Why Veterinary Acupuncture? – By Jody Lam

Hear what our resident Acupuncture Vet Jody Lam has to say about her treatments

Acupuncture is an amazing treatment method that was developed centuries ago in the Far East.  It involves placing very small needles in very specific locations throughout the body.  The needles are very fine and placement of them is generally painless.  These needles stimulate the nervous system, having profound effects on many body systems.  Also, in the area local to the needles, the body responds by releasing chemical messengers that relieve pain and promote healing.

What conditions can be treated with acupuncture?

Because of the unique way that acupuncture works, it can be beneficial for many conditions, both short and long-term.

The majority of my patients are having acupuncture treatment for chronic joint diseases, such as (osteo)arthritis.  Acupuncture  can really benefit these patients in several ways.  The treatment can help to reduce pain (either alongside, or instead of, pain medication), it also reduces the muscle spasm that often occurs as part of the body’s response to lameness/limping/stiffness. Muscle spasm reduces the body’s ability to shift weight between the limbs, and so makes it harder for the pet to cope with the joint pain; relaxing these muscles can make a huge difference to them.  Acupuncture works really well alongside other treatments such as hydrotherapy and laser, as they all provide benefits in different ways that complement each other.  Because arthritis is a progressive disease we often need to use many approaches to keep your pet comfortable as their joints worsen over time.

As the nervous system is involved in all aspects of physical well-being, acupuncture can be of benefit for most health conditions.  Other problems in pets that I have treated successfully with acupuncture include: urinary incontinence, spinal problems, lick granulomas, Horner’s syndrome and feline hyperaesthesia.

All patients have a full clinical examination at the start of their treatment and I review the medical history from their usual vet.  With ongoing cases I can work alongside your regular vet, continuing to keep in touch with them whenever possible to ensure the best care.

Are there any patients who acupuncture cannot help?

A small proportion of humans and animals do not respond to acupuncture treatment and so if there is no benefit seen after the first 4 sessions then it may be that they do not respond.  Some conditions take longer for a response than others.

Most of my patients are dogs, but I also treat several cats and the occasional well-behaved horse! Rabbits also benefit from acupuncture.

Will my pet enjoy the treatment?

The majority of my patients really enjoy their sessions, they rush over to greet me and are very settled throughout.  It can be hard to know what to expect which is why I have a video recording of a treatment on my website www.blossomandthrive.co.uk.  The pet needs to be fairly still for the needle placement but this can usually be achieved with the help of treats when necessary! Once the needles are in place the aim is to leave them in for around 15 minutes, but the pet does not need to lay still for that time.  During this time the body releases endorphins which are chemical messengers that promote relaxation, so often the patient lies down or is more settled during this phase.  Then the needles are removed.

Are there any side effects?

Rarely are side effects experienced.  Some animals are a little stiff for the first day or two after a treatment (more common in the early stages).  A tiny proportion is patients experience a reaction where this persists, but this reaction can be easily reversed by placing a single needle. Spinal cases and animals that have been in pain for some time are the most likely to have some side effects in the early stages of their treatment.

How often is treatment required?

The initial course is weekly sessions, usually for 4 treatments.  After this it is tailored to the patient and their condition; most arthritic pets then move to fortnightly treatments on an ongoing basis.  If the acupuncture is to promote healing or recovery then it can end once the healing/recovery is complete, for example after surgery or non-healing wounds.

Will my insurance company cover the cost?

Many insurers will cover acupuncture treatment and so will reimburse your costs.  It is worth contacting them to find out in advance.

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