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5 Health Benefits of Acupuncture for Dogs and Cats

Acupuncture is one of the oldest medical treatments in the world, and has been used to treat animals for just as long as it has been utilized in humans!

Acupuncture has been shown to be very effective at treating pain in both cats and dogs, while it can also help with almost any other health condition as well! Who knew being a pincushion could be so rewarding?! How rewarding, you ask? Well, there are a few things to know about acupuncture for dogs and cats.

What is acupuncture for dogs and cats?

Acupuncture is already well known for its benefits in humans. We’ve all heard about it; we’ve all seen it on TV and in movies! But did you know it can also help your cats and dogs? Dog acupuncture? Yup! I mean, it’s not that crazy of a concept if you break down what acupuncture is:

  • Acupuncture is an ancient healing practice that has been performed for thousands of years.

  • Acupuncture practitioners believe that the body contains a network of energy, called Qi (pronounced “chee”), which flows through the body along specific pathways called meridians.

  • Disease can occur when this flow becomes blocked or imbalanced.

  • Acupuncture involves placing needles into specific points along these meridians to restore balance and relieve symptoms by stimulating the nervous system.

  • The stimulation of the nervous system leads to the release of neurotransmitters at a local level, and also changes the communication patterns present between the brain and the rest of the body.

Acupuncture already has a growing number of advocates who claim it can help treat many different conditions in humans, including chronic pain and depression. But proof is in the pudding, right? Well, there is growing research to support that acupuncture is just as effective in animals as it has shown to be in human medicine. In fact, one recent study showed that cats who received laser acupuncture prior to an ovariohysterectomy (spay) surgery had significantly less pain postoperatively compared to animals that didn't receive the treatment. To get specific, only 10% of the cats that received laser acupuncture needed pain medication after surgery; whereas in the group that did not receive laser acupuncture, 50% of them required pain medication after the procedure.

What are the 5 health benefits of acupuncture for pets?

Acupuncture is a safe, effective way to help your pet feel better. Acupuncture can be used to provide health benefits, comfort, and relief for various conditions in pets like:

  • Help with chronic pain and mobility issues.

  • Alleviate anxiety, aggression and other behavioral disorders.

  • Managing diseases like kidney failure and other internal medical conditions.

  • Skin allergies.

  • Disease prevention and promoting longevity.

Acupuncture can also offer overall health benefits for your dog or cat—and you! You’ll be amazed at how much more energy and vitality your furry friend has when they get acupuncture treatments.

Can acupuncture help with pain or mobility issues?

It can! Did you know that arthritis is the #1 cause of chronic pain in dogs? And although it isn't as frequently diagnosed in cats, 90% of cats over the age of 10 are suspected to be affected by osteoarthritis, making it the most common chronic disease cats face as well. Acupuncture is a great way to manage pain and mobility issues. It can help increase blood flow to areas of injury, decrease pain and allow faster and more comfortable recovery when used in the management of acute injuries.

Acute injuries in dogs and cats turn into chronic issues when not managed properly- in many cases, conventional (aka Western) medicine doesn't offer an option to prevent this complication from occurring, but acupuncture and other holistic modalities help to encourage the body to heal and return to its previous state of health.

What do you do for dog and cat acupuncture? Is it just needles?

Needles are definitely the first thing that would pop up in anyone’s mind when thinking of acupuncture for dogs and cats. Many animals respond quickly to treatment with acupuncture and enjoy a range of benefits after receiving this type of care from their veterinarian. There are also different types of acupuncture depending on the patient and the goals of treatment. It’s not just needles anymore, we’ve gone high-tech!

  • Electroacupuncture (EAP): the use of a gentle electrical current connected to pairs of needles inserted into acupuncture points. This leads to increased opioid release and blood flow in comparison with dry needle-style acupuncture. This is especially useful for animals suffering from severe pain and certain neurologic diseases. Research has shown EAP to be more effective than decompressive surgery in dogs that had neurologic deficits for over 48 hours secondary to a compressive spinal lesion.

  • Moxibustion: the burning of mugwort herb over acupuncture points or by direct contact with acupuncture needles.This is very helpful for older animals with arthritis as it helps to “warm” them internally while invigorating blood and Qi (energy) movement.

