What is Acupuncture?

In the narrowest sense, acupuncture is the inserting and manipulation of very fine needles into specific points on the body with the aim of relieving pain and for other therapeutic purposes. The anatomical location of these points have been established over millennia to elicit physiological responses in the treatment of a disease or condition. Acupunturists see them as functional rather than structural points. In a broader sense, acupuncture is an ancient procedure used in TCM for the treatment of whole-body conditions.

In her book, Between Heaven and Earth, Harriet Beinfield proposed an analogy: "comparing an acupuncturist with a Western veterinary or medical practitioner is similar to comparing a gardener and a mechanic" (7) The gardener considers the totality of his or her plants' environment (sunlight, density of planting, types and amounts of fertiliser, temperature, water, etc.), whereas the mechanic searches to replace or repair a dysfunctional component.

Acupunture works on the bodies organ systems in at least three different ways. The direct stimulation of nerves at the periphery carries messages back to the brain causing shift in blood flow to certain areas of the body. This nerve stimulation also causes the release in the brain of your animals own endogenous pain killers which are shifted into the blood stream. Thirdly internal organs can be stimulated by external acupuncture points that selectively excite parasympathetic and sympathetic nerves regulating the autonomic nervous system.

Why use Acupuncture

Acupunture therapy has been in use for humans and animals for over 5000 years. It has evolved as an integral part of day to day medicine in a variety of countries including India and China. The World Health Organization concluded in 1979 that "Acupuncture is clearly not a panacea for all ills but sheer weight of evidence demands that acupuncture must be taken seriously as a clinical procedure of considerable value." Today nearly three million veterinary and medical practitioners, assistants and pharmacists are trained in acupuncture. Of this number it is estimated that 150,000 are veterinarians and 700,000 are paraveterinary assistants.

Sitmualtion of points can be enhanced through the use of mild electrical stimulationThere are a variety of painful and non-painful conditions an acupuncture treatment can relieve. In most cases it can be combined with an orthodox treatment to enhance recovery, or to enable a reduced dosage of drugs With acupuncture, unwanted side effects of pet medicines are likely to be reduced considerably or even avoided.

In a lot of health problems this treatment might help to achieve a more satisfactory result in less time than conventional treating methods would bring. Not unexpectedly, when East meets West and when philosophy meets science, confusion undoubtedly will occur. Although outstanding medical advances have been made using the western viewpoint there remains a population of humans and animals not being properely served by western medicine alone. According to Eastern tradition the sum of the whole body is greather than its parts. In Western medicine, the same disease or condition normally is treated the same way in all patients; in TCM, the same condition may and most probably will be treated differently in different patients because the underlying causes may differ.

How do I know if my animal would benefit?

Before you decide on any treatment approach, it is important to get a good diagnosis and then look at all the options, including acupuncture and those offered by conventional medicine. The first step in good science is observation. The modern acupuncturist uses all diagnostic information available, including radiographs and blood work, to help you determine how your animal will best benefit from treatment.

Why should my acupuncturist also be a veterinarian?

Acupuncture is not an innocuous therapy. Like any other treatment which has the power to heal if used incorrectly it also has the power to do harm. It is very important to understand how acupuncture will interact with western medications the animal might currently be on. Only a veterinarian can properly evaluate the progress of your animals medical condition within the context of traditional Chinese medicine and plan for the most successful outcome. The College of Veterinarians of Ontario states…

It is the position of the CVO that only veterinarians have the education, knowledge, skills and judgement to evaluate and integrate complementary and alternative veterinary medicine into a treatment plan for animals.

IVAS has become the primary professional society for veterinary acupuncturists in North America, complete with a newsletter, a journal and a World Wide Web site. www.ivas.org Within Canada we have our own association AVAC which can also assure you of the proper credentials of your acupuncturist.