What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the practice of inserting small needles into the skin along specific points along the body. These acupuncture points are located along channels, or meridians, and carry energy or Qi(pronounced ‘chee’) to specific locations for healing properties and various effects. Acupuncture is believed to have originated in China around the Stone Age and has been used in animals for over 3,000 years. Originally developed in the veterinary field to cure the Emperor’s horses of various ailments, acupuncture is now utilized for various conditions across all species of large and small, domestic to exotic animals.

For which conditions is acupuncture indicated?

Acupuncture is generally thought of as having a place in the management of acute or chronic pain and musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, muscle atrophy or degeneration. However, various indications for acupuncture exist in the treatment of many other medical conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Chronic diseases such as kidney, liver or heart failure
  • Obesity management
  • Allergies
  • Skin Allergies
  • Behavioral Disorders
  • Endocrine diseases such as Diabetes, Cushing’s or Addison’s disease
  • Seizures and epilepsy
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Incontinence
  • Treatment of various cancers and the side effects of chemotherapy
  • Chronic pain
  • Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome (“stroke-like” disorder)
  • Neurological conditions such as IBD, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Maintenance of health and decreasing the use of traditional medications for chronic disease

Acupuncture applications:

Acupuncture can be performed in three different ways. The first is called dry needle therapy. A sterile stainless steel needle is inserted into acupuncture points, causing a predictable physiologic response. A second type of acupuncture involves connecting a TENS electrostimulation unit to the inserted acupuncture needles. This creates a stronger stimulation of the acupuncture point than simple needle insertion would. The third type of acupuncture is called “aquapuncture.” A solution of homeopathic B12, saline and other compounds are injected into individual acupuncture points. The effects of this type of acupuncture can be increased and long lasting. The individual medical condition and the patient determine which of the above mentioned techniques is utilized.

Who is licensed to perform Veterinary Acupuncture?

A Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist is a veterinarian or veterinary student nearing completion of their veterinary curriculum, who has completed extensive training in veterinary acupuncture, indications and treatment modalities, as well as the their traditional veterinary training. A few different institutions and training programs exist across the country which focus on different aspects of Acupuncture or Chinese Medicine.

Is it safe?

Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment when administered by an appropriately trained veterinarian. Very few side effects exist with acupuncture. Occasionally, your pet may seem worse for up to 48 hours following a treatment session. Other animals may become sleepy or lethargic for about 24 hours following therapy. These effects are rare, but when they occur, they indicate that physiological changes are occurring and are most often followed by an improvement in the patient’s condition and energy level.

The only real contraindications that exist in Mountain View Animal Hospital and Holistic Pet Care are related to electro-acupuncture. These conditions would include pregnancy, seizure disorders, heart disease and certain types of tumors. If any of these conditions exist in your pet, please inform the acupuncturist so that they may best adjust your pet’s treatment protocol.

Does it hurt?

For most patients, the insertions of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. For some animals, very mild pain is associated with passing the needle through the skin. In all animals, including humans, once the needles are placed, there should be no pain. Most animals become very relaxed and may even fall asleep. Some sensations can occur, such as tingling, numbness or local contraction of muscles around the needles, but most human patients report a feeling of heaviness and sedation which frequently causes relaxation and comfort for our patients throughout treatment.

How quickly can I expect results and how many treatments are recommended?

Results are frequently noted within minutes to hours following treatment. For some acute conditions such as intervertebral disc disease, nausea, vomiting, fever or pain, clinical signs can be alleviated as quickly as they appear. For chronic conditions, which may take longer to develop, multiple treatment sessions are required to notice small improvements over time.

It is recommended for any given condition, that a minimum of 3 treatment sessions be tried before determining if Acupuncture will work for your pet. Based on the nature of your pet’s condition and the severity of their clinical signs, treatments may be recommended anywhere from a few times a week to every 2-6 months. Initially, most patients are recommended to return for recheck exam and a treatment every two weeks until improvement in clinical signs is noted. Over time, these sessions are spread out until maintenance appointments every 3-6 months are sufficient. Treatment intensity can be adjusted in order to accommodate schedule availability, finances and travel schedules.


Feel free to call us and we will discuss how Integrative & Holistic Medicine may benefit your pet’s problem.