Acupuncture is used in lots of ways in the veterinary world, usually as a form of pain relief. Here at Mainstone, we use Western Veterinary Acupuncture as opposed to Traditional Chinese Medicine. It involves the placing of very thin needles in the muscles (usually the back muscles) of dogs and cats. Acupuncture works by tricking the body into thinking that there's a new threat signal. The body then priorities the new, more important signal and down regulates other more chronic pain signals (often from muscle spasm or arthritis). Acupuncture also causes the release of natural anti-inflammatories which aid with pain relief and healing.
Acupuncture can be especially useful when treating chronic pain due to the phenomenon of pain wind up. This is where long-term pain can feel worse and worse over time without the actual cause getting worse. This is because the body becomes more efficient at sending pain signals and the brain perceives a greater level of pain. Acupuncture can be used to counteract this pain wind up by sending fast priority signals to distract the brain and block the chronic pain. This effect is cumulative, so after each acupuncture session, the effect can become more pronounced and the patient experiences lower levels of pain.
The needles used are very thin, flexible and solid. Acupuncture is not usually painful to animals and they rarely need sedation. Some animals anticipate pain but most relax when this doesn't happen. In most circumstances, owners can stay with their pets and reassure them throughout.
The usual course is once a week for 4-6 weeks. After 4 weeks we will reassess whether acupuncture is working for your pet and how best to space out future appointments.
After treatment some animals will seem a little stiff or more tired than usual. This is normal and should settle within a day or two. Most owners report an initial improvement in their animal's chronic pain 2-3 days after treatment. Some animals (and people) are not strong responders to acupuncture. If your pet has not shown an improvement after 4 sessions, then we may discuss alternative methods of pain relief with you.
Acupuncture costs £63 per session and usually lasts 20-30 minutes. Acupuncture treatment is covered by some insurance companies but this should be discussed with your insurer directly and may incur an additional excess.
Acupuncture can be an invaluable tool for the treatment of chronic pain, especially in animals where drug therapy is not ideal. Please feel free to call the surgery for more information and to discuss whether your pet may benefit from an appointment with our vet acupuncturist.