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Acupuncture: An Alternative Pain Relief for Pets?

By: Ghessica De LeonAcupuncture: An Alternative Pain Relief for Pets?

For some people, pets are considered as part of the family. There are those who would go to great lengths in order to make sure that their little furry, feathered, or scaled family member lives in utmost comfort. What could be worse than knowing that your pet is in pain?

For humans — that’s you and me — we deal with pain in a multitude of ways. Some take medication, others go to therapy, and there are those who turn to alternative forms of healthcare. The same deal doesn’t usually extend to pets, or does it?

One example of alternative pain relief is acupuncture: an ancient Chinese therapy method of inserting needles on to the skin of a patient at specific parts of the body for stimulation. According to the Continuing Education in Anaesthesia, Critical Care & Pain, acupuncture is used as a complement to an already existing therapy for chronic pain. Aside from this, the method has also been used in the treatment of several nervous system ailments such as spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, and even stroke.

The use of acupuncture as an alternative kind of medical treatment has mostly been reserved for humans, but do you know that this has also been used for animals?

As per the American Journal of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, acupuncture has been used to treat injured or ailing animals as far back as 2,000 years ago. Administering acupuncture makes use of different acupoints (specific parts in the body where needles are to be inserted) for reference, and humans differ in the number and positions of acupoints compared to, for example, a dog, cat, or horse.

The United States has already seen an approximate of 6% of its veterinarian population in the early part of the decade using acupuncture in their treatments. Patient feedback (i.e., pet owners) report a positive change in pets who have undergone acupuncture, the most significant change being pain relief unaided by medication. On our side of the pond, Dr. Ging Berdon from the University of the Philippines–Los Baños has concurred the use of the method as a supplement to actual treatment. Aside from pain relief, Dr. Berdon has cited that the method has been used for relieving nerves and disposition. Despite the stereotype of cats being fussy little furballs, a study by the American Veterinary Medical Association has concluded that they are actually tolerant of the acupuncture treatment. One specific study mentioned of a cat in chronic pain being unable to eat, but was able to do so after acupuncture sessions to stimulate appetite. In cattle care, a variant of the method known as aquapuncture (acupuncture with injection) has been used to assist in fertility treatments for dairy cows.

Despite acupuncture’s many benefits both in paper and in practice, it is not without its detractors. There are those who claim that it is an unconventional method of therapy and that there are not enough studies done to validate its use in the medical field. Acupoints, on the other hand, have been the subject of debates with regards to authenticity. The relief reported to be shown in pets after undergoing an acupuncture session has also been criticized to be a “placebo effect” in pet owners.

It is an oft-repeated statement when it comes to getting medical treatment to “seek a second opinion.” It may be a consultation with a different doctor, another set of medication, or taking a chance in alternatives. This rings true for both ailing humans and pets alike. Should you and your pet find yourselves in this situation, it is best to first seek the opinion of your trusted veterinarian and confirm the use of any type of treatment, be it standard or alternative.

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