Treating Pets with Acupuncture

Performing acupuncture on a dog

Treating Pets with Acupuncture

What is acupuncture?

Developed in China over 3,000 years ago, acupuncture uses small needles inserted into specific points on the body to achieve a desired healing effect. This technique has been used in both human and veterinary patients to treat existing conditions and also to prevent new problems from arising. According to Chinese medical philosophy, disease is a result of imbalance of energy in the body. Acupuncture is believed to balance this energy and assist the body in the healing process. In Western terms, acupuncture stimulates nerves, increases blood circulation, relieves muscle spasm and releases hormones such as endorphins that aid in pain control. Further research is needed to uncover all of acupuncture’s effects and for science to fully understand how this ancient art of healing truly works.

What conditions can acupuncture treat?

In veterinary medicine, acupuncture has been most successful in treating musculoskeletal disorders, such as:

• Arthritis
• Intervertebral disc disease
• Hip dysplasia

Acupuncture may be a successful therapy for other diseases in conjunction with traditional Western medicine to treat:

• Skin problems such as allergies and lick granulomas
• Gastrointestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea and constipation
• Genitourinary problems such as chronic renal failure and urinary incontinence
• Respiratory problems such as feline asthma
• Endocrine problems such as diabetes mellitus and hyperthyroidism
• Neurological problems such as seizures
• Neoplasia such as lymphoma, mammary cancer and mast cell tumors

Is acupuncture painful?

During acupuncture treatments, your pet lies comfortably on a padded mat. The insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless, and once the needles are in place there should be no discomfort to your pet. Most animals will become relaxed or even sleepy during their treatment. Sensation varies from animal to animal and some points on the body may be more sensitive than others. Human patients describe feelings similar to tingles, cramps or numbness, which may translate to mild discomfort in some pets.

Is acupuncture safe for my pet?

Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment when performed by a trained veterinarian. Side effects are rare but do exist. In the first 24-48 hours following a treatment, some animals may appear sleepy or lethargic and the condition may appear to be worse. These symptoms reflect a physiologic change brought about by the treatment and are most often followed by an improvement in your pet’s condition.

How long do treatments last and how often must they be given?

The length and frequency of treatments depends on the condition of the patient and the technique used by the veterinary acupuncturist. Stimulation of a single point may take as little as 10 seconds or as much as 30 minutes. A simple, acute injury such as a sprain may take one treatment, while a more severe or chronic disease can take multiple treatments.

When multiple visits are necessary, they usually begin intensely and are tapered to maximum efficiency. A positive response is usually seen after the first to third treatment. Once a maximum positive response is achieved (usually after 4-8 treatments), sessions are tapered off so the greatest amount of symptom-free time elapses between them. Many animals with chronic conditions can taper off to 2-4 treatments per year.

To learn more about acupuncture treatments and The AMC’s Rehabilitation and Fitness Service, join us at AMC’s PAW Day 2010, a day of pet and wellness fun for families and their furry companions, on Saturday, June 5 from 9am-12pm in Carl Schurz Park in Manhattan.

Acupuncture at The AMC

Dr. Steven Chiros graduated from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1998 and completed an internship in 1999 at The Animal Medical Center. He is a certified veterinary acupuncturist through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and has received extensive instruction in Chinese herbal medicine.
The Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation and Fitness Service at The AMC
The only facility of its kind in New York City, The AMC’s Rehabilitation and Fitness Service provides innovative and state-of-the-art therapies for cats, dogs, birds and exotic animals. The Service specializes in non-invasive therapies to prevent the need for surgery, and in cases where surgery has been performed, it helps to accelerate and achieve a more complete recovery. Therapies offered include hydrotherapy, treadmills and deep-tissue ultrasound, as well as holistic therapies such as Reiki, Acupuncture and Acupressure.
The Service is directed by a team of professionals who are experts in the rehabilitative care of companion animals, including New York City’s only Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioners and Therapists.

The Animal Medical Center
For 100 years, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

Tags: acupuncture, animal, animal hospital, animal medical center, animals, ann hohenhaus, cat, deirdre chiaramonte, dog, dogs, exotic, exotic pets, ferret, granulomas, health, holistic medicine, lizard, new york vet, pet, pet arthritis, pet emergency, pet first aid, pet health, pet healthcare, pet insurance, pet owner, pet remedies, pets, rabbit, reptile, steve chiros, vet, veterinarian, veterinary care,

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