“If I would have recommended it for my own pet, why would I not offer it to my patients? It’s a great tool to help control pain, and other ailments in pets.” ~ Dr. Tasha Wilson

acupuncturecatIn 2016, my mom (Dr. Wilson) became certified in Medical Acupuncture at Colorado State University. This evidence-based modality allows her to provide adjunctive therapies to pet patients like me. I know the needles look a little frightening, but there’s no need to worry. It doesn’t hurt. I can barely even feel it! The needles are actually as thin as hair.

Sometimes I even fall asleep while she is giving me treatment because I am so relaxed. Plus, those little needles are very helpful for pets who have injuries and/or diseases that cause them pain.

What is Acupuncture?

So, you might be wondering, what is this strange treatment, called acupuncture? The “official” definition of acupuncture is that it is a therapeutic treatment method that involves the insertion of sterile needles to prevent and treat injuries and disease. But, how does it work? And, why would a pet like me need to have it? 

Traditional Vs. Western Acupuncture

Let me start by explaining the two main ways of using acupuncture:

  • Traditional / Chinese / Eastern Acupuncture

Acupuncture originated in China long, long ago. Traditional / Chinese / eastern acupuncture focuses on restoring a patient’s energy flow, called qi, but it is pronounced, “chee”. Here’s a more scientific explanation, according to John Hopkins Medicine

“Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe the human body has more than 2,000 acupuncture points connected by pathways or meridians. These pathways create an energy flow (Qi, pronounced “chee”) through the body that is responsible for overall health. Disruption of the energy flow can cause disease. By applying acupuncture to certain points, it is thought to improve the flow of Qi, thereby improving health.” 

  • Western / Medical Acupuncture 

Western/medical acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese acupuncture, but it is a more contemporary, evidence-based version of the practice. It uses our current knowledge of anatomy and physiology and how it relates the disease to establish the points used in treatment. With western/medical acupuncture, a diagnosis is established first, and acupuncture is used as one method of treatment.

Which is Better?

My mom says that neither practice is necessarily better than the other. She said that many practitioners use a combination of both when treating a patient. She cited an article from Mosher Health, which stated, “We need both western and Chinese medicine. The sooner we integrate both into a universal approach to healing and treatment, the healthier and wiser we will all be.” I agree!

What are Acupuncture Points?

Scientists and researchers say that acupuncture points can stimulate the central nervous system. As a result, chemicals are released into the body’s muscles, spinal cord, and brain, which is believed to restore the body’s natural healing abilities, helping to restore physical and emotional health. which helps to increase physical and emotional health. This is true for both humans and pets, like my BFF, Hazel, and I.

Each acupuncture point corresponds to a particular area of the body. So, if a dog like me is feeling pain in his/her foot, there is a spot on the body where, if one or more of those tiny needles is placed, it can help me (or you!) feel better.

When choosing points for acupuncture, my mom says she looks at the disease process and thinks, 

“What nerves and blood vessels go to that area, such as the hips, or to a specific organ? I want to increase blood flow, and decrease inflammation. What can I do to decrease the muscle tension in that area? What area can I target to counteract the heightened nerve response that is occurring right now?” 

Then, she targets the specific acupuncture points that work with those particular nerve pathways and with those specific blood vessels. Pretty cool, right?

How Does Acupuncture Help?

Acupuncture does many great things for your body – whether you’re a human, like my mom, or a pet, like me. 

  • It decreases pain. 

One of the most common uses of acupuncture is pain management. If your pet is experiencing pain due to surgery, injury, or chronic disease, your veterinarian may recommend acupuncture to help with the pain. Why? Because acupuncture helps to stimulate the natural production of substances in the body that decrease pain. 

For example, cytokines are proteins secreted by the immune system. Certain cytokines promote an inflammatory response, and acupuncture reduces the cytokines that increase inflammation. It also increases those that inhibit inflammation, activating a natural way the body can decrease pain, and helping to get the nervous system back on track.

When an animal like me has chronic pain, the nerves start becoming dysfunctional and don’t work as they should. When the nerves aren’t working properly, they can become “ramped up”, and even when the painful stimulus is gone, the animal may still feel the same amount of pain. Acupuncture helps to “unwind” the nervous system and release muscle tension, so the animal’s pain level is better controlled and the nervous system becomes “more normal”. 

For best results, my mom says acupuncture is often used in combination with other types of treatments to decrease pain in pets. 

  • It can help improve cartilage health.

Acupuncture helps to release various growth factors, including but not limited to ones that help cartilage become healthy again. There is a lot of data showing that once cartilage is dead (which can happen in joint disease), it will never be healthy again. However, my mom said there are more and more studies (like this one) showing that acupuncture can actually help with that. 

  • It helps to release anti-inflammatory substances in the body.

According to the following research study, Acupuncture can promote the release of anti-inflammatory and analgesic substances (opioid peptides, adenosine, dopamine, and endogenous Cannabinoids [7–9]) and inhibit the release of proinflammatory factors (5-hydroxytryptamine, histamine, substance P, nerve growth factor, CGRP, and TRPV1 [10–12]) to produce an *analgesic effect.” The word “analgesic” means “acting to relieve pain”, which further supports #1, above.

