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Acupuncture For Pets? Absolutely!

Sep 9, 2008
An increasing number of people, wary of the side effects (or no effects) of western medicine, are looking for alternative solutions to many health issues, not only for themselves, but also for their pets.

If you're a pet owner, you know how heartbreaking it is to watch your best furry friend suffer from aches and pains and not be able to do much more about it than give him the pill the vet prescribed and hope that it works. While a pill might lessen the pain from arthritis or stop the itching from allergies, it won't cure the cause of it. Acupuncture, on the other hand, tries to get to the root of the problem and, like all holistic health therapies, sees the body as a whole and tries to balance it out, instead of zeroing in on just the sore joint.

Acupuncture, a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), has been practiced in China for thousands of years. The first recorded treatments in the west are from Paris in the early 1800s, and nowadays it is widely practiced both in Europe and the US. Veterinary acupuncture is also gaining popularity: in 1974, The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) was formed to promote research and help integrate acupuncture into veterinary medicine. The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (AAVA) was formed in 1998, and today counts 720 members all over the country.

How Does It Work?
In TCM, it is believed that there are 12 pathways in the body called meridians, along which energy, or qi, travels. All along these pathways are points where the qi rises to the surface. Each point is related to specific body organs and functions. When there is a blockage on the pathway and the qi can't get through, we suffer from disease. Acupuncture removes the blockage by inserting very thin needles at the appropriate points, thereby resolving the issue, and allowing the energy to flow freely again.

Won't My Pet Get Freaked Out By The Needles?
The first time, he or she might be a bit suspicious of what's going on, but there are countless stories of how animals immediately relax, and even fall asleep, once the needles have been inserted. In fact, most animals enjoy the treatments so much that they look forward to their appointments. In a live discussion at washingtonpost.com, Dr. Narda Robinson, who teaches and practices veterinary acupuncture at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, says about one of her elderly cat patients, "He walks into the hospital on a leash and saunters immediately down the hall to my exam room to lie on his mat on the floor, waiting for his treatment. If "his" room is occupied, or if he gets taken to another service because it was his day for a dermatology appointment, and not acupuncture, he gets quite miffed, and lets his mom and dad know!"

Which Conditions Can Be Treated?
Most chronic conditions, such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, disc disease, allergies, dermatological, immune-related and neurological disorders, and respiratory and gastrointestinal problems respond very well to acupuncture. It can also be an enormous help in dealing with epilepsy, incontinence, sprains and strains, and lessening the side effects of cancer treatment (nausea, loss of appetite, weakened immune system). If your pet has a condition not listed here, ask your animal acupuncturist about it. To find a practitioner near you, go to AAVA's website. If you have a pet that can't (or won't) travel to the acupuncturist's office, don't despair - many make house calls.
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