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Your pet's first acupuncture consultation will usually take 30 minutes to take a full history, treat the animal and discuss aspects of the case. Further consultations are usually about 20 minutes. 
Acupoints used by the vet are generally transposed from human acupuncture. We have a skeleton very similar to horses, dogs and cats and so points can be located fairly accurately from species to species. Points can be found all over the body, from the toe to the tip of the nose. They are areas rich in nerve and blood vessel supply but the skin actually looks microscopically different at these foci. Points are distributed along lines of 'energy' called meridians or channels. These energy highways have associations with the organs and are called, for example, the Bladder Vessel, or the Large Intestine Meridian to emphasise some of their uses. When our Vet has taken a history and examined your pet, they will select points that need stimulation.

Stimulation of acupoint sites can be by inserting very thin, one or two inch (2.5cm in cat and dogs to 5cm in horses) sterile, disposable needles through the skin to prompt a response. Needles need to be left in for a variable time and can be stimulated gently by twisting. Once needles are in they are painless. Needles are removed carefully at the end of the session of 10 - 20 mins. Sometimes the needles have worked their way out themselves and are just holding on by the very tip. Most needles will loosen in the skin. This is a good sign and suggests a good response. When we start an animal on a course of acupuncture, the frequency of treatment will depend on the condition, but weekly sessions for 4 - 6 weeks initially is typical. After this time, progress will be assessed and you will be guided as to how to go on from there by your veterinary acupuncturist.

Is Acupuncture Painful?

The first thing to say is that it is impossible to put a needle through the skin without provoking some sensation. It is not always painful, but can sometimes be a sharp sensation. If the acupuncturist has chosen a point that is very blocked, then sometimes stimulation of the point when the needle gets through the skin is uncomfortable. So why do we do it if it is uncomfortable sometimes? Answer: the benefits outweigh the mild discomfort of the treatment. 'First, do no harm' is a general rulew to be followed.

If acupuncture really was excruciating and the results were equivocal, then it should be stopped. But the opposite is true. When we humans make a decision to go to an acupuncturist, we do so not for fun, but because we have a problem that we want fixed. Animals don't see it like that. They see it as 'I have this really sore back or leg and now they take me to see this person and all they want to do is put needles in me!'. This is why some pets are pretty confused the first time they go for treatment. So, our job as owners and vets is to reassure them. Pets can be brave or quite timid, just like us. So some will take acupuncture in their stride, some will need reassurance because they are scared.

Conditions where Acupuncture can Help

Acupuncture can help more than just a stiff joint, though most acupuncture is used for painful conditions, but there respiratory problems and behavioural problems that can also benefit. If you would like advice, talk to Claire or Catherine at Parkside. Ask them to examine your animal. They will then be able to give you specific advice on what would be best. You may be referred for acupuncture by one of the other Vets who see your pet and have already diagnosed a problem.

Once a diagnosis has been made, or a surgical condition has been ruled out, then this is a green light to go ahead with acupuncture. 

Parkside Vets Claire Mitchelson and Catherine Lindsay have training in acupuncture for pets and are happy to advise on how acupuncture may be able to help your pet. Christy Mackenzie can advise on acupuncture in horses.