Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture

What is acupuncture?

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Acupuncture may be defined as the insertion of needles into specific points on the body to cause a desired healing effect. This technique has been used in veterinary practice in China for over 3000 years to treat many ailments. Acupuncture is used all over the world, either by itself or in conjunction with Western medicine, to treat a wide variety of maladies in every species of domestic and exotic animals. Today veterinary acupuncturists use solid, hypodermic or bleeding needles, injections of saline or vitamins, electricity, heat, massage, and low power lasers to stimulate acupuncture points. Acupuncture is not a cure-all, but can work very well when it is indicated.

For which conditions is acupuncture indicated?

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Acupuncture is indicated mainly for functional problems such as those that involve paralysis, noninfectious inflammation (such as allergies), and pain. For small animals, the following are some of the general conditions which may be treated with acupuncture:

  • Musculoskeletal problems, such as muscle strains, arthritis or spinal disc pathology.
  • Respiratory problems, such as feline asthma or chronic small airway disease.
  • Skin problems, such as lick granuloma, feline eosinophilic granuloma complex and allergies.
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease.
    Neurological disorders, such as paralysis or nerve trauma.
    Reproductive problems, such as infertility.
  • Minor sports injuries.
  • Keeping muscles and tendons resistant to injury.

How does acupuncture work?

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According to ancient Chinese medical philosophy, disease is the result of an imbalance or blockage of energy or energy flow (Qi, pronounced “chee”) in the body. Acupuncture is believed to balance this energy or enhance its flow and thereby assist the body to heal disease. In Western terms, acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself by affecting certain physiological changes. For example, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasm, and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body’s pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid).

Is acupuncture painful?

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For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. In all animals, once the needles are in place, there should be no pain. Most animals become very relaxed and may even become sleepy. Nevertheless, acupuncture treatment may cause some sensation, presumed to be those such as the tingling, cramps, or numbness which can occur in humans and which may be uncomfortable to some animals.

What is Laser Acupuncture?

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Laser Acupuncture uses an infrared “cold” laser beam to stimulate the acupuncture points instead of inserting needles into them. A feeling of warmth or tingling may temporarily occur. Laser Acupuncture is particularly indicated in sensitive, bony areas of the body such as the feet, or in areas that are dangerous to insert needles into, such as the umbilicus (bellybutton).

Is acupuncture safe for animals?

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Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals when administered by a properly trained veterinarian. Side effects of acupuncture are rare, but they do exist. An animal’s condition may seem worse for up to 48 hours after a treatment. Other animals may become sleepy or lethargic for 24 hours after acupuncture. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the animal’s condition.

What species can be treated?

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All species will respond to acupuncture. Dr. Sherebrin has experience treating dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets and rodents.

How long do treatments last?

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The length and frequency of acupuncture treatments depends on the condition of the patient and the method of stimulation that is chosen. Stimulation of an individual acupuncture point may take as little as 10 seconds or as much as 30 minutes.

How often are treatments given?

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A simple acute problem, such as a muscle sprain, may require only one treatment, whereas more severe or chronic ailments may need a dozen treatments. When multiple treatments are necessary, they usually begin intensively. Patients often start with 1-3 treatments per week for 4-6 weeks. A positive response is usually seen after the first to third treatment. Once a maximum positive response is achieved treatments are usually tapered off. Animals undergoing athletic training can benefit from acupuncture treatments as often as twice a week. The frequency depends on the intensity of the training and the condition of the athlete.

Who will be treating my pet?

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In most countries, states and provinces, veterinary acupuncture is considered a surgical procedure that only licensed veterinarians may legally administer to animals. A veterinarian trained in TCVM is in the best position to diagnose an animal’s health problem and then to determine whether an it is likely to benefit from an acupuncture treatment, or whether its problem requires herbal, conventional pharmocological, surgical, or no intervention. Dr. Sherebrin, DVM, CVA administers all acupuncture treatments personally. She remains present the entire duration of the first session to ensure that both the guardian and the pet are completely comfortable, and is available to answer questions at all times.

What about herbs, supplements and massage?

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Sometimes the use of botanicals (herbal medicines) supports the acupuncture treatment. The veterinarian trained in TCVM may supplement, or even replace acupuncture treatments with botanical therapy. Herbs are often used in situations that have not responded to conventional veterinary medical interventions. Supplements provide higher levels of nutrients that are found naturally in food, but which the individual may require in larger amounts than would usually be eaten.

Tui-na is an ancient Chinese method of manipulation/bodywork that encompasses techniques similar to chiropractic, physical therapy and massage. Simple techniques are often taught to the pet’s guardian to perform at home to support the acupuncture treatments. Tui-na sends energy past blocked points, relieves muscle tension, energizes and comforts the pet.