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Acupuncture is the therapy whereby special solid metal needles are inserted into specific locations in the body (called acupuncture points) to prevent and treat disease. Acupuncture points are arranged in an orderly network of interconnecting meridians, which exist in predictable locations throughout the body. These meridians are connected in a specific order according to how and when the body's life energy – called Qi (chee) or Ki (kee) – flows through them.

What is Qi?Picture of a dog receiving an acupuncture treatment

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Qi is the basis for all energy and vital substances interacting with each other to form an organism. It is very difficult to translate or explain the meaning of Qi in Western terms but if one thinks of Einstein's theory, E=mc2, whereby energy can be transformed to matter and vice versa, one may begin to understand Qi. Qi is in a constant state of flux, moving on a continuum between energy and matter. The gathering and dispersing of Qi is responsible for the infinite variety of phenomena in the universe. In the body itself, all the types of Qi are ultimately one Qi, merely manifesting in different forms. Simply put, Qi is the dynamic motive force in the body and the basis for all energy and matter.

How does Acupuncture Work?

According to the classical doctrines of Chinese Medicine, there is an unceasing flow of life energy, or Qi, through the body. In order to maintain a state of wellness, according to TCM, it is essential that Qi flow in a smooth, harmonious and unobstructed manner. This vital energy originates from the major organs, flows along the continuous circulatory channels (meridians), and passes through other organs, ending or beginning in the extremities. When the energy flow is smooth and in balance, your pet is healthy. If the balance is disturbed, your pet will feel ill or be in pain. Most illnesses and injuries are either caused by or accompanied by disturbances in the flow and balance of Qi. At specific points along the meridians (acupuncture points), the energy flow can be stimulated and the function of related organs can be regulated. Acupuncture point stimulation restores the delicate balance of Qi energy in the body and allows beneficial healing to occur. In fact, according to TCM philosophy, acupuncture is used not only to treat diseases, but also to strengthen the body's physical condition, to prevent disease and promote health.

Acupuncture Treatment

The prime advantage of acupuncture is safety. There are no harmful side effects from the therapy in common practice.

Picture of a dog receiving a relaxing acupuncture treatment There are several different approaches and methodologies for treating animals with acupuncture. Instead of inserting fine sterile metallic needles into acupuncture points, there are occasions when heat, in the form of moxibustion, may be more appropriate. Low voltage electricity (electroacupuncture) also has particular applications. In some circumstances, very small sterile gold or silver beads are surgically implanted in the precise site of acupuncture points. The use of light as in the case of lasers can be very effective. In the case of aquapuncture, a small volume of a sterile liquid, such as vitamin B12, is injected into acupuncture points, particularly when a period of prolonged stimulation is necessary.

Indications for acupuncture therapy fall into three categories. First, acupuncture may be the method of choice, selected as the principle form of therapy. Second, it may be appropriate to use acupuncture as supportive or supplementary therapy. Third, acupuncture may be viewed as a backup or alternative therapy when Western treatments are inadequate. Acupuncture is always something to consider when your pet does not respond to conventional medicine.

It is not unusual to use acupuncture in conjunction with other therapies and methods of supportive care. It can be used simultaneously with many traditional Western therapies. It is especially useful in bridging the gap between medicine and surgery. In addition, it is compatible with many non-traditional and holistic approaches to veterinary care such as chiropractic.

Acupuncture is practiced within the framework of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This means that in addition to the acupuncture procedures previously discussed, herbs, nutritional supplements and massage may be used for complete therapy. Chiropractic may also be used as supportive therapy.

Past experience has shown that it usually takes from three to eight treatments to determine the benefit your pet will obtain from acupuncture. It is therefore necessary to commit to at least this number of visits. Of course, just as with any other medical treatment, acupuncture does not cure all cases, or we would all be acupuncturists. Picture of a cat receiving an acupuncture treatment Treatment plans are as individual as the patients treated. Treatment is based upon the types of illness, the severity of the condition, the duration of the sickness, and the physical state of the patient. Some cases require more effort than others to restore energy balance. We encourage clients to try this promising art of healing with their pets, especially if they are older and are suffering from lingering and/or chronic disease.

Acupuncture Indications

Acupuncture is known to have good therapeutic effect in a wide variety of animal disease. Although pain management is an important use of veterinary acupuncture, it has much wider applications. It is also efficacious for numerous structural disorders. Even when acupuncture is indicated, it must be weighed in context with alternatives, both conventional and holistic. Various treatment options will be discussed and offered if possible. In addition, the pet owner's objectives, preferences, and personal values will be carefully considered.