By Dr. Lisa Woolf
Your pets suffer from many of the common ailments experienced by humans including musculoskeletal problems, gastrointestinal disturbances, and cancer. The conventional treatment for these diseases often includes long-term use of prescription medications. For some patients, these medications are effective and do not have any undesirable side effects. Unfortunately, other patients experience adverse effects or are not completely relieved of their symptoms. These are patients who may greatly beneﬁt from an integrative treatment plan that includes acupuncture.
In veterinary medicine, acupuncture is commonly used for musculoskeletal conditions including arthritis, hip dysplasia and back pain. Signs of these problems in dogs and cats include decreased mobility, difﬁculty getting up and limping. Many cats with back pain have difﬁculty grooming or stop jumping on the bed or sofa. As with humans that have painful conditions, pets are prescribed anti-inﬂammatory drugs, steroids, and/or analgesics that affect the central nervous system. Although these drugs are often effective in treating the symptoms, they can cause damage or stress to various organ systems, including the liver and kidneys.
From a Western perspective, the idea of acupuncture is bizarre and there is a lot of skepticism relating to its effectiveness. Recent studies utilizing modern technology have revealed that acupuncture has numerous simultaneous effects on the body that are beneﬁcial for pain relief as well as the treatment of other chronic conditions.
- Acupuncture causes the release of the bodyʼs own pain-relieving and anti-inﬂammatory substances.
- Acupuncture causes muscle relaxation.
- Acupuncture increases blood ﬂow which results in the removal of metabolic wastes and toxins as well as improved oxygenation and the delivery of nutrients to the cells.
These physiological responses make acupuncture a beneﬁcial treatment for many chronic disease conditions. Acupuncture is useful for neurological problems as well, including seizures and degenerative myelopathy (a degenerative nerve disease). Cancer patients receive great beneﬁt from the anti-nausea effects of acupuncture as well as the “feel good” sensation associated with the endorphin release following acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture is a reasonable consideration for any chronic condition that requires long-term use of medication or for which there is no adequate treatment available from a Western medicine perspective.
Most pets enjoy coming in for their acupuncture treatments. The needle placement is not painful and there is no sedation required. Once the needles are placed, they remain in for 15-20 minutes and the pet often falls asleep.
The frequency of treatments depends on the problem being addressed but usually begins with 4 weekly sessions and then are tapered to a less frequent interval, depending on the clinical response.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) endorse acupuncture as a useful treatment for many conditions. As humans experience the beneﬁts of acupuncture, they request the same standard of care for their pets. As a result, there has been a demand for veterinarians to be trained in acupuncture and many veterinary colleges offer acupuncture for their patients.
Dr. Lisa Woolf is trained in Western and Chinese medicine, including acupuncture. She can be contacted at Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group (VMSG) in Ventura, CA (805) 339-2290. Please call for further information regarding acupuncture for your pet or to make an appointment.