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What to expect from acupuncture treatment

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture has evolved from the ancient art of placing needles into special locations on the body to alleviate pain, improve recovery rates and increase resistance to disease. It has been practiced by the Chinese and other Eastern cultures for thousands of years and may be used to treat a wide variety of illnesses.

Acupuncture treatment should always follow an accurate diagnosis of the problem and a full appraisal of all treatment options. In many cases acupuncture is best used in conjunction with conventional medicine however, in some situations, it can be used as a sole treatment.

Adding acupuncture to a treatment plan can help to reduce the patient’s requirements for medications which may have undesirable side effects.

Most importantly, acupuncture is extremely safe when practiced correctly and is well accepted by the majority of animals.

Scientific research into acupuncture has made enormous progress over the past 40 years and now explains much of acupuncture’s actions which had previously only been understood in the ancient concepts of health described in Traditional Chinese Medicine.


What conditions can we use acupuncture on?

Pain is one of the most common indications for acupuncture.

Very often, in cats and dogs, this is chronic (long term) pain due to arthritis but muscular strains and spinal problems can also respond well. Acupuncture can also be a great asset to the rehabilitation of pets following orthopaedic or spinal surgeries.

It can also be of great benefit to medical conditions in pets, such as gastrointestinal disease, urinary disorders and much more. As each treatment is specifically tailored to an individual through extensive history taking and detailed examination, the protocol used will vary from animal to animal.

Be aware that, as with any treatment, there are a small percentage of animals that will not respond to acupuncture.


What happens during the treatment?

Most animals, even cats and rabbits, will accept acupuncture treatment without any distress or discomfort. The needles used are very thin and the majority are inserted into points on the animal that are not painful. The needles can be left in for 5 to up to 30 minutes depending on the case. In some cases, a small electric current is passed through the endless to intensify the treatment in a method called ‘electroacupuncture’. This is also very well accepted by patients. During treatment, many animals will become more relaxed and even sleepy and this may continue for the rest of the day. Acupuncture appointments will be with Charlotte, one of our experienced vets.

Occasionally, pets will seem even slightly euphoric, so be careful not to let them overdo it! Do not change anything in your normal routine of feeding, exercise or medication unless strictly advised to by your vet.


What response can I expect?

Your pet may initially be a little stiffer or uncomfortable. This may indicate that they need less stimulation at the next treatment, but does suggest that they are likely to respond well in the longer term. After a day or two this will improve, so just allow them to rest.

There may be no response. This does not mean that your animal will never respond, but it may take a little longer. Many animals can take up to the fourth treatment to show a significant improvement. There are a small percentage of pets (as with humans) who will not respond at all.

There may be an improvement – this may occur any time within a few days of the treatment. The improvement may not last until the next treatment but this is normal in the early stages. Later in the process, the effects should last for longer so there can gradually be longer between treatments.


How often, how much?

On average, 4 to 6 treatments are required to start with, but acupuncture can be continued long term. The first treatments are given weekly initially with gradually increasing intervals, until the desired effect is achieved. The frequency of treatments depends on the individual animal’s needs, but often top-ups are required to maintain the therapeutic effect in the long term.