Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine for Animals
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a system of medicine that has existed for thousands of years. According to legend, acupuncture was used on animals as long as 3,500 years ago. Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into acupuncture points to prevent or treat disease. Other forms of stimulation may be used on acupuncture points like heat, injecting substances like vitamin B-12, electric stimulation and pressure.
The purpose of acupuncture is to affect the flow of energy or Qi within the body. Pain, for example, is an obstruction of Qi. Acupuncture acts to disperse the obstruction, allowing Qi to flow freely and reduce pain. Many dogs with arthritis from hip dysplasia, back problems like intervertebral disc disease, and other musculoskeletal pain appear to respond well to acupuncture. We have been able to help many patients avoid surgery and lower or eliminate their pain medication.
An important concept in TCM is the balance of Yin and Yang. Yin has been described as the dark or shadowed side of a mountain, Yang the sunny side. Yin and Yang are opposites but require each other to exist. When Yin is in excess, Yang is deficient and vice-versa. Yin moisturizes, cools and nourishes. Yang heats things up and moves quickly. When we are in a vibrant state of health Yin and Yang are in balance. The TCM practitioner uses the physical exam including looking at the tongue and feeling the pulse, as well as taking a detailed history to determine the pattern of imbalance. This can be especially helpful when a patient’s problem seems to elude Western diagnostics or is unresponsive to conventional therapy. For examples, Chinese Herbs can be very helpful for chronic allergic skin disease, urinary incontinence, chronic diarrhea, cystitis in cats, and chronic kidney failure.
Acupuncture treatments usually last about 30 minutes. For arthritic conditions and other chronic diseases, we usually repeat sessions weekly for 4-5 treatments, then assess our progress. If our patient is responding we continue on a regular basis and gradually increase the intervals between treatments. This may vary depending on the individual patient’s circumstances. Most animals tolerate being needled very well. After the needles are inserted, they often relax and may even take a little nap.
Chinese herbs come in powder, liquid and pill form. We may use them for a short time for an acute episode of vomiting or for long term as with chronic conditions like skin problems with regular follow up visits to make any changes that are necessary. Most conditions that we treat may benefit from acupuncture combined with chinese herbal therapy.
Traditional Chinese Medicine can work hand in hand with conventional medicine. It is very important that each patient undergo the appropriate diagnostics to evaluate and diagnose their condition. Since acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine may take longer to achieve clinical results, they are rarely used as “band-aids” or quick fixes. It is a slower yet more permanent path towards alleviating disease.