Dr. Taryn Clark inserts acunpuncture needles into Eli, a 9-year-old dog with painful degenerative hip dysplasia.
Acupuncture has been practiced for a long time—estimates range from 3500-5000 years, with written records dating to the second century BC, though its origins are unclear. Despite ancient sources showing acupuncture being applied to animals, it has only started to catch on in modern veterinary medicine in the last few decades.
How it Works:
Whether the explanation for its effect comes from contemporary medicine (it stimulates nerves and releases endorphins) or traditional Chinese (it restores the flow of Qi through the area), the purpose of acupuncture is to relieve pain and stimulate the healing process.
- Immediate results
Applications for acupuncture include:
- Treatment of arthritis, degenerative joint disease, or hip dysplasia
- General pain management
- Post-surgery pain
- Cancer chemotherapy/radiation support
- Immune support
- Treatment of nerve dysfunction
Acupuncture can be administered at any time and is frequently tried after other types of treatments such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have failed to produce the desired results or have undesirable side effects. In cases of degenerative nerve disease it actually works better than drugs because it stimulates nerve function. Electroacupuncture, a variation on traditional acupuncture, also involves needles being inserted at specific locations. The difference is that an electric pulse is applied, through two needles at a time, in sessions typically lasting 20 minutes. (See this link to an article from AnnArbor.com for a more in-depth look at acupuncture.)
An informative study was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) on June 1, 2010, about intervertebral disk disease (IVDD)—a common though difficult and painful disease we see in dogs—and the use of electroacupuncture to treat it. The study showed a significantly higher success rate for dogs who underwent electroacupuncture than for dogs who received decompressive surgery.
- Electroacupuncture alone saw success in 15 of 19 dogs
- Decompressive surgery saw success in 4 of 10
- Surgery followed by acupuncture saw success in 8 of 11
Around 85% of our acupuncture patients are older dogs with musculoskeletal ailments. Some signs that your dog is experiencing pain that acupuncture may be able to assuage:
- Abnormal sitting or lying posture
- Whining, groaning or other vocalizing
- Limping, unable to get up or lie down
- Difficulty getting into car or down stairs
- Lack of grooming
- Won’t wag tail
- Licking or biting area
- Lack of appetite