Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) is a form of complementary therapy, which is often best used in combination with Western Veterinary Medicine. TCVM uses a holistic approach to assess the overall well-being of the patient. It focuses on preserving health, treating and preventing illness, and maintaining quality of life. Treatments are non-invasive and typically have few side effects.

The four branches of TCVM include:

  • Acupuncture: the stimulation of specific points on the body, typically through the insertion of fine specialized needles
  • Herbal Medicine: the use of herbal ingredients in particular combinations and formulas to treat specific disease patterns
  • Nutritional Therapy: the use of diet to treat and prevent imbalance within the body
  • Tui-Na: a form of Chinese medical massage in which different manipulations are applied to specific acupoints

What is veterinary acupuncture?

Veterinary acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body to promote targeted stimulation of the central nervous system. There are many different acupuncture points, each producing specific actions when stimulated. Acupuncture has been used in human medicine for thousands of years to treat a variety of illnesses and ailments. It is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a form of preventative medicine. Clinical studies regarding acupuncture have shown positive results in the treatment of certain conditions in both human and veterinary medicine. Although acupuncture is not appropriate for every condition, it can be a successful treatment option in many cases.

Which conditions is acupuncture indicated for?

  • Musculoskeletal Disorders
  • Arthritis / degenerative joint disease / hip dysplasia
  • Tendon / ligament problems
  • Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD)
  • Post-operative orthopedic surgery rehabilitation
  • Soft tissue injury
  • Dermatologic Disorders
  • Allergic dermatitis
  • Lick granulomas
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Neurologic Disorders
  • Paresis/paralysis
  • Nerve Injuries
  • Selected Behavioral Disorders
  • Respiratory Disorders
  • Feline asthma
  • Upper respiratory disease
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders
  • Anorexia
  • Chronic vomiting
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Feline megacolon
  • Poor appetite
  • Selected Reproductive Disorders
  • Cancer
  • Increase appetite
  • Reduce effects of chemotherapy
  • Reduce pain

Is acupuncture painful?

For most small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. Many animals become very relaxed and even may fall asleep during treatment. In humans, acupuncture treatment may also cause varying sensations such as tingling, cramps, or numbness, which for some animals may be perceived as uncomfortable. If a specific acupuncture point is uncomfortable, the needle can be removed and these sensations will quickly resolve.

Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is performed using single-use sterile needles, which minimizes the possibility of infection. It is a very safe from of medical treatment when administered by a properly trained veterinarian. Side effects of acupuncture are very rare. On occasion, an animal’s condition may seem worse for 24-48 hours following treatment. Other animals become sleepy for up to 24 hours following treatment. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the animal’s condition.

How often is acupuncture performed?

Frequency of acupuncture treatments will depend on the condition being treated. Typically acupuncture is initially performed 1-2 times per week until a positive response is observed. Acute conditions often will respond within 2-3 treatments, while more chronic conditions may require 3-6 treatments. Subsequent acupuncture treatments are then tapered according to patient’s response. Chronic conditions will require maintenance treatments, which can vary from every 6 weeks to every 6 months. The use of additional forms of acupuncture stimulation, such as electroacupuncture, can increase response, and lengthen the time between treatments.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

While acupuncture originated in ancient times, many modern studies have been performed that have helped us to understand some of the mechanisms through which acupuncture works. Functional MRI has shown that stimulation of specific acupuncture points result in specific changes in the central nervous system. It was shown that when certain acupuncture points which are used for pain relief were stimulated, specific pain-association regions of the brain were activated. The National Institutes of Health published a statement saying that there was compelling evidence that acupuncture was useful in the management of osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal pain. The ways through which acupuncture works include stimulation of nerves, increasing blood circulation, relieving muscle spasm and pain, modulating the immune system, optimizing healthy nerve transmission, and stimulating the release of neurochemicals such as endorphins (one of the body’s pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid). Although many of acupuncture’s physiological effects have been studied, many more are still unknown. Acupuncture maximizes the body’s ability to heal itself, so even when acupuncture fails to resolve a problem, it may reduce the need for medications and improve quality of life.

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