Is Acupuncture Right for Your Pet?

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by Michel Selmer, DVM, CVA

Acupuncture is a holistic approach to treat a variety of problems in humans. The pupbenefits do not stop there, however. Many animals, including pets, see therapeutic benefits from acupuncture—from pain to digestive problems to seizures and even more. Dogs and cats see the most benefit in gastrointestinal and neurological conditions. The veterinarian may suggest acupuncture as the primary form of treatment or it may be used in addition to other treatment methods.

Many pet owners will seek acupuncture treatments for their pets in addition to Western medicine. If a pet has a broken leg, it would be ideal to have the leg set and then utilize acupuncture afterward to promote healing and reduce pain. Veterinarians that specialize in acupuncture know how to integrate the holistic approach into the standard health plan for pets.

So, how does it work?

A certified veterinary acupuncturist will insert hair-thin needles into the skin at specific points around the body. It is virtually painless when done by an experienced certified veterinary acupuncturist. Inserting the needles is thought to correct imbalance and restore the flow of energy, called qi (pronounced chee) throughout the body.

According to “Acupuncture: An Ancient Treatment for a Current Problem,” by Paulo Zanardi, AP, Acupuncture is thought to operate by:

Release of opioid peptides. There has been considerable evidence to support that acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system, releasing these chemicals.

Alteration in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones. Acupuncture is said to activate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland and thereby alter secretion of these chemicals. Evidence has shown that acupuncture alters this secretion in a manner that reduces pain. Documentation has also shown that acupuncture positively affects immune functions in the body.

Stimulation of electromagnetic points on the body. The 2,000 points of the body that acupuncture focuses on are theorized to be strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals. Stimulation of these areas is believed to start the flow of endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers.

The release of these natural chemicals, which act like pain killers, will not only provide pain relief but will also result in relaxing and calming effects, causing a pet to feel good. Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine believes that where there is pain there is stagnation of blood and qi. Inserting the needles at specific points will directly help to provide a free flow of blood circulation and will also cause the release of these naturally occurring pain relievers and “feel good” chemicals, which will result in a pet experiencing a reduction in anxiety stemming from pain.

What does acupuncture treat?

There are a number of conditions in which acupuncture can be beneficial, including gastrointestinal issues; respiratory problems; neurological disorders, including epilepsy; musculoskeletal disorders; reproductive disorders; metabolic disorders; allergies; urinary disorders; and dermatological disorders.

Is acupuncture right for your pet?

Before considering acupuncture for your pet, you will want to be sure to consult with a certified veterinary acupuncturist; he/she can tell you what your pet’s prognosis will be. There are times when acupuncture should not be administered. Just because acupuncture can be beneficial does not mean that it is ideal for all pets. Pregnant pets should only receive acupuncture if they are prepared for labor, and specific acupuncture points will need to be avoided in the pregnant animal to avoid pregnancy complications and/or spontaneous abortion. Pets that currently have a diagnosed infection should be treated with antibiotics prior to acupuncture. If the degenerative disease is progressed immensely, acupuncture should only be utilized for symptomatic relief.

While it is not a cure-all, acupuncture can be just as beneficial to pets as to their human counterparts.

Dr. Michel Selmer is a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist and is currently pursuing a master’s degree to become a master practitioner of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. His practice, Advanced Animal Care Center, is located at 260 Evergreen Ave., South Huntington. For more information and to see if acupuncture is right for your pet, call 631-FOR-PETS (367-7387) or visit

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