What is dog acupuncture?

Dog acupuncture involves using very tiny, thin, solid needles to target different points on the body to help treat different disease processes.

Dr. Ingrid Rhinehart
Briar Patch Veterinary Hospital

Is there more than one type of dog acupuncture?

There are multiple types, actually. Most often, people think of traditional acupuncture, which is just placing the needles and allowing them to sit and do their job for 10 or 15 minutes, but we can also do aqua-acupuncture, where we inject a small amount of liquid into that site. That's especially helpful for wiggly patients who don't want to sit still. We can also do a type of acupuncture with a laser if we have a patient who really doesn't want to have injections or needles.

What is moxibustion, and why is it considered part of acupuncture therapy?

That's an interesting question. Moxibustion is the effect of using heat around needles that are already placed in the skin, allowing that heat to transmit through the needle into the body.

How does the use of acupuncture impact the health and well-being of your dog?

We talk about acupuncture for maintaining wellness, and we also talk about acupuncture for treating disease. We're using the body's natural healing process, the natural energy in the body to help that animal process what's going on with it or heal itself or maintain that normal energy.

What is it that it is specifically doing to allow the animal's own energy to heal itself?

Acupuncture points are located at the junctions of blood vessels, nerves, and lymphatics, which is another fluid system in the body. We can help trigger those systems or the cells that are around those systems to help move that fluid or to help guide the body to where there's inflammation and to help signal. We're targeting signals, and we're also targeting those locations that have input from the different body systems.

How old does your dog need to be to receive acupuncture?

The great thing about acupuncture is there's no age limit, no lower or higher age limit. It's really about the patient, what the patient needs, and what the patient will tolerate. So we can start with young puppies, which is more of a maintenance procedure or promoting a healthy lifestyle and healthy movement. We also treat much older patients, in particular.

What are some conditions that would benefit your dog by receiving acupuncture treatments?

When we think about treating our patients with acupuncture, the most common things that people think about are muscle and joint diseases like lameness. We treat a lot of dogs with cruciate tears or dogs with spinal problems and disc disease. We can also treat things like skin diseases and allergies, or even respiratory diseases, all kinds of things. It is a matter of deciding the right points to treat those different systems in the body.

Would that include things like arthritis?

Absolutely. Arthritis is probably the thing I treat the most with acupuncture. That's often why people come to me to have some acupuncture treatment, and through that treatment, we usually find other things that we can help at the same time. Triggering those points can allow the body to help target those locations. Once we get things moving, we all know that just getting the body moving helps with arthritis, but if we can also get those pathways moving, that will help even more.

Would acupuncture complement my dog's current treatments?

The answer is it almost always will, but the degree to which your dog's current treatments will be aided by acupuncture depends on the treatment or the illness we're targeting. Talking to your acupuncture-trained veterinarian is the best way to decide if that's a worthwhile treatment modality to move forward with.

How can dog acupuncture be integrated with western medicine?

Absolutely, that's the way I practice acupuncture almost always. There's no reason not to use western pain medication in addition to our acupuncture to make that patient feel better.

How will a veterinarian determine if acupuncture is right for my dog?

The veterinarian will look at your dog and talk to you about what's going on with your dog and maybe even do some extra diagnostic things. In Chinese medicine, we make some extra manipulations and tongue and pulse diagnosis when we look at all of those things, and we combine that with our understanding of the dog's constitution and personality to decide if they will be receptive to the acupuncture treatment. Then we can kind of talk about how appropriate it is for that patient.

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