Acupuncture for Animals
Acupuncture provides pain relief, improves nerve function and brings the body back into balance. In my opinion it is the treatment of choice for intervertebral disc disease in dogs.
Acupuncture and acupressure act on specific points on the body called acupuncture points or acupoints, where the Qi is accessible on the surface of the body. Most acupuncture points are over nerves. Some are in the belly of muscles. Some practitioners use points on the ears to affect the entire body. There are 300 plus known acupuncture points.
The theory behind acupuncture therapy is that there is life force called Qi (pronounced “chee”) that flows through energetic channels in the body. These channels are called meridians. The meridians run on and in the body distributing Qi to the various organs and parts of the body.
The orderly flow of Qi through the meridians can be blocked by:
- poor diet,
- unhealthy lifestyle,
- adverse environmental conditions or
Think of it like a dam on a river or stream. Upstream from the dam the water accumulates and doesn’t flow very well—it stagnates. Downstream from the dam there is less water than before so the flow is weaker than it used to be. There is less water to nourish the plants along the stream and support the fish that live in the stream.
- Stagnation of Qi results in pain and disease.
- Deficient Qi causes weakness and suboptimal function.
Stimulation of appropriate acupuncture points can restore the normal flow of chi, relieving pain, improving health and restoring harmony in the body—always a good thing. A veterinarian trained in acupuncture will take a thorough history and examine the animal patient paying special attention to the size, color and condition of the tongue and the strength and quality of the pulses. S/he will then check acupuncture points to find the active points to use for treatment of that animal.
There are a number of ways to stimulate the acupuncture points. Very fine stainless steel needles are the most common. Fingertip pressure is frequently used. Lasers, injections, heat, electrical currents and implants of sutures or gold beads can also be used.
Acupuncture has been shown to change levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and endorphins, alter white blood cell counts (i.e. affect the immune system) and change blood pressure. Western medical theory cannot explain these changes yet but then Qi is considered to be a metaphorical concept in western thinking instead of a real form of energy.