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Acupuncture is defined as the insertion of needles into specific points (acupoints) on the body. This results in the stimulation of these points to cause a therapeutic homeostatic/healing effect. This technique has been used in veterinary practice in China for thousands of years to treat many ailments in both humans and animals. 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.

Modern research has shown that these acupoints are found in areas where there is a high density of free nerve endings, small blood vessels and lymphatic vessels. Acupuncture can stimulate these nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasm, and cause the release of hormones, such as beta- endorphins, serotonin and cortisol resulting in pain relief, anti-inflammatory effects and other beneficial effects.

The main indications for acupuncture are pain and non-infectious inflammation, however it can be used in conjunction with herbals and food therapy for wide variety of other disorders. Below are a list of some of the disorders we treat with acupuncture.

Is acupuncture painful?

For most animals, just like with humans, acupuncture can be a very relaxing experience. For the most part, needle penetration through the skin is  painless. Some points may be sensitive and create a momentary sting. However, most animals will relax and even fall asleep soon after the first few needles are inserted due to the release of endorphins. Some animals with certain personalities may have higher anxiety and therefore take longer to relax during treatment. Generally, these animals calm down with subsequent treatments. Very occasionally, some animals have certain sensitive areas or are themselves too sensitive to this form of treatment. If this is determined to be the case then alternative treatments will be recommended such as massage and/or herbal therapy.

Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture, when it is administered by a properly trained veterinarian.  is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals with virtually no side effects. Sometimes your pet'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. Often these negative effects are an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are usually followed by an improvement in your pet's condition.

Treatment duration and frequency

The length and frequency of acupuncture treatments depends on the condition for which the patient is being treated. The average amount of time a particular point is stimulated is 15 minutes, however it could be as short as 10 seconds or as long as 30 minutes. Accordingly, the more chronic a problem the longer it generally takes to treat. An acute problem, such as a sprain or acute diarrhea, may require only one treatment, whereas more severe or chronic ailments, such as arthritis, may need many treatments or continuous, maintenance treatment.

Patients often start with 1-3 treatments per week for about 4-6 weeks depending on the severity and chronicity of the condition. A positive response is usually seen after the first few treatments, but may take as many as six treatments. Once a maximum positive response is achieved, and the effects are lasting beyond the treatment interval, the treatments will then be tapered so the greatest amount of symptom free time elapses between them. Some patients get treated regularly once a month and others are able to taper to a few times a year.

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