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Acupuncture and your disabled pet: The basics

Sticking needles into your disabled pet may cause most owners to cringe, but it hurts you more than they and may be the best therapy for many conditions.

Acupuncture has been around for more than 3,000 years, the go-to therapy for the Chinese. It has become more accepted in the West in recent years, in line with the growing movement for more holistic approach to medical treatment.

However, many people still doubt its efficacy, and most studies that show positive findings for the treatment are for human subjects. Will it work for dogs and cats?

Acupuncture is usually prescribed to manage pain, especially for patients for which Western medicine does not work or produces side effects that are often worse than the medical condition itself. It takes the place of many drugs and surgeries that are often more injurious than acceptable for human health.

Acupuncture is also found to improve the life quality of patients, making them more comfortable and less anxious. Aside from these, acupuncture is said to be effective in treating conditions such as psoriasis, musculoskeletal diseases, arthritis, and some cancers.

It is no wonder that some vets have looked to acupuncture to address health issues of their animal patients. The question is, does it work?

The principles behind acupuncture

Research has yet to demonstrate concrete evidence that definitely shows that acupuncture works. However, analysis of acupuncture “points” in the human body shows that needles stimulate nerve bundles associated with specific organs and tissues, causing them to signal the production of certain hormones such as endorphins.

The release of these hormones trigger the body’s response, particularly pain blocking and blood flow. Depending on the condition of the patient, the needles target specific nerve bundles to activate the necessary reactions.

The study of acupuncture is centuries old, but its applications to animal patients is relatively new. However, while the physiology of dogs and cats are different from humans, the same principles apply. Vets with the proper knowledge and training can offer acupuncture treatments that pet owners swear has brought considerable relief to their disabled pets.

One of the most appealing features of acupuncture is the idea of using the body’s energy or Qi for self-healing. You don’t have to do any invasive surgeries or take tons of pills and drugs, and there are no side effects. It is a holistic approach to medicine that sounds like a good idea if it works.

Acupuncture therapy is also a portable method of treatment, so your vet can make house calls if it is too difficult to transport your pet for a session.

Managing expectations

Considering that many pets with degenerative myelopathy and other similar ailments can find no real relief from their condition using Western medicine, acupuncture seems to be a viable option. It may not actually cure your pet, but it can certainly improve their quality of life. At the very least, it can do no harm provided the vet has the correct training in using acupuncture.

Animals actually respond better to acupuncture than many humans, probably because they do not fear needles. Because the needles are so thin and small, most pets will not even notice when they are inserted, provided the practitioner does it properly.

In fact, after the initial curiosity, pets often relax enough during treatment to go to sleep. You may notice that your pet will remain sluggish after treatment, but you don’t have to worry. You should just allow them to rest after a session to give their bodies enough time to respond to the treatment.


Your disabled pet may yet find a new leash in life even when they are no longer mobile. Aside from mobility aids such as wheelchairs, acupuncture is a good way to improve your pet’s quality of life.

Acupuncture has no side effects, so at least your pet will not be worse off. In some cases, acupuncture may not be effective, but that is for your vet to determine. Before writing it off as a waste of your time, give it a try. It may be the best thing to happen to your disabled pet.



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