Acupuncture for Dogs and Cats
By: Dr. Ilana Smolkin, DVM | Nov 1, 2016
Dr. Smolkin talks about acupuncture for dogs and cats especially when surgery is not an option. We review the history and theory of acupuncture and what it looks like in practice as well as which cases can benefit from this kind of care and how to find a veterinarian that provides these services. Topics also covered include TCVM (traditional Chinese veterinary medicine), acupuncture, holistic care, integrated care, alternative therapies and natural therapies and more.
Hi, I’m Dr. Ilana Smolkin here for healthcareforpets.com. I’m going to talk to you a little bit about acupuncture. Acupuncture has been used in China for thousands of years to treat a variety of conditions and healthcare concerns. It’s based on traditional Chinese medicine and although this is a really, really complex system that I would never be able to sum up in a short video like this, basically to try and put it into a nutshell, disease is thought of a disharmony or an imbalance in the body. Treatments like acupuncture, nutritional therapy, Tuina which is kind of like acupressure and traditional herbal therapy can be used to help restore those balances and help the body itself get itself back to its normal state of health. It is considered a really holistic treatment and that’s because every aspect of that patient needs to be looked at to get a Chinese diagnosis. They look at temperament so is your dog or cat nervous? Excitable? Really lazy and lethargic? What kind of environment do they live in? In what climate do they live in? What do they eat? What is their normal exercise level? All of this needs to be taken into account to come up with a good treatment plan.
A full history will be taken by the practitioner. That can often take quite a while, sometimes half an hour to an hour to just get that history point taken care of so that the practitioner can decide on what meridians or basically channels in the body need treatment and where those points are and where the needles basically should go.
Additional examination of things like the tongue, they actually look at the shape of the tongue, look at tongue color, pulses are taken so in people obviously we take them here (points at wrists) and dogs from a variety different locations to see what is the strength of that pulse. Is it fast? Is it slow? Is it irregular at all? What is the quality of pulses? This is a term we use to decide again on what is going on from a Chinese perspective and therefore how to treat it.
There are a lot of terms used in Chinese medicine that can sound kind of funny to us from the Western world. Diagnosis’s sound like things like there’s damp heat in your spleen, there’s stagnation in your liver. Does that actually mean that there’s a problem in your spleen? No, however those are the terms that were used way back when this modality was kind of first discovered and first being used and the Chinese have decided to keep with that same terminology for consistency even though we might now know what the true Western medical explanation is of that condition, we still put it into Chinese terms and again because those are linked with those meridians and those acupuncture points and it helps that practitioner come up with the best places to put those needles and the best treatment to do.
Small needles are inserted into very specific points on the animal’s body. Sometimes a current can be attached to those little needles or sometimes a liquid’s actually used and injected into those points instead and that’s called aquapuncture. Some people get a little bit nervous and say you know what my dog doesn’t like needles but what you need to remember is that the needles are really, really small. So I have an example here of an acupuncture needle and again it’s quite tiny, its bendable and although some animals do react a little bit as the needle is getting put in, once it’s in, most animals completely relax and actually feels quite nice. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to have acupuncture done on yourself, most people fall asleep during their treatments. The number of treatments is going to depend on what conditions being treated. A strain or a sprain or just an acute injury might only need one to three treatments before you see a really positive effect. Obviously if something that’s more serious or have been going on for longer, more treatments might be necessary and that treatment plan will be discussed with the practitioner.
Lots of conditions can be treated with acupuncture. Conditions like muscle strain, arthritis, IVDD or disc disease, so everyone thinks of that Dachshund who can’t walk anymore, that’s having trouble with the back end, although often these are surgical diseases, if surgery is not an option or something that you’re comfortable with, sometimes people will seek out acupuncture for these and we have we really good success with that as an alternative. Respiratory issues, skin issues, and even digestive issues can be treated with acupuncture as well. And again, it’s just stimulating that immune system, stimulating points to try and help with better digestion. We often use it in dogs that have come into the practice that are throwing up for various reasons. We’ll use acupuncture points to try and help calm that nausea down and stimulate their appetite as well.
I want to stress that the best success that we’ve seen combines our Western medicine or what we’re kind of used to, our traditional care, with acupuncture with some of these alternative modalities. When we put those both together, we see such great success because what’s most important to us is your pet’s health here at healthcareforpets.com.
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