What is Veterinary Acupuncture?
Veterinary Acupuncture falls in to a category of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). Acupuncture is a method of treatment by which specific points on the body are stimulated. The points on the body are usually found along meridians. Sometimes the meridians are also called channels or vessels. These meridians are like highways that are traversing the body. The channels allow movement of Qi (pronounced chee) throughout the body and qi is the life energy in the body. There are 12 paired meridians, meaning that there is a meridian on both the left and right side of the body. Each paired meridian is associated with an organ. The example pictured is of the Gallbladder Meridian and shows the meridian left side of the dog, but there is matching meridian on the right side of the dog. The picture also shows the most commonly used acupuncture points on this meridian.
Qi is very important concept in Chinese Medicine. Qi is life energy in the very broadest sense possible. It is universal and in a constant state of flux. In health there is a balance of Qi and in disease there can be stagnation, excess or deficiency. Ultimately, the goal of acupuncture is to balance the body (Yin and Yang) and facilitate the harmonious flow of Qi throughout the body.
Most people are familiar with the terms Yin and Yang and its associated symbol, but may not know the significance of them. In the picture you see a circle with black going to white and white going to black. Also note the black dot with in the white and the white dot with in the black. Yin is the black color and white color signifies Yang. Everything that is yin contains some element of yang, and everything that is yang contains some element of yin. There is nothing so solid or material (yin) that does not contain some energetic vibration (yang), and nothing so kinetic or immaterial (yang) that does not also contain some material substance (yin).Yin and yang are continuously changing; just as day changes into night, they constantly adjust to one another (the stars and moon in the dark sky) and are endlessly transforming one into the other; night then leads to day. This amazing concept of change is illustrated in the simple image of the “yin-yang symbol.”
Each meridian also has Yin and Yang aspects. The left side of the body is considered Yang and the right side is Yin. When all of the yin and yang aspects of Qi are in harmony with one another, there is health, wellbeing and contentment. When yin and yang are in disharmony or when there is too much or too little of one aspect of Qi relative to another, then there is illness, pain and disease.
Acupuncture stimulates points on the body to move this Qi and induce healing. The goal is to bring balance and harmony and to help the body heal itself. In China it is used as preventative medicine for thousands of years. The modality of acupuncture cannot cure every disease, its use with traditional western medicine has immense potential.
What to Expect During Your Pet’s Acupuncture Session
A veterinary acupuncturist performs an examination which includes feeling the animal’s pulses and inspection of the tongue. A thorough history is also taken as well palpation to look for reactive points on the animal’s body. After this examination, the animal is diagnosed with a specific pattern. For example a dog that has a red tongue and red and inflamed eyes can have a pattern of Liver Heat. The animal’s pattern dictates the points that will be used for acupuncture and also how the points are stimulated, so for the example listed above the acupuncturist would choose points to help eliminate heat from the body and to support the liver as well as to address points that are reactive.
There are several methods of stimulation of the acupuncture points; pressure, needles, fluid, electrical current, laser and heat. The goal of acupuncture is to restore the flow of energy or QI throughout the body and help the body to become balanced once again to restore health. A typical acupuncture session will last about an hour. The number and frequency of sessions will depend on the condition being treated. At least 3 to 5 sessions may be needed before improvement is seen. Most animals will calmly accept the acupuncture treatment and take a nap.
There have been many studies that have proven that acupuncture is beneficial in reducing pain, regulating gastrointestinal motility, decreasing inflammation, stimulating the immune system, aid in hormone regulation, and promotes micro-circulation. Acupuncture is a very safe medical procedure. Some side effects that may occur include; lethargy, redness or bleeding at the sight, and pain upon insertion.
What Conditions can Acupuncture Treat?
- Musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis, intervertebral disk disease, or traumatic nerve injuries and other painful conditions
- Respiratory problems, such as feline asthma
- Skin problems such as lick granulomas and allergic dermatitis
- Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea
- Selected reproductive problems
How Do I Choose a Veterinary Acupuncturist?
There are two important things that you should look for in a veterinary acupuncturist:
- Your veterinary acupuncturists must be a licensed veterinarian.
- Your veterinary acupuncturist should have formal training in the practice of veterinary acupuncture. There are 3 credentialed educating organizations for veterinary acupuncture. IVAS, the Chi Institute and One Health through Colorado State. These organizations have their graduates listed on their website to help you locate a veterinary acupuncturist in your area.
The American Veterinary Medical Association now considers veterinary acupuncture a valid modality within the practice of veterinary medicine and surgery.