For over 3,000 years, acupuncture has been used to treat animals in China. An integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this treatment was derived from human care and adapted for use on animals. In addition to acupuncture, the practice of TCM includes herbal medicine, acupressure and food therapies. To be most effective in pet healing, a practitioner should possess a thorough understanding of TCM theory and application.
This traditional method of treatment recognises the pattern of a disease and the imbalance within the body. The approach to a diagnosis is very different than in Western medicine. Rather than using diagnostic tools and aids, TCM makes use of history and physical examinations that may include touching, taking the pulse, hearing, and tongue assessment in the formulation of a diagnosis and treatment plan. Each plan is unique in that it aggregates the patient’s personal physical responses with the doctor’s observations.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is used to treat a variety of problems and often as an alternative when the Western approach has not resulted in improvement. Additionally, people often choose to pursue a TCM method for long-term and chronic conditions. It is important to understand that as the diagnosis is as varied and personalised as the presented condition, response to treatment will reflect the unique individual concerned.
Today, acupuncture is widely accepted for both people and animals. Many pet owners turn to this therapy in conjunction with Western methods or as a last resort when other approaches have failed. Acupuncture involves the stimulation of specific points on the meridians of the body which are called ‘acupoints’ and are located between muscles or muscle groups. Stimulated by needles, lasers, moxibustion (a practice involving the use of mugwort herb) or injections, these acupoints react, accordingly. Through these reactions the veterinary surgeon is able to establish a treatment plan for the animal.
A minimum treatment time is around six to eight weeks at intervals of once a week during that period. The veterinary surgeon assesses the improvements and may revise the schedule to best address the patient’s needs. With certain chronic diseases acupuncture can be a lifelong treatment e.g. arthritis. Unfortunately, and as with all forms of treatment, some animals may not respond and other methods may need to be considered.
Essential to recovery is the owner’s willingness to bring the pet for the prescribed number of visits. Without this commitment, acupuncture and other TCM treatment courses will not be as effective as they could be for a sick or injured animal.
For more information on canine acupuncture, contact the SPCA.