Acupuncