Since ancient times, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have provided acupuncture as a mainstay treatment to their human patients. Traditional Chinese veterinary practitioners followed suit, and began treating their patients with acupuncture. Modern western veterinary practitioners, however, only began considering this therapy’s success and began offering their patients acupuncture within the past few decades. Our Shuler Veterinary Clinic team is proud to offer this modality—including other alternative and complementary therapies—and conventional western medicine to treat pets’ many adverse health conditions. 

What is veterinary acupuncture?

Acupuncture uses tiny needles placed in specific, mapped body points. The traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM) theory is that these points, when stimulated, re-establish the normal energy flow through a pet’s body to produce a healing effect. Several studies have proven acupuncture effective, and now western veterinary medicine practitioners prescribe this treatment for many conditions. Acupuncture is drug-free, safe, and noninvasive, making this alternative treatment modality better-tolerated than many conventional western medicine therapies.

What are the benefits of veterinary acupuncture?

Modern science does not completely understand how acupuncture works, but recent studies show that an acupuncture point’s nerve stimulation sets off a chemical cascade that—depending on the point being stimulated—can alter pain perception, stimulate blood flow and hormone and endorphin release, and induce muscle relaxation. These physiologic changes in a pet’s body can produce positive effects, including:

  • Pain relief
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved appetite
  • Relaxation/reduced anxiety
  • Normalized gastrointestinal motility
  • Improved organ function

Which conditions can benefit from veterinary acupuncture?

Acupuncture can benefit nearly any condition that produces pain, inflammation, or abnormal body functions. Some pet conditions our Shuler Veterinary Clinic team commonly treats with acupuncture include:

  • Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Orthopedic injuries
  • Neurologic conditions
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Poor appetite
  • Skin allergies
  • Asthma
  • Urinary problems
  • Organ dysfunction

Does veterinary acupuncture have risks or side effects?

Most pets become relaxed during and for a day or two after an acupuncture treatment, which can make them appear lethargic or as though their condition is worsening. This is a normal treatment response, and the pet’s condition should start to improve in a few days. Risks are otherwise low—as long as the procedure is performed by a qualified veterinary practitioner who has completed an intensive training and certification program that qualifies them to create and administer a veterinary acupuncture treatment plan.

Can veterinary acupuncture be combined with other therapies?

Acupuncture is effective by itself for pets who cannot tolerate drugs or other conventional therapies, but this alternative treatment can also serve as part of a multimodal management plan for long-term conditions. Most other therapies, including laser, chiropractic, rehabilitation, medications, nutrition, and supplements, are safe to use alongside acupuncture. In addition, these treatments often complement one another, producing a synergistic effect.

Is veterinary acupuncture painful for my pet?

Needles used in acupuncture are extremely thin, and most pets do not react to their insertion. Some body points are more sensitive than others, and pets may jump or twitch when those points are stimulated, but any discomfort should subside after the initial needle placement. Once needles are in place they are typically left for several minutes, and most pets settle and relax during this time. If your pet is extremely needle-sensitive or their temperament does not allow for safe acupuncture treatment, our veterinarians may still be able to use another modality, such as laser, to stimulate the appropriate body points. If not, our veterinary professionals will prescribe a different multimodal therapy to suit your pet.

What should I expect for my pet’s veterinary acupuncture treatment?

Your pet’s mapped body points’ number, treatment time length, and overall treatments needed to produce a positive effect vary based on their condition. A temporary problem may resolve in one or two visits, while chronic conditions often require an initial intensive treatment period followed by ongoing maintenance sessions. Acupuncture effects are cumulative, so you can generally expect your pet to improve over three to five sessions, followed by a plateau during which we taper treatments to maintain their improved condition.

With so many treatment options available, your pet no longer has to endure a chronic or acute condition’s pain or suffering. Veterinary acupuncture—combined with other rehabilitation and medical treatment modalities—provides your pet with proven, safe illness relief. Contact our Shuler Animal Hospital team to learn more about veterinary acupuncture, or to schedule a consultation to determine if your pet is a good candidate for this alternative therapy.

Visit Animal Hospitals of the Lowcountry, Safe Harbor Animal Hospital, or Mount Pleasant Animal Hospital to learn more about our group of Shuler family-owned veterinary hospitals in the Mount Pleasant area, where you and your pet are treated like family.