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Acupuncture is a big, complex topic. The goal here is to provide some basics about acupuncture philosophy and application for those who have never experienced acupuncture for themselves or considered it for their animals. For those who will not believe until they see, this could be a bit of a struggle for you. The fun part about working with animals is there is no placebo effect. It either works and you see visible changes or you don’t. Better yet (hang on to your hats) the absence of visible changes (to us) does not mean it isn’t there (working).

A Long Time Ago:

Acupuncture is one of the oldest healing modalities still used in modern times. It is uncertain as to exactly when or where the modality was developed but it is believed to have originated in China upwards of 5,000 years ago. Fun fact: the Ötzi iceman, determined to be about 5000 years old, has soot-laden tattoos correlating with known acupuncture points.

Believe It or Not:

Acupuncture has long been considered a mysterious healing modality. The philosophy is that the body’s life force energy known as Qi (pronounced chee) is accessible at certain points (acupuncture points) on the body. The points are laid out along energetic lines on the body called meridians. The meridians energetically correlate with and are named for major body organs and emotions. Needle placement at these points can be used to influence the Qi flow bringing energy where it is lacking and releasing energy where it is blocked. Proper energy flow brings the body back into balance and facilitates healing.

A Hard Left Turn:

For those who barely made it through the Qi discussion, you can now exhale. There is a growing body of scientific proof validating the neuroanatomic theory explaining acupuncture’s mechanism of action. The mechanical stimulus of local tissues via needling stimulates nervous electrical signals causing endorphin release from the brain and other tissues and pain relief in the body. Since the nervous system communicates with every cell in the body, a myriad of other balancing changes occur within the body as well. The energetic connection of meridians to body organs and emotions remains undefined. It is not clear how a small point on a toe can reveal information about the animal’s liver or emotional status.

Variety Is the Spice Of Life:

Acupuncture treatments vary considerably between practitioners, techniques, approaches and number of needles. An animal’s temperament (constitution) is often taken into consideration when developing a treatment approach. Some animals do well with a lot of needles, some can only tolerate (or only need) a few. Often electroacupuncture is employed to augment needle effects. Electroacupunture is the application of a gentle electric stimulation to the needles. Electroacupunture is often very relaxing for most animals and it is common to see an animal relax to the point of yawning or falling asleep.

The Finish Line:

Acupuncture is mostly painless, generally safe and readily accepted by most animals. Occasionally an animal


will find needling uncomfortable (or unacceptable) in which case other methods of working with the acupuncture points can be used. It is important to be flexible and recognize that animals often have a preference for a particular type of treatment modality that can vary with each treatment session. Generally 3-5 treatments are required to determine if acupuncture is yielding the desired results. Since most conditions we see in animals are chronic, longer–term treatment to work through the dis-ease symptoms are often needed.

Common large and small animal conditions that benefit from acupuncture therapy:



-Digestive problems

-Traumatic neck and back injuries

-Back/neck/disc pain

-Urinary/fecal incontinence

-Sinusitis/face/eye/ear problems

-Performance problems

-Muscular tension

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

- Albert Einstein

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