What is Veterinary Acupuncture?

Mary McMahon

Veterinary acupuncture is a form of acupuncture which is designed for the treatment of animals, taking the unique needs of animals into account during the treatment process. Various forms of veterinary acupuncture have been practiced in Asia for centuries; in the West, veterinary acupuncture began to be practiced around the 1970s, at first by practitioners working largely on the fringe of the veterinary community. Today, veterinary acupuncture is much more widely available and acceptable, and it has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of some conditions.

In most places, anyone who gives acupuncture therapy to animals must be a licensed veterinarian.
In most places, anyone who gives acupuncture therapy to animals must be a licensed veterinarian.

Just like acupuncture for humans, veterinary acupuncture is focused on balancing the flow of qi, or energy, in the animal's body. In Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM), practitioners believe that medical complaints are manifestations of imbalances of qi, and by correcting these imbalances with the use of stimulating needles at various points on the body, practitioners can resolve the medical condition causing the problem. In veterinary acupuncture, acupuncture needles are applied to specific relevant points on the body, or on the ears, in the case of auricular acupuncture.

Injured horses may be treated with veterinary accupuncture.
Injured horses may be treated with veterinary accupuncture.

The practice of veterinary acupuncture is focused on treating the animal as a whole, rather than looking at isolated symptoms. In addition to considering the symptoms, the practitioner will also look at more subtle clues to the animal's health and well being, and he or she may ask a series of questions which are intended to guide the treatment. Many veterinarians who offer veterinary acupuncture use it as a form of complementary medicine, offering acupuncture along with more traditional Western treatments.

One extremely useful application of veterinary acupuncture is in pain management, both for animals who have injuries and for animals at the end of their lives. Veterinary acupuncture can also be used to treat a variety of health conditions, and it can also be offered to healthy pets as a way of keeping them well balanced.

A wide assortment of animals from parrots to horses can be treated with veterinary acupuncture. Most animals accept the treatment well, as the needles are very small, and veterinary acupuncturists work slowly and patiently in brief sessions which are designed to keep the animal calm. Some animals even fall asleep during their acupuncture sessions, which can last anywhere from a few seconds to thirty minutes, depending on the animal and its needs.

Pet owners may want to be aware that in many parts of the world, before someone can offer veterinary acupuncture, he or she must be a licensed and certified veterinarian. This holds true for all complementary and alternative medicine practitioners who want to offer services to animals; without being a licensed veterinarian, these practitioners would be practicing veterinary medicine without a license, and they can be heavily penalized. These laws are designed to protect animals from unscrupulous practitioners.

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