By Dr Megan Kelly
Acupuncture is the insertion of fine, solid needles into the body for pain relief or to aid the body in dealing with other diseases.
There are two different approaches the western scientific approach and the eastern or Chinese approach.
The eastern approach works with life force energy or Qi that flows through the body. Eastern practitioners believe that when there is a problem in the body there is a blockage of Qi. Acupuncture helps to unblock these blockages and helps the flow of Qi, thereby restoring the body to its natural harmony and balance.
The western view of acupuncture relies on overriding existing pain signals with the stimuli of the needles inserted, and thereby causing the release of the body’s natural pain killers e.g. serotonin, noradrenalin.
This type of approach is particularly effective in treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and chronic pain such as arthritis and post-operative pain.
Most pets tolerate acupuncture very well. Ideally, the patient is in a stress-free environment, which means a quiet, warm room and a blanket or mat to lie on. The patient will be able to lie on their side or on their belly as mostly back and legs are ‘needled’. Sedation of pets is not needed. Acupuncture can have a natural sedating effect on pets and one often finds pets going to sleep during the treatments.
The most common conditions that are treated with acupuncture are arthritis, pain secondary to disc disease and bony changes of the spine as well as muscle strains. The usual course of treatments are once weekly for four to six weeks and then as needed to maintain comfort levels. This can be every three to four weeks. Most animals respond to acupuncture but may not do so until the second or third treatment and in some cases the patient may appear worse after the first treatment before showing improvement.
Legally, acupuncture must be performed by a veterinary surgeon. Acupuncture is generally very safe when performed by a trained veterinary surgeon that is knowledgeable of anatomy and conditions that would make it unsafe to perform acupuncture.