Vets Use Acupuncture On Animals: Does It Help?

Anyone who is a true animal lover knows that a pet can be one of the family, and their health and comfort becomes a priority to many pet owners. Some animals, such as racehorses, also have a lot of money invested in them to keep them healthy and functioning and top speed. Yet like medical treatment for humans, western medicine sometimes does not have the answer or the relief that for the animal, at least not in a way that satisfies the owner of the animal. That’s where a more holistic approach is being seen in veterinary care, such as eastern medicine like acupuncture and acupressure. Veterinarian Jose Castro uses it now with regularity, most recently on Tiger the horse, who had been experiencing apparent back pain for some time. After the third visit to Castro and nothing seemed to be helping, he turned to the ancient practice of acupuncture.

“I know, obviously, something is happening if they keep coming for acupuncture, it seems to be working. If after the third treatment I’m not getting the improvement, the results I expect, I’ll reassess. But most horses respond, and I do see a lot of benefits. The amount of articles that are being published (about veterinary acupuncture) are staggering.”

In fact, peer-reviewed scientific journals report that there are 167 possible acupuncture sites on a horse that may be of benefit for common equine maladies such as back or neck or leg pain, to control pain from chronic problems, to increase muscle tone, or even to treat an animal that seems depressed or has behavior issues on occasion. Castro generally only treats horses, but has treated a pig and a bull with acupuncture, both successfully, he says.

The basic belief about all acupuncture (including for human subjects) is that the needles stimulate points on channels through which life “energy” flows, and that acupuncture can unblock the channels and bring that energy back “in balance.” In Chinese medicine, everything relates to life energy balance, and veterinarians believe this holds true for animals as well.

Other veterinarians are treating smaller animal with success. Dr. Mili Bass treats dogs, cats, and the occasional bird with acupuncture.

“I definitely have clients who are skeptics – they usually come as a last resort. They usually end up being convinced of their dog’s or cat’s response.”

According to Knoxnews, Bass became interested in acupuncture on animals after she saw the dramatic effect it had on her mother as a human subject. Although it doesn’t work on every animal, Bass says she notices a pattern with most animals. While there are animals who will immediately improve (which sometimes includes going to sleep) during a session, “gradually relaxing” is more likely to happen, Bass said. After years of practice, she said, she’s become able to detect minute reactions during a treatment session, and is able to judge if the treatment is working for the animal.

[Photo by Knoxnews]