Acupuncture – What Is It, Exactly?

Acupuncture is a practice that has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. It arrived in the West in the 19th century and has been used in veterinary medicine for several decades. It was first used on humans and horses, but is now recognized for dogs and cats.

Several scientific studies have backed up its benefits. These scientific studies are conclusive: acupuncture is an additional tool to conventional medicine, especially when the latter is less effective.


Why seek a consultation in acupuncture?

Acupuncture is mainly used for chronic pain, but can also be used for behavioural, neurological, myoarthroskeletal, digestive, and metabolic conditions. If in doubt, you can always discuss with your veterinarian whether acupuncture could be suitable for your pet.


How does it work?

Acupuncture involves inserting tiny needles into specific acupuncture points to stimulate the blood, immune and nervous systems. These acupuncture points are carefully identified and selected for each individual animal.


What happens during an acupuncture session?

Before inserting the needles, your veterinarian will assess your pet’s medical history, then performs a complete examination, checking for pressure points and pulses. They will observe the animal and answer any questions clients may have. The veterinarian listens to the needs of each of their patients, and of their clients. They may also refer the patient to a traditional medical consultation if this is deemed more appropriate for the patient.

The needles are left in place for around twenty minutes, depending on the animal’s tolerance. Some animals will feel a little discomfort when the needle is inserted, but they often feel much calmer during the treatment and for hours afterwards. Some animals even fall asleep during the consultation! The consultation lasts an hour on average.


Are there any side effects to be expected?

Serious side effects are extremely rare. Those that have been reported include: minor local bleeding when the needle is withdrawn but which ceases quickly, slight discomfort or weakness at the needle insertion site which disappears in the days following treatment, local infection, or simply a lack of effectiveness. However, the benefits are often far greater than the side effects, and in the end, animals feel much better after acupuncture treatments.


What about the benefits?

The benefits of acupuncture will last from a few days to a few weeks. For the first few treatments, we recommend once a week for 4 weeks, then as needed, depending on the animal’s responsiveness. Your veterinarian will be able to prepare a personalized plan for each animal.


Dr. Catherine Malouin  v.m., IPSAV

How do I Prepare Fido for his Alternative Medicine Appointment?

Has your veterinarian suggested osteopathy or acupuncture for Fido? Here are some guidelines to help you prepare for his first appointment.

Osteopathy and acupuncture can be very effective in alleviating various health conditions in animals, including, of course, difficulties and pain in the locomotor, nervous, digestive, respiratory, urinary and skin systems, by releasing certain tensions and acting on the immune system and inflammation for many conditions.

There are no known restrictions to acupuncture and osteopathy, other than the presence of an acute condition requiring primary medical and/or surgical care. Of course, it will be easier to confirm the most appropriate course of treatment once your dog has been examined.

It is usually suggested to schedule 3 visits, 2 to 4 weeks apart at first. Relief is most often felt after the first appointment.

Osteopathic and/or acupuncture consultations include the animal’s case review, general examination in conventional and Chinese medicine, osteopathic examination, treatment, and advice on physical rehabilitation, acupressure and therapeutic massage at home and other as required.

Don't forget to ask your family veterinarian to send a PDF copy of your pet's medical file before his appointment, so that the veterinarian can review it.

When booking an appointment, make sure that there is at least 7 days between this appointment and any other recent veterinary visit or potentially stressful event for your pet, such as boarding, grooming or nail trimming.