Although acupuncture dates back over 3,000 years, an ever increasing amount of modern scientific research is proving its effects and benefits in both humans and animals. Veterinary acupuncture can benefit a wide range of conditions in dogs, cats, horses and other animals, including arthritis, lameness, spinal problems (intervertebral disc disease), skin conditions, gastrointestinal conditions and neurological conditions such as epilepsy. Dr. Wedemeyer treats animals throughout New York's Hudson Valley and in Manhattan. This page answers some common basic questions about acupuncture; for more information about acupuncture for different species, choose from the menu on the right.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Although some animals may feel a slight, brief sensation when a needle is inserted, they quickly relax when the needles are in position because at that point they can no longer feel them. Natural endorphins are released by acupuncture and so many animals even fall asleep during treatment, especially when they are in the comfort of their own home. For those patients that don't like to keep still, we also offer laser acupuncture for a completely painless, non-invasive treatment (above right).
How is acupuncture done on animals?
Acupuncture is done on animals using extremely fine, sterile metal needles. This is known as 'dry needling.' The needles are very thin (around 0.2mm or 0.008 of an inch) and flexible, once they are in position the patient is unaware they are even there. Although animals must remain still while needles are inserted, once they are in position they no longer need to keep completely still. The needles remain in place for approximately 15 minutes. Acupuncture is not generally a stressful procedure, especially when animals are treated in their own environment in their own home or barn.
Acupuncture can also now be performed using a laser to stimulate the points. This is completely non-invasive and pain-free. The laser tip is held over each acupuncture point for 3-10 seconds, without the need to wait while needles are kept in place. Laser acupuncture is therefore great for cats and more active dogs that do not like restraint.
For some conditions, electroacupuncture may be performed (below middle and right). This involves connecting leads to send a small electric current between pairs of needles. This has been shown to release neurotransmitters such as endorphins, and can relieve pain and also benefit paralysis, muscle weakness and muscle atrophy.
What conditions can benefit from acupuncture?
Acupuncture can benefit a wide range of medical conditions in animals. Some of the most commonly-treated conditions are listed in the box to the right, and include arthritis, gastrointestinal problems, allergies and skin problems, epilepsy and more. While injuries obviously still require rest and time to heal, acupuncture is a great additional tool for rehabilitation and recovery after surgery or injury. Acupuncture can improve circulation, decrease inflammation, stimulate healing and relieve pain in these animals. Click here for more information about what conditions we can help.
How many treatments are needed?
Most of the conditions treated by acupuncture are chronic, that is, the animal has suffered from the condition for quite some time. For these conditions, an initial course of 3-6 treatments is required and benefits may not be seen until an animal has received 3 or more treatments. In general, the longer the animal has suffered from the condition, the longer it will take to improve. However, for more minor or short-standing conditions, only 1-2 treatments may be required. After the initial course of weekly or twice weekly treatments, the frequency of treatment is tapered down as appropriate in order to maintain the improvement in the animal's condition. For example, after the initial course of treatment, arthritic animals may be maintained with a single acupuncture session every 1-3 months.