Again, acupuncture helps facilitate a natural way the body can heal itself.

  • It can help to heal the body in many ways.

Pets with arthritis, hip dysplasia, disc disease, and/or other nerve injuries can benefit greatly from acupuncture. It is often used after an injury is repaired and a pet is going through rehabilitation and helps to improve the healing process.

Acupuncture can also help pets with skin problems like allergic dermatitis and hot spots by increasing circulation in the affected areas, which helps to improve the healing process, and by reducing pain, which minimizes a pet’s tendency to over-groom or itch an affected area.

It can even help with gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and nausea, as increased blood circulation helps to regulate the digestive system. Acupuncture is also known to help animals with respiratory problems like asthma or allergies, due to its anti-inflammatory effects and immune system benefits.

When the body has a disease, such as kidney or heart disease, inflammation occurs as a result. This can cause these diseases to worsen. Acupuncture helps decrease the inflammation secondary to the disease, helping the organs function better. My mom has even seen kidney values decrease with acupuncture! See this study here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28422526/.

  • There are minimal – if any – side effects.

Dr. Tasha Wilson and DogAside from all of the wonderful things about acupuncture listed above, the thing that I love about acupuncture (and my mom does, too) is that the risk of side effects from properly administered acupuncture are extremely low. When done by a doctor like my mom, with the right training, certification, and experience, most pets won’t feel much at all. Sometimes I feel a tingling sensation, and other pets may feel a slight numbness in the area being treated, but that’s it!

There are many treatments out there for different symptoms, with potential side effects far worse than the initial cause for treatment. Acupuncture is really just about making four-legged creatures like us feel better.

Results & Treatment Length

Dr. Wilson (my mom) starts with a total of 6 sessions to start and then works with the pet parent to determine an ongoing treatment plan if that’s what you and your owner decide. If your pet has chronic problems, the initial frequency of sessions might be higher than others and may be needed for a longer period of time, while temporary or short-term pain or illnesses are likely to be resolved more quickly. It all depends on the pet and their particular symptoms and needs. 

According to Clinician’s Brief,

Patients that are likely to respond favorably to acupuncture usually do so within the first few treatments; however, at first the benefits may last only 1 to 2 days. The goal is to build a cumulative and longer-lasting effect by delivering frequent sessions at the outset. Once a satisfactory level of improvement occurs, the acupuncturist will usually increase the time interval between sessions to that which allows sustained improvement with the fewest treatments.”

Your First Appointment

At your first appointment, Dr. Wilson will discuss your pet’s history and the disease process with you. It’s important to provide her with as much information as possible about what supplements and medications you are taking, along with any past illnesses or injuries. She will also perform myofascial palpation, which helps her to assess trigger points and muscle tension, which she targets during treatment.

Acupuncture is science-based, and Dr. Wilson has read multiple case reports and scientific studies showing the benefits of acupuncture – from the microscopic changes to the changes owners see in their pets. She values integrative medicine. and focuses on the patient as a whole, treating not only the symptoms but the cause. Her end goal is always “making better tomorrows for your pet.”

Pets Dr. Wilson Has Helped

Jenkins A

Because acupuncture can do so many good things for pets like me, I get regular acupuncture treatments. My mom uses it as a preventative treatment for me. It also helps to decrease any muscle tension I get after I’ve been running around like crazy, doing acrobatics with my BFF, Hazel. Plus, it helps keep the cartilage healthy in my knees, which is especially important, since I had a TPLO operation, and my other knee is more prone to cruciate disease because of it.

But, I’m not the only one who has benefited from acupuncture. My mom helps tons of pets feel better. Here are a few of my four-legged friends she has helped:

 

Zoey

 

A dog who was paralyzed and now can walk!

>>Watch the Video (Part 1)

>>Watch the Video (Part 2)

 

Waldo

 

A cat with chronic arthritis that receives regular acupuncture for pain.

>>Read the Article on Fosters.com

 

 

Cooper

Cooper

 

 

 

 

A dog with bilateral cruciate disease who benefits from regular acupuncture and rehab.

>>Watch the Video

 

 

Schedule an acupuncture consultation with Dr. Wilson today, and get your pet’s tail wagging again!

 

Your Friends,

Jenkins & Hazel

>>Schedule a Consultation Today

Acupuncture benefits for Dogs
Dog receiving acupuncture with Dr. Tasha Wilson

Dr. Tasha Wilson treats a patient in her clinic with acupuncture.

Veterinary acupuncture for dogs (and other pets) is a therapeutic treatment method that involves the insertion of sterile needles. For humans, acupuncture is a fantastic alternative or complementary treatment to treat chronic pain. For pets, the benefits can span much further. In fact, acupuncture for dogs has been shown to improve blood circulation, assist in allergy treatment, help heal wounds, as well as prevent inflammatory diseases and chronic pain.

Many pet parents report that during and after acupuncture treatment, their four-legged friend is more content, mellow, as well as mobile. If you’re thinking about using alternative treatments to help your dog recover from an acute injury or a long-term health issue, here are 5 benefits of acupuncture that may help seal the deal.