  • Aquapuncture: this is a method in which a small amount of sterile fluid is deposited into an acupuncture point (either saline, Vitamin B12, the patient’s own blood or ozonated saline). This is a frequently used method by Dr. Lindsey because it is quick to perform, and due to how it stimulates the acupuncture point, the effects can last twice as long as the effects of standard dry needling. Each different fluid type used has specific healing attributes that enhance the treatment further.

  • Laser acupuncture: for animals that are sensitive to needles, this is a great method by which we can achieve similar effects as traditional acupuncture techniques. At Crystal Lotus Veterinary Care, we utilize our top-of-the-line Class IV photobiomodulation unit to achieve these results quickly and safely.

Acupuncture can help relieve anxiety and other behavioral disorders in your pets.

Acupuncture, when performed by trained veterinary professionals, is a safe and effective way to help manage anxiety disorders in pets. In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), anxiety is considered a shen disturbance, meaning that by restoring the shen/mind to its rightful home in the heart you can help to alleviate or resolve anxiety, insomnia and other side effects that are present.

There are many ways that acupuncture can help your dog or cat relax, including:

  • Reducing stress and anxiety prior to a surgical procedure or stressful event (travel, moving, house guests, etc).

  • Alleviating pain or discomfort from arthritis or other joint conditions. Pain can contribute to the development or progression of anxiety due to the overlap present in the areas of the brain that process pain and anxiety (the amygdala and hypothalamus.

  • Treating chronic anxiety conditions like separation anxiety, noise phobia, etc. Other holistic modalities like adaptogenic support, medicinal mushrooms and healthy cognitive engagement are frequently used in combination with acupuncture to avoid, or decrease the need for conventional medications.

Acupuncture for pets boosts their immune system.

Acupuncture increases blood flow to the tissues of the body. This is important because dogs and cats have a healthier immune system when there’s more oxygen and nutrients present to support the cells involved in identifying and combating disease. Acupuncture also helps to encourage waste products to be removed from the body, many of which are stored in the lymphatic system which is intimately involved with immune system surveillance. They’re practically best friends! This is another way it can boost your immune system—by allowing the body to clean itself up and get rid of harmful toxins that may be causing an illness or infection. Acupuncture can be very beneficial as a supplement to the treatment of cancer as well as disorders of the immune system like skin allergies and autoimmune disease.

Managing Kidney Disease and other Internal Medicine Conditions that pets tend to suffer from.

Acupuncture can be very helpful in managing kidney disease by increasing the flow of Qi to the kidneys. It can encourage the body to remove waste products from the blood, which may be a problem for animals with kidney problems such as acute renal failure or chronic renal insufficiency. In many cases, dogs and cats will show improvement in their kidney levels over time with regularly administered acupuncture treatment. Other diseases that can be improved with acupuncture treatment are:

  • Liver disease

  • Heart disease

  • Neurologic conditions (degenerative myelopathy, seizures, etc)

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Pancreatitis

  • Recurrent bladder infections and stones

  • Cognitive dysfunction

  • Lung disease (pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, tracheal collapse)

  • Hormonal balances (Cushing's, thyroid disease, etc)

Disease prevention through acupuncture for dogs and cats.

While acupuncture is beneficial for the treatment of disease, it is equally as effective when used in the prevention of many of the diseases that affect dogs and cats. Certain conditions are more prevalent in certain breeds, so by instituting acupuncture and holistic therapy plans early on in life we can help to create and support optimum health for our pets, and in some cases can prevent certain organ systems from having dysfunction that they would otherwise experience.

In Conclusion

We certainly threw a lot at you about acupuncture for dogs and cats so just remember:

  • Acupuncture doesn't just help people, it helps cats and dogs too.

  • Acupuncture is a natural treatment that helps the body heal itself.

  • It’s safe, effective and has minimal to no side effects.

  • It can be used to treat a variety of conditions in pets like: allergies, arthritis, digestive issues and anxiety.

  • Acupuncture can also be an alternative treatment for many conditions alongside other treatments such as medication or surgery.

Acupuncture is a great way to maintain your pet’s health and wellness. If you are unsure about trying this alternative treatment, talk to your vet or find a certified acupuncturist in your area. Remember that there are many different types of acupuncture, so make sure you get the right one for your pets’ needs! Do you, your dog or your cat have a request for a future blog topic? Visit the Crystallotusvet instagram page and let us know what you want to read about next!

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