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Acupuncture is the insertion of needles into specific points on the body in order to bring about a desired healing effect. It is said that veterinary acupuncture was first discovered when lame battle horses were found to become sound after being hit by arrows at distinct points. There is evidence that veterinarians practiced acupuncture during the Zang and Chow Dynasties around 2000-3000 BCE. Acupuncture was used as preventive medicine as well as to treat existing illness. Today it is used all over the world, either by itself or in conjunction with other alternative modalities and/or western Medicine. Modern acupuncture techniques involve the use of fine, solid needles, bleeding needles, electricity, heat, massage and low power cold lasers to stimulate acupuncture points.According to ancient Chinese medical philosophy, illness is a result of an imbalance of vital energy within the body. Acupuncture balances this energy and allows the body to heal. From the Western point of view the activation of specific acupuncture points results in neuro-hormonal effects that influence the somato-visceral responses of the body. For example, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasms, and cause the release of humoral regulators such as cortisol and endorphins. Although the philosophy as to mode of action varies between Eastern and Western philosophies the effective result is constant.

The placement of needles causes very little, if any, discomfort. Once situated they are painless. During a treatment most animals become very relaxed, they may become sleepy and yawn. The number of needles, their placement and needling technique employed varies from case to case, as does the duration of treatment. The duration of treatment can be as short as a few seconds to as long as thirty minutes. The number of sessions and their timing varies with the problem being treated. Most cases will need up to six treatments at varying time intervals, however some will require only one or two treatments.

Many acupuncture points lie on Meridians. These are pathways of energy flow that can be influenced by the insertion of needles at very specific points. The major meridians are associated with the TCM organs plus those down the dorsal and ventral midlines. Each Meridian has key command points that tend to be located near the extremities.

Gall bladder meridian pathway:


Some canine acupuncture points:


Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals when it is administered by a properly trained veterinarian. Occasionally an animal will appear to be worse for up to 48 hours after treatment and some will be drowsy for up to 24 hours after acupuncture.

Acupuncture is primarily indicated for functional problems such as paralysis, noninfectious inflammation (allergies), and pain. In small animals, the following are some of the general conditions that respond well to acupuncture:

  • Musculoskeletal problems… arthritis, disc problems
  • Skin problems… lick granulomas
  • Respiratory problems… feline asthma
  • Gastrointestinal problems… vomiting, diarrhea
  • Selected reproduction and hormonal problems

When selecting an acupuncturist for your pet there are two important criteria:

  1. She/he MUST be a licensed veterinarian. Only a veterinarian will have the necessary knowledge to assess your pets needs.
  2. She/he SHOULD have formal training in TCM and veterinary acupuncture. These modalities are not addressed in Veterinary Schools. The knowledge comes from attending formal post graduate certification programs, such as IVAS.