FAQ’s – Acupuncture

For which problems can I use Acupuncture for my pet?

Acupuncture is most well known for it’s effects with musculo-skeletal disorders such as arthritis and non-surgical intervertebral disc disease. However, Acupuncture has been used successfully to treat a wide variety of disease conditions, only some of which are included on main Acupuncture page. See Acupuncture (main).

Almost any condition can be addressed using acupuncture, however, there are conditions where acupuncture should only be used secondarily or adjunctively. These are discussed further below.

What conditions are best NOT addressed PRIMARILY by acupuncture?

(Note that acupuncture may help many of these as an adjunctive treatment.)
These include:

acute surgical conditions such as:

broken bones,

gastric torsion,

severe trauma with internal injuries  

acute, severe medical conditions such as:

diabetic shock and coma

extreme vomiting/diarrhea with dehydration

acute poisonings



Again, not as the primary mode of treatment. However, acupuncture can be supportive of the systems affected by chemotherapy and and helpful with surgical and chemotherapy side effects. See more below.

How does Acupuncture work?

Acupuncture works by stimulating specific points in the skin/muscle/nerve that may cause a variety of effects through various physiologic mechanisms. Two of the general ways in which acupuncture works include:

• release of endorphins and endocrine substances which help control the physiology (ie. blood flow, ion flow, metabolism) either locally and/or other areas or more generally in the body.

• nerve reflexes via muscle receptor and/or nerve branch stimulation. These reflexes may go through the spine and/or the brain to trigger actions either locally, in the nervous system, or in other parts of the body.

What is involved in an acupuncture treatment?

The initial acupuncture appointment will involve at least 90 minutes to take a good history, evaluate diet and nutrition, determine an initial acupuncture point prescription, and to give the initial treatment. Needles are placed and left in place from 5 to 30 minutes (usually about 15). Follow-up appointments usually run 45 minutes, and involve a re-assessment and the treatment

Do you use moxa or electro-stimulation? What are they?

Yes, depending on the individual case, Electro-Stimulation and/or Moxa are used with some of the acupuncture points to augment the response and/or relax muscle groups. Electro-Stimulation is done with a battery operated unit designed for this purpose. The pulsations are kept to either just over or just under the level necessary to make the muscles contract or make the patient uncomfortable. People who have had TENS units applied to them (using stick on pads instead of needles) to pulsate and relax their muscles will appreciate why we do not make their pet’s stimulation too strong.

Moxa, or Moxibustion (the using of Moxa) is the burning of a dried plant which gives off a deep and penetrating heat as well as smoke, and has been shown to help augment the effects of the acupuncture depending on the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) diagnosis.

Will the treatment be uncomfortable for my pet? Will he/she need sedation?

Acupuncture needles are usually placed with no more than simple distraction of the pet by the owner. Acupuncture points are usually not especially painful — they may have varying sensations (extrapolated from people since your pet can’t tell us) such as tenseness, numbness, sensation of heat or cool, or even a slight ‘electric’ sensation. Use of sedatives is not desired, as it can dampen mechanisms that trigger some of the desired acupuncture responses.

For the few animals that REALLY object to the sensations, I do have an Infrared Stimulator (cold, non-cutting laser) to stimulate the points. This I will also use to treat some eye and soft tissue conditions. It has also been good for some animals that just don’t allow themselves to be handled. (You would expect me to be using it on more cats, but most cats tolerate the needles surprisingly well.)

Will my pet improve? And how long will it take?

We certainly wish that there could be guaranteed improvement. In my experience, almost every animal has had positive effects as a result of acupuncture. However, not all animals have tolerated being handled (much less allowing the needles to be placed effectively) — these are the exceptions. Most tolerate the treatment well. And now I can often use the Infrared Stimulator for these patients.

There have been a few animals who’s disease state is so advanced, or are on such overwhelming medications, that they have not been able to respond reasonably. And perhaps the biggest block to improvement can be owner frustration — it is not always a fast way to see response!

As for how long to effect — this really depends on how severe and long standing the problem is with your pet, what factors (such as medications and external influences) might interfere with the assessment and/or treatment, and the diagnostic and treatment skills of the acupuncturist [me — I wish I were perfect and knew everything]. Some patients have seen excellent response with only one treatment. Others have taken 10-12 treatments to see a reasonable response.

And of course there are some patients that do not respond as well as we would like. Sometimes I will recommend Chiropractic treatments, and for some this seems to help and be synergistic with the acupuncture, and for others I might suggest Homeopathy, massage, hydrotherapy, etc., or conventional medicine, either concurrently or instead of acupuncture and/or herbs (see below), depending on the situation and concerns.

Do you use herbs or other modalities?

Yes, I have taken several courses and seminars in Chinese Herbal medicine (and limited Western Herbal). And I routinely use herbs for many (not all) of my patients. Herbs and Herbal formulas can augment acupuncture effects, and can work to build body systems in ways that acupuncture may not as effective. Also, may herbs and formulas have anti-neoplastic activity, and can be helpful for cancers, and often synergistic with chemotherapy.

For all my patients, because of the importance of having “good building blocks” for the body to work with, I also require and perform Nutrition Response Testing™.

Should I stop seeing my regular veterinarian or give up on conventional medicine?

We do not suggest that alternative medicine is the end all or be all. There are many parts of conventional medicine for which acupuncuture has no equivalent, most notably – a variety of surgical procedures. In addition, labwork, radiographs (xrays), ultrasound, EKG’s, etc. all can give valuable insight into an animals condition for consideration with either alternative or conventional treatment. And we feel it is best to look at as many of the potentially viable options as possible in the search for the optimal treatment for your pet.

We suggest keeping your regular (conventional) veterinarian for services such as emergencies, vaccinations, testing and preventatives (although use of vaccinations and preventatives would likely be part of our discussions when you visit).