The practice of acupuncture, or the stimulation of the body with small metal needles, has been around for thousands of years. An ancient technique that originated in China, acupuncture began thousands of years ago when the Chinese used it on their work animals, primarily horses and cattle. Modern veterinary acupuncture emerged in the 1970’s when veterinarians in North America consulted with human acupuncturists to help establish acupuncture points for animals. With the help of human acupuncturists the process of trans-positional point mapping began to shape the current point maps we now use. These points are based on the anatomical landmarks that coincide with various nerve plexuses, spinal nerve roots exiting from the spine, along major nerve routes, along fascial planes, and at nerve-muscle junctions. For the lack of better naming, these points are named for the channels or meridians that originally came from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and human maps.

Veterinary holding acupuncture needle near dog's head in clinic, closeup. Animal treatment

What is medical acupuncture?
Acupuncture, simply put, is the stimulation of specific points on the body, which can alter various biochemical and physiologic conditions. It is a means of helping the body heal itself.

In the last 20 years the research into acupuncture has greatly increased. There have been several studies of the effectiveness of acupuncture based on scientific evidence. The difference between medical acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture is in TCM the stimulation of these points is said move the energy (Qi- pronounced “Chee”) of the body to other parts of the body and opens the meridians to allow the flow of this energy (Qi). In medical acupuncture it is scientifically proven that it is the nerve transmission that actually stimulates the nervous system. Medical acupuncture stimulates the nervous system of the animal and helps the nervous system to modulate the body to heal on its own.

When a needle is placed in a certain spot (along nerve pathways or near blood vessels), a number of biochemical changes occur. Signals travel up the spinal cord to the brain, back down again, and changes occur from the brain level as well as locally. This can be blocking of transmission of chronic nerve pain signals, or at a more local level creating micro-trauma to stimulate a healing cascade. Overall, you get a release of healing factors and reduction of pain transmission, as well as release of endorphins and hormonal chemicals (somewhat like a ‘runner’s high’). In cases of nerve injury, such as paralysis, acupuncture can reawaken the body and cause the signals to work again. It increases the blood flow to the tissues and reminds the body that something is happening by stimulating nerves that otherwise wouldn’t be stimulated due to numbness and inability to move.

As with any therapy, proper diagnosis is essential for a successful treatment outcome. Acupuncture therapy must be preceded by a thorough and accurate medical diagnostic work-up.

What conditions are helped with acupuncture?
Please note acupuncture is not recommended as a sole treatment for any of the below conditions, but as a treatment to be used in additional to medical and/or surgical therapy.

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Arthritis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Traumatic nerve damage/paralysis
  • Intervertebral disk disease
  • Lumbosacral disease
  • Fecal or urinary incontinence
  • Feline lower urinary tract disease (inappropriate urination)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Intractable constipation/diarrhea
  • Asthma
  • Recurrent upper respiratory disease in cats
  • Terminal cancer pain
  • Reduced appetite and nausea from chronic disease
  • Lick Granulomas
  • Allergic skin disease