Four years ago, if you would have asked me if I believed that Chinese herbs and tiny metal needles could help a lame dog walk, or take a dog with allergies and make him stop itching, I would have laughed at you. As trained veterinarians, it is not in our scientific mindset to believe in mechanisms of healing that are “outside of the box”. Through the study of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) at the Chi Institute in Florida, I have come to realize that there is way more treatment options to offer our animals. When most veterinarians are backed into a corner with the inability to continue treating certain health concerns/conditions, veterinarians who practice TCVM have an entire other realm of treatment options to explore. Since this ancient field of medicine (acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years) is becoming more popular, yet is still widely unknown, I have decided to give you a brief introduction to this fascinating topic.
What Can Veterinary Acupuncture Do for My Dog or Cat?
1. The goal of veterinary acupuncture is to use tiny metal needles (about the width of a hair) placed in strategic and specific points on an animal to help stimulate the body to heal itself.
2. Veterinary acupuncture stimulates the release of your animal’s own pain relieving and anti-inflammatory substances.
3. Veterinary acupuncture improves tissue blood flow, oxygenation, decreases inflammation, and helps regulate the immune system.
4. Unlike prescription and over the counter pain medications, veterinary acupuncture very rarely has negative side effects.
Why use Veterinary Acupuncture?
The good news about veterinary acupuncture is that it works very well with conventional (western) medicine and surgery. In fact, the two disciplines can be utilized together and can work synergistically, since each discipline has it’s own pros and cons. Additionally, by using a more holistic ideology, this integration of old and new, can help a veterinarian achieve a more thorough evaluation of a pet’s entire body, environment, diet, medical history, and temperament, to appropriately implement a combination of treatment and strategies for prevention.
Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) can benefit all life stages (juvenile, adult, and senior) and a large variety of conditions. The term TCVM encompasses more than just acupuncture. It also includes herbal medicine and food energetics (changing the diet to help treat and prevent disease).
What types of diseases can potentially be treated with Veterinary Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM)?
Disclaimer: TCVM should be used in conjunction with (and not instead of) conventional medicine and/or surgery. TCVM therapy will not work for every animal and certain conditions have a higher response rate than others.
1. Musculoskeletal disorders (arthritis, hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tears, soft tissue injury, lameness, back or neck pain, joint disease, unexplained pain)
2. Neurological disorders (Intervertebral disc disease/slipped disc/bulging disc, paralysis and paresis, weakness, ataxia (wobbliness), vertigo, seizures)
3. Gastrointestinal disorders (vomiting, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, inappetence, constipation, megacolon)
4. Dermatological disorders (itching, scratching, hair loss, hot spots, lick granulomas, ear infections)
5. Behavioral disorders (aggression, stress, anxiety, fear, inappropriate elimination)
6. Cancer and any side effects of chemotherapy
7. Internal medicine disorders (liver disease, renal failure, asthma, coughing, laryngeal paralysis, immune mediated disease or dysfunction, urinary and/or fecal incontinence)
If I choose Veterinary Acupuncture for my pet what is the time commitment and how will I know if it is working?
The first consult and treatment together takes about 1.5 hours. Each subsequent treatment takes about 45 minutes. Your pet can be “dropped off” for this treatment at no additional charge. It depends on the reason for therapy, but a schedule of subsequent rechecks and treatments will be discussed with you at the first appointment. The response to treatment will manifest and be monitored in different ways depending on your pet. It takes three consecutive treatments (anywhere from one week to three weeks apart) in order to determine if your pet is having a positive response to the therapy. Some pets with acute disease (disease that happens quickly and is treated quickly) may only require a few (three to six) treatments to resolve the issue. Other pets with more chronic (long standing) or complicated disease may require long term or even life long therapy.
Allison Schnoke, DVM, CVA (Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist), practices traditional Chinese veterinary medicine at Hilltop Animal Hospital.