According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “Veterinary acupuncture and acutherapy involve the examination and stimulation of specific points on the body of nonhuman animals by use of acupuncture needles, moxibustion, injections, low-level lasers, magnets, and a variety of other techniques for the diagnosis and treatment of numerous conditions in animals.”

Most simply stated, acupuncture (acus = needle, punctura = puncture) is the stimulation of specific points on the body, which have the ability to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to achieve the desired effect. It is a means of helping the body heal itself. Veterinary acupuncture is an integral part of veterinary medicine. It is not a cure-all, but where it is indicated, it works well.

What conditions respond to acupuncture?

Veterinary acupuncture bridges a gap between medicine and surgery, being used primarily when medications are not working or are contraindicated due to possible side effects, or when surgery is not feasible. Treatment with veterinary acupuncture, its related techniques of laser therapy, and certain forms of massage help by promoting health and well-being, preventing illness, and addressing a variety of medical conditions and pain problems.

Research on acupuncture is continually building and strengthening the scientific evidence-informed basis of veterinary acupuncture. In addition to well-known effects on acute and chronic pain, veterinary acupuncture addresses a wide range of medical issues, including:

  • Digestive ailments, including inflammation and motility problems
  • Respiratory issues, such as sinusitis and feline asthma
  • Neurologic problems, such as peripheral neuropathy, sciatica, spinal cord injury, disk disease, and nerve-based pain problems
  • Musculoskeletal complaints, including knee pain, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, back pain, neck pain, and much more

How does veterinary acupuncture work?

The main therapeutic effects of needling begin with activation of nerve fibers near a point. These stimuli then bring about changes that help to balance nerve signaling and neurotransmitter activity from the “periphery” (i.e., the acupuncture point) to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and autonomic nervous system centers (that govern processes like glandular activity, immune status, digestion, mood, and more). Acupuncture also release tension from the muscles and enveloping fibrous network called “fascia”.

Veterinary acupuncture:

  • Increases circulation
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Causes the release of neurotransmitters from the brain -- some of which are endorphins and enkephalins -- the body’s “natural pain-killing” hormones
  • Relieves muscle spasms
  • Stimulates nerves
  • Stimulates the body’s defense systems

Is it painful? How will my pet react?

Veterinary acupuncture is performed with sterilized single-use, thin, stainless steel or copper needles. Occasionally, there is a brief moment of sensitivity as the needle penetrates the skin in certain sensitive areas. Once the needles are in place, most animals relax. Some pets may fall asleep during treatment.

Is acupuncture safe for my pet?

Veterinary acupuncture is one of the safest therapies utilized if practiced by a competent acupuncturist. Side effects are rare. Occasionally, an animal’s condition may deteriorate temporarily before improving, but this phenomenon typically resolves in 24-28 hours.

Because acupuncture balances the body’s own system of healing and no chemical are administered, complications rarely, if ever, develop. However, most side effects are mild and even pleasant -- a sense of relaxation, an improvement in sleep, or improvement in digestive tract transit.

If something concerns you after your pet’s acupuncture treatment, contact Badger Veterinary Hospital-Beloit right away.

How often and for how long should we treat my pet?

Veterinary acupuncture treatments may last from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, depending on the condition being treated, patient tolerance, and method employed. There are many ways of stimulating acupuncture points include the use of dry needles, electro-acupuncture, aquapuncture (injecting a solution into a point), moxibustion (heating the point), as well as laser acupuncture.

The number of treatments needed differs from patient to patient. For difficult or long-standing conditions, he/she may need 1 to 3 treatments weekly for several weeks. Usually, people see a change in their pet within the first few treatments (4 to 6 treatments) if the acupuncture is going to make a meaningful difference.

Veterinary acupuncture is available at Badger Veterinary Hospital in Beloit with Dr. Kayla Rothstein, who is certified in veterinary medical acupuncture. Contact our Beloit clinic to make an appointment -- your pet will thank you!