Dog Tip: Acupuncture for Companion Animals
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Acupuncture and how it works
Acupuncture for companion animals
Gold bead therapy
Chiropractic for companion animals
The following includes information from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) of the National Institutes of Health.
Acupuncture originated in China more than 2,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest medical procedures in the world. Interestingly, it's also among the most commonly used, and increasingly so as an adjunct to Western-style medicine.
The term acupuncture connotes procedures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. These anatomical points are often referred to as acupoints or acupuncture points.
Most acupuncture points are located at the site of major nerve bundles and blood vessels. By inserting needles, nerves are activated with the intention of spurring a healing reaction resulting from invigorated circulation, which releases anti-inflammatory chemicals and natural painkillers. The needles may be rotated, raised and lowered, and/or kept stationary during treatments.
The acupuncture technique that has been most studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation. The needles are to be sterilized.
Typically, most patients feel no pain, or minimal pain, as the hair-thin needles are inserted. Some individuals are energized by treatment, while others feel relaxed. Improper needle placement, movement of the patient, or a defect in the needle can cause soreness during treatment. Relatively few complications are reported, but some arise from inadequate sterilization of needles and improper delivery of treatment. Thus, it is important to seek treatment from a qualified acupuncture practitioner.
A 1997 conference report from the National Institutes of Health stated that acupuncture is being used for pain relief and other health conditions by thousands of U.S. physicians, dentists, acupuncturists, and other practitioners. That includes veterinary medicine practitioners.
Acupuncture is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In the TCM system of medicine, the body is seen as a delicate balance of two opposing and inseparable forces: yin and yang. Yin represents the cold, slow, or passive principle, while yang represents the hot, excited, or active principle.
Among the major assumptions in TCM are that health is achieved by maintaining the body in a "balanced state" and that disease is due to an internal imbalance of yin and yang. This imbalance leads to blockage in the flow of qi - vital life energy - along pathways known as meridians. Qi is thought to provide immunity to disease, channel toxins from the body, repair physiological damage, and dissipate negative emotions. The meridian network is said to consist of 12 main meridians and 8 secondary meridians, and that more than 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body connect with them.
Disease and pain arise when qi, the harmonious flow of life energy, is impeded along the meridian (also called track). Qi can be disrupted by injury, illness or trauma. Healthy bodies are able to cope with interruptions in the balance of Qi , readily restoring the dynamic equilibrium. For beings who are not in optimal health, acupuncture specialists strive to manipulate blood flow and restore the energy flow by inserting thin needles at certain points along the meridian or energy path.
Substantial focus is placed on the body's organs (heart, kidneys, spleen), their function and dysfunction in the diagnosis of problems and development of treatment plans.
Acupuncture is thought to produce its effects through regulating the nervous system, thus aiding the activity of painkilling biochemicals such as endorphins and immune system cells at specific sites in the body. In addition, studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones and, thus, affecting the parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes that regulate blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature.
In 1996, the AVMA formally recommended that acupuncture be an integral part of veterinary medicine. For companion animals and humans, many report acupuncture to be effective as a primary or adjunct treatment for various conditions, from spinal injuries to musculo-skeletal disorders, reproductive issues and neurological problems. It has been used for treating chronic conditions that less-responsive to conventional medicine, including skin diseases and problems, arthritis pain, allergies, asthma and other noninfectious inflammation, and gastrointestinal disorders. Some animal guardians turn to acupuncture and/or other holistic treatments when conventional medicine has failed.
According to Donna Kelleher, DVM, a Seattle veterinarian specializing in acupuncture and other forms of complementary medicine, acupuncture is a well-documented method to controlling pain by releasing neurotransmitters and hormones, and affects gastric motility, liver, and kidney function.
Ask your acupuncture specialist to explain the treatment and the likelihood of success for you animal's condition or disease. You can check via the internet and other sources for studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture for a particular health condition. Also let your regular vet know about any treatment you are using or considering, including acupuncture.
While most treatments go smoothly, be aware of the risks, which include:
A related therapy involves the use of gold beads. According to Dr. Kelleher, these are implanted into key acupuncture points, permanently stimulate the acupuncture sites and offer a relatively safe, drug-free alternative for treating many severe, otherwise degenerative conditions including degenerative myelopathy, severe spondylosis ("back arthritis"), hip dysplasia, elbow or knee arthritis, and epilepsy. The implants points are chosen based on the medical condition and the individual animal.
Chiropractic involves musculo-skeletal manipulations and adjustments. This healing art has been practices for thousands of years, and the techniques are continually being refined as practitioners' knowledge grows.
Chiropractic strives to improve operation of the nervous system through physical manipulations, addressing conditions arranging from pain to crooked spines. Typically, drugs are not used, thus avoiding the potential side effects associated with potent drugs. For example, spinal nerves exiting the spinal cord form spaces in between each vertebra, and then feed into all organs of the body. When nerve impulses are disrupted, organ dysfunction and digestive disturbances can result.
According to Dr. Kelleher, who is also the author of "The Last Chance Dog", the chiropractor restores normal range of motion and releases pressure from pinched nerves, surrounding ligaments and musculature. These adjustments should not hurt animals, and in fact most animals find great comfort in the relief of pain. There are ways to restore normal vertebra position without using a controlled thrust or typical "adjustment", and some animals benefit from gentle massage techniques that restore normal spinal health.
Case studies in the use of acupuncture and other holistic medicine techniques on
Dr. Donna Kelleher's website
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National
Institutes of Health report
Pets on Pins and Needles
Holistic Health Tips
Flower Essences and Essential Oils
Vaccination and Vaccinosis
American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncturists
International Veterinary Acupuncture Service including Certified Veterinary
American Veterinary Chiropractic Association
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association
Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine (AltVetMed)
The information in this tipsheet is not intended to be a substitute for veterinary care.
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|Last Updated: July 23, 2014 (LET)||PawSupport|