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I was told by my neighbor that acupuncture is useful for arthritis.  I had always thought it was hocus-pocus.  Is acupuncture an effective treatment for dogs and cats?

Acupuncture is an ancient form of Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been used in domesticated animals for over 2000 years.  The first acupuncturists used it primarily to treat horses for the Emperors of China.  More intense interest in the use of acupuncture in dogs and cats has existed over the past 40 years.  Many scientific studies have been performed around the world to support the Chinese principles of treatment, but there is much about acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine that is still not fully understood in the context of conventional medicine.  

Acupuncture is used to treat a variety of medical conditions, but one of the most instantly gratifying and useful applications of acupuncture is to treat pain.  In particular, it is common for older dogs to need multiple oral medications for arthritis, and acupuncture fits well as a non-pharmaceutical adjunct that has little to no side effects.  A patient with liver disease or kidney disease may not be able to take some medicines for long periods of time without potential consequences, and can really benefit from acupuncture.  The needles are placed at local and general points that help soothe the patient and generate biochemical substances that provide calming and pain relief effects. 

The first step in getting acupuncture for your pet is to see a practitioner that specializes in this form of practice.  The education and skills that are required to perform this treatment accurately require specialized training and the consultation on the pet is usually a bit longer than a consultation than a typical “western” consultation. 

Heather Troyer

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