will respond to acupuncture, we ask that you commit to an initial three visit trial period performed on a flexible schedule. Acupuncture therapy can provide relief of a wide variety of ailments, the list below provides examples of some conditions commonly treated.
- 1.Neurological disorders including paralysis, seizures, and anxiety.
- 2.Musculoskeletal problems including, arthritis, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), sports injury, hip dysplasia, and generalized pain.
- 4.Skin conditions and allergies.
- 5.Gastrointestinal problems such as IBD, motility disorders, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and appetite stimulation.
- 6.Post-operative healing and pain relief.
- 7.Urogenital problems including incontinence and reproductive dysfunction.