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Veterinary Acupuncture

An introduction to Veterinary Acupuncture and how it can benefit your pet

Acupuncture has evolved from the ancient art of placing needles into special locations on the body to alleviate pain, improve recovery rates and increase resistance to disease. It has been practiced by the Chinese and other Eastern cultures for thousands of years and may be used to treat a wide variety of illnesses.

Acupuncture treatment should always follow an accurate diagnosis of the problem and a full appraisal of all treatment options. In many cases acupuncture is best used in conjunction with conventional medicine however, in some situations, it can be used as a sole treatment.

Adding acupuncture to a treatment plan can help to reduce the patient’s requirements for medications which may have undesirable side effects. 
Most importantly, acupuncture is extremely safe when practiced correctly and is well accepted by the majority of animals.
Cat having acupuncture

What sort of Conditions can Acupuncture treat?

Pain is one of the most common indications for acupuncture. Very often, in pets, this is a chronic (long term) pain due to arthritis but muscular strains in canine or equine athletes and spinal problems can also respond well.

Acupuncture can also be a great asset to the rehabilitation of pets following orthopaedic or spinal surgeries. In horses, there can be myofascial pain, sometimes associated with joint disease. Often, equine cases will appear as behaviour problems such as crib biting or box walking, but have an underlying and undiagnosed pain element. Horses are often highly trained athletes used for strenuous and demanding disciplines which often lead to musculoskeletal injuries. The use of acupuncture alone or in combination with other therapies can improve the speed and quality of recovery and avoid the need for medications banned under competition rules. This is also the case in greyhounds and agility dogs.

Acupuncture can also be of great benefit to medical conditions in pets, such as gastrointestinal disease, urinary disorders, epilepsy and much more. In horses, we often have success with recurrent colic or diarrhoea and chronic respiratory disease such as COPD/RAO. As each treatment is specifically tailored to an individual through extensive history taking and detailed examination, the protocol used will vary from animal to animal so speak to your veterinary acupuncturist about your pet's individual case. Be aware that, as with any treatment, there are a small percentage of animals that will not respond to acupuncture.

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Where can I find an Acupuncturist for my Animal?

If you think that your pet or horse could benefit from acupuncture, the first step is to talk to your own vet. Acupuncture can only be performed on animals in the UK by a qualified vet who is a practising member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

There may already be a vet trained in acupuncture at your practice. If not, you or your vet can use the
Find a Vet function on the ABVA (Association of British Veterinary Acupuncturists) to search for a veterinary acupuncturist in your area. Your vet can then refer your pet or horse to this practitioner for acupuncture treatment or you can self refer by contacting them.

Medications and treatment for anything other than acupuncture is still provided by your own vet and the referral vet will contact your home practice.
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What happens during the treatment?

Most domestic animals, even cats and rabbits, will accept acupuncture treatment without any distress or discomfort. A very needle phobic animal can be sedated to reduce stress. 
The needles used are very thin and the mostly inserted into points on the animal that are not painful. The needles can be left in for 5 to up to 30 minutes depending on the case. In some cases, a small electric current is passed through the endless to intensify the treatment in a method called ‘electroacupuncture’. (See header image) This is also very well accepted by patients. During treatment, many animals will become more relaxed and even sleepy and this may continue for the rest of the day. Laser acupuncture can also be used in those few animal who do not accept needles

Do not change anything in your normal routine of feeding, exercise or medication unless strictly advised to by your veterinary acupuncturist. Athletic animals should avoid strenuous exercise on they day of acupuncture.

What response can I expect?

•  Your dog or cat may initially be a little stiffer or uncomfortable. This may indicate that they need less stimulation at the next treatment, but does suggest that they are likely to respond well in the longer term. After a day or two this will improve, so just allow them to rest.

• There may be no response. This does not mean that your animal will never respond, but it may take a little longer. Many animals can take up to the fourth treatment to show a significant improvement. There are a small percentage of pets (as with humans) who will not respond at all.

• There may be an improvement – this may occur any time within a few days of the treatment. The improvement may not last until the next treatment but this is normal in the early stages. Later in the process, the effects should last for longer so there can gradually be longer between treatments.

How often, how much?

On average, 4-6 treatments are required to start with, but acupuncture can be continued long term. Individual acupuncturists vary in their protocol, but as a rule, these are given weekly initially with gradually increasing intervals, until the desired effect is achieved. The frequency of treatments depends on the individual animal’s needs, but often top-ups are required to maintain the therapeutic effect in the long term. Every pet will have a treatment plan tailored to their individual needs.

The cost of acupuncture treatment will vary depending on the practitioner and the area that you are in. As acupuncture is now recognised as a very successful treatment for many conditions, the majority of insurance companies will cover the costs involved. If you are in any doubt, check your policy or contact your individual company for more information.
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© Graham Hines
Graham Hines MRCVS
Dee View Road, Connah's Quay
Flintshire, CH5 4AY
and Moreton Wirral
Tel:(+44) 07903268439
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