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Acupuncture on a dog

Acupuncture is a form of medicine that predates modern medical science. This traditional practice was based on an understanding of proposed energy channels or meridians.

As research into the mechanisms of acupuncture’s effects has increased, science can explain the effects of acupuncture in more modern terms. This ongoing research allows us both to challenge acupuncture’s traditional tenets where appropriate and to adapt our techniques to accurately reflect the current science.

Acupuncture on a dog

The fact that ancient practitioners of acupuncture developed many effective techniques in the absence of science is remarkable. Even more exciting is the new understanding of how acupuncture works from a modern medical perspective.

The basis of acupuncture is neuromodulation.  Using points located just under the skin along nerves, acupuncture stimulates areas of the spinal cord and brain to release pain-reducing substances and growth factors and to promote a sense of relaxation.  Additionally, local and central effects combine to increase blood flow to targeted areas, such as organs, muscles or joints.

One recent modification to traditional techniques is electroacupuncture. This is the application of electrical stimulation to the acupuncture needles. Many clinical studies in both human and veterinary patients involve electroacupuncture, and this technique appears to enhance the positive effects of needle placement.

Both acupuncture and electroacupuncture are accepted well by most patients. For those who are needle-shy, we distract with tasty treats, relaxing music therapy, and aromatherapy. For patients completely unwilling to have needles placed, we use an acupuncture tip over the therapeutic laser to target specific acupuncture points.

For clients who have had acupuncture treatment and found it uncomfortable, please know that the aim of veterinary medical acupuncture is to stimulate nerve pathways without causing pain. This is accomplished by focusing more on pressure receiving (mechanoreceptor) than pain receiving (nociceptor) pathways.  In other words, we strive to minimize any feeling of discomfort while using acupuncture on our patients.