Frequently Asked Questions about Acupuncture Therapy in Animals
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture therapy uses very thin needles to stimulate acupuncture points in various places on the body. These acupuncture points are areas where Qi (energy) flow is easily accessed and can be increased, decreased, or otherwise changed to help the body to heal itself. In western medicine, acupuncture points are areas of increased blood vessel and nerve density. Acupuncture increases blood flow to an area, and also changes the electrical (nerve) conduction in an area.
What animals can be treated with acupuncture?
Any animal is a candidate for acupuncture therapy; the most commonly treated species are horses, dogs, and cats. Most animals are very accepting of acupuncture treatment and many quickly learn to enjoy it. There are some individuals, however, that have averse reactions to even the smallest, thinnest acupuncture needles. I offer laser acupuncture stimulation, which does not require the use of needles and is completely painless.
Will acupuncture work for MY animal?
Many animals respond favorably to acupuncture treatment, especially for pain relief. Some conditions may be “cured” by acupuncture, but, more often, chronic problems are managed with acupuncture to reduce severity, provide pain relief, improve function, or decrease the dose of medication the animal requires.
What other modalities besides acupuncture do you practice?
I utilize traditional dry needle acupuncture for most of my patients. Acupuncture needles are sterile, single-use, and packaged individually with a plastic guide tube to aid insertion. These needles are very thin and flexible, so they will bend and not break. They are solid stainless steel, sometimes with a silicone coating to ease insertion. I typically use lengths from 3/8” (for cats & small dogs, and for sensitive point such as paws) to 6” (for horses in large muscle groups). My most common lengths are ½” and 1” for dogs and 1 ½” and 3” for horses.
Electroacupuncture is often used for pain relief and chronic conditions; it is particularly good for hip dysplasia and back pain. It is also used to increase muscle mass in cases of muscle atrophy and to stimulate nerve conduction in cases of paralysis. To perform electroacupuncture, I place acupuncture needles in the appropriate acupuncture points and connect these points with wires. A very low level of electrical current is passed through the needles to strongly stimulate the acupuncture points. This is not a painful procedure and most animals enjoy it. This is similar to a TENS unit often used on humans.
Cold laser / Infrared light therapy
Infrared light is used to stimulate cell activity & promote healing in a local area, as well as to stimulate acupuncture points. This therapy is very useful for wounds & skin lesions, arthritis, and eye injuries. It is also useful when an animal cannot tolerate needle placement, as this is completely needle-less. This is a “cold” infrared laser, which is completely safe. It is also useful for stimulating acupuncture points in sensitive areas, such as paws & toes for dogs and cats.
Various liquid substances can be injected into acupuncture points to increase the length of time the point is stimulated. Also, medically useful substances injected into acupuncture points will have dual action – both stimulating the acupuncture point and exerting its medical effect. I typically use Vitamin B12 to stimulate points, and Adequan as a medically active substance for joint disease. Adequan is an injectable form of polysulfated glycosaminoglycans, which nourish cartilage.
A Chinese herb called moxa (Artemisia vulgaris) is burned over an acupuncture point to add energy (heat) to the system. This is useful for older, debilitated animals and during cold or damp weather.
Hemoacupuncture involves using a small hypodermic needle to puncture an acupuncture point to cause bleeding. This can be useful in acute, excess conditions where Qi or blood need to be removed. The most common place I would use hemoacupuncture is in a horse with acute laminitis, to draw heat out of the hoof.
Chinese herbal formulas
Selected veterinary-specific Chinese herbal formulas are available in some instances.
What aftercare is required for my animal after an acupuncture session?
For the first 24 hours, horses should be turned out to move about freely. If this is not possible, they should be hand-walked 15 – 30 minutes at least twice during the first 24 hours. The 2nd day after treatment, they may be ridden lightly. The 3rd day, they may return to normal activity.
Dogs & Cats
For the first 24 hours, dogs are often very quiet or sleepy. They should be allowed to rest as much as they want for this period. If treated for a musculoskeletal problem, they should be leash-walked on the 2nd day, and return to normal activity on the 3rd day.
Cats typically sleep and/or hide for the first 24 hours. They should be allowed to choose their own activity level.
What diseases or conditions can be treated with acupuncture?
Some of the most common conditions treated with acupuncture include:
How many sessions will my animal require?
Each patient and each condition is different, therefore each treatment session is highly individualized. If you choose to pursue acupuncture therapy for your animal, be prepared to commit to at least 4 sessions before we determine whether acupuncture will be a good tool for your particular animal. Acute conditions such as recent injuries typically respond over fewer treatments, while chronic conditions such as allergies and arthritis are treated over an extended period of time to manage the problem. This interval is very individual for each animal. Most horses & cats show response to treatment within 2 to 3 sessions and further treatments are determined by the patient’s original condition & progression. Most dogs are slower to respond and often require 4 to 6 sessions to begin to see response to treatment. I recommend treatment to continue until the animal has reached a plateau in response and is able to maintain the improvement from one session to the next.
How often will my animal be treated?
Acupuncture therapy is customized for each patient at each session according to the animal’s condition on that particular day, and response to previous treatments. Typically, acute conditions are treated as often as every other day, while more chronic conditions may be treated every 2 -4 weeks. After an initial treatment set of 4 to 8 sessions, many animals can progress to a maintenance schedule of treatments every 2 – 6 months. Some acute conditions are “cured” and no further treatment is necessary.
What is the cost of acupuncture treatment?
Prices are subject to change. Payment by cash or check is required at the time of service. Sorry, no credit cards at this time. Sessions are performed in your home or barn. Package prices represent a 5% discount over purchasing sessions separately and must be paid in full at the first session.
Initial assessment 120.00 This session usually lasts approximately 1 hour.
Follow-up exams & treatments 90.00 These sessions usually last 30 - 45 minutes.
Package 1 370.00 Initial assessment & 3 follow-ups
Package 2 342.00 4 follow-up treatments
Package 3 416.00 Package 1 with electroacupuncture
Package 4 388.00 Package 2 with electroacupuncture
Package 5 446.00 Package 1 with laser acupuncture
Package 6 418.00 Package 2 with laser acupuncture
Package 7 492.00 Package 1 with laser & electro acupuncture
Package 8 464.00 Package 2 with laser & electro acupuncture
Equine Pre-purchase evaluation 140.00
Acupuncture / Traditional Chinese Medicine evaluation for subclinical or developing problems; no therapy provided during this session
Mileage charge 1.50 Per mile one-way over 25 miles
Electroacupuncture Fee 12.00 Per session in addition to session fee
Laser Acupuncture Fee 20.00 Per session in addition to session fee
Chinese Herbal Formulas varies Selected Chinese herbal therapies are available on a case-by-case basis.
Where will you perform my animal's acupuncture treatment?
I see my patients in their homes or stables. This allows the animals to remain calm & relaxed in a comfortable environment. Alternate arrangements are possible on a case-by-case basis.