  1. Gastrointestinal Relief: Acupuncture at Acupetvet has been shown to relieve GI issues in both dogs and cats with IBS and diarrhea.
  2. Faster Recovery from Herniated Disk: As pets age so does their spine. In the cases of a herniated disk, acupuncture points are placed based on their location to major spinal nerves of the body. Placing the needles at these locations allows the body to release endorphins, norepinephrine, and anti-inflammatory mediators and allows the body to heal itself naturally.[1]
  3. Relief from Lick Granulomas: Continuous licking or gnawing at the skin or “hot spot” can cause an irritating sore exposing superficial nerve endings. These lesions are often very difficult to heal. Along with traditional medicine, like antibiotics, acupuncture has been shown to speed the healing time for lick granuloma wounds.
  4. Increase In Appetite: For dogs with metabolic diseases like diabetes, kidney or liver failure, pancreatitis, Cushing’s disease, and Addison’s disease, acupuncture has been shown to decrease nausea leading to an increase in appetite.
  5. Decrease Trauma-Related Anxiety: For pets that have had a traumatic injury like a broken bone or ligament tear, using acupuncture before and after surgery or treatment can help reduce anxiety as well as pain.
  6. Relief from Cancer Side Effects: Seeing our beloved pets suffer from cancer is heartbreaking. The good news is acupuncture is shown to increase energy, and decrease nausea and loss of appetite so pets can live their best lives.

What To Expect During Acupuncture For Dogs:

Dr. Tasha Wilson will insert needles in specific areas of your dog’s body called acupuncture points. For most dogs, this is virtually painless and they don’t notice the needles going in. Dr. Wilson has treats on hand to keep younger dogs or nervous dogs occupied. Oftentimes, dogs become very relaxed and even fall asleep. Note that the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your dog is likely to be.

If we notice that your dog starts to experience pain or fear during an acupuncture session, we can discuss other options like laser therapy to help your dog feel more comfortable. Most often, once a dog realizes that acupuncture doesn’t hurt and that they feel better during and after a session, they’ll calm down and enjoy their treatment time with us.

Here is Jenkins enjoying his acupuncture session with Dr. Wilson:

Acupuncture Resources:

 

[1]: https://healingpawsfl.com/treat-intervertebral-disc-disease-dog/

Although the certification is officially for canine rehabilitation, I also offer feline rehabilitation, as well. I took a rehab therapy course through Canine Rehab Institute and I went to multiple classes in Colorado and Florida over the course of one year.

I learned about different ways to assess a patient for pain, by looking at their muscles and ligaments in their spine a little bit differently than I have before. I also learned different ways to evaluate pets for limping and strength, and how to evaluate flexibility tests and measurements to help determine progress after treatment has begun.

What is Canine Rehabilitation Therapy?

Canine Rehabilitation Therapy is a practice that “adapts human physical therapy techniques to increase function and mobility of joints and muscles in animals. Animal rehabilitation can reduce pain and enhance recovery from injury, surgery, degenerative diseases, age-related diseases, and obesity.”

Rehab therapy includes pain management as well. Neuromuscular stimulation, laser therapy, or acupuncture, plus joint mobilizations or “ massages” can help decrease inflammation and improve joint health.

Benefits of Canine (and Feline) Rehabilitation Therapy

I greatly enjoy treating pets with acupuncture and cold laser therapy. These modalities offer great pain control; however, once a pet’s pain level is controlled, it is good to slowly strengthen and condition them back to shape so they do not hurt themselves once they feel better.

That is what rehabilitation therapy provides. It also helps stimulate the nervous system- providing both musculoskeletal and neurological support. Some additional examples of the benefits of rehabilitation therapy include:

Pre and Post Surgery

Physical therapy is not only beneficial after surgery, but prior to surgery as well. Patients are typically undergoing surgery to fix an issue that is causing pain, and rehab therapy can help ease the pain a bit leading up to the surgery. After the surgery, it is necessary to ensure full recovery and to regain strength.

Neurological Issues

Rehab therapy can be extremely beneficial in neurological cases, by helping patients to increase nerve and muscle stimulation. It’s also a great way to help teach the body how to walk again, by reteaching the muscles, patterns of walking, and stimulating the nerves.

Geriatric Patients

Rehab therapy provides great mental stimulation for cats and dogs, and especially for older pets. Geriatric patients can benefit significantly from this type of therapy, as their comfort level typically improves after just one visit. I often give older pets heat, a massage, and stretch their muscles, which helps their posture and aids in pain control. 

Feline Rehabilitation Therapy

Felines can benefit from rehabilitation therapy, too. Rehab therapy is good for cats who may have had a stroke, or those with neurological diseases and/or back diseases. For example, a feline who is having a hard time learning how to walk again could benefit from this type of therapy.

 

There are so many benefits to canine and feline rehabilitation therapy. After learning how patients have benefited from rehab therapy, I felt strongly that this would help my patients continue to improve and have a better comfort level.

If you have a pet who has a cruciate injury or a different orthopedic condition and want more information rehabilitation therapy, get in touch with Dr. Wilson today!