A lot of alternative medicine and treatment options are making their way into animal health, including massage, chiropractic, phytotherapy (medicinal plant therapy) and acupuncture. If you are used to modern medicine, you may wonder if these types of treatments can actually help your dog, or if they are just a waste of money. So, what about acupuncture – can it help my dog?
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been practiced in China for thousands of years. The practice involves using tiny needles that stimulate certain nerves, sending signals to the brain. Modern studies on acupuncture believe this is what causes the pain relief – the brain releases hormones that make the patient feel happy and they feel less pain. Others hypothesize that the pins reduce pro-inflammatory markers or proteins in the body, thus reducing inflammation and pain. Others say it can help nerves that have been damaged, by forcing the brain to send nerve growth factor to that area, and restore the nerves – this would be in a case of say chronic numbness or weakness, often in hands and feet of humans. In other words, scientists are not quite sure how it works or what all it can do.
What Can Acupuncture do for Your Dog?
So why would you want to try acupuncture for your dog? Just like us, dogs end up in pain throughout their life. Some even have chronic pain as they age such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, cancer, etc. Acupuncture can help alleviate chronic pain, as well as some other benefits, which along with modern medicine, can really treat your whole dog and make them much more comfortable.
1 – Pain Management
As mentioned, pain management is a big reason acupuncture is used on both humans and animals. Veterinarians often pair acupuncture with other drugs for treatment of pain, such as chemotherapy. Pain associated with osteoarthritis, ligament and tendon issues, including sport-related injuries, and spinal problems like disc disease, is often treated with acupuncture.
2 – Skin Issues
Some veterinarians have found acupuncture to help with allergic dermatitis or hot spots. It is believed that it does this by increasing circulation, which improves healing. And, since it also relieves pain and inflammation, your dog is less likely to keep licking and itching, which will also speed healing.
3 –Diarrhea and Nausea
Acupuncture has been known to help relieve nausea, which is often a side affect for strong drugs, such as chemotherapy and even some pain medications. It also increases blood flow, which often relieves nausea and can also help with diarrhea. Researchers believe it also may stimulate digestive secretions, which could help relieve diarrhea in dogs. In the same way, it may help with incontinence in older dogs.
4 – Anxiety
Some veterinarians have even used it for dogs that are anxious. Why? Well, remember acupuncture is thought to release all kinds of “feel good” hormones including endorphins and of course, this makes the patient feel better, relieving not just pain, but stress and anxiety.
Acupuncture is said to also remove metabolic wastes and toxins, making the body healthier in general.
As mentioned above, there are no conclusive studies on the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment. Part of the reason why is there is no way to have a control group with a placebo. Many veterinarians pair it with drugs, making it more difficult to tell what is really helping the animal – the drugs, the acupuncture, or the combination? However, since there are no known adverse side effects to it, if you have a dog that has not been responding to modern medicines or is fighting the side effects of those drugs, such as vomiting and diarrhea, it can’t hurt to explore acupuncture as a treatment option. Many swear it works wonders, so it might be worth at least discussing with your veterinarian. If you see a difference, keep at it, if not, well no harm will be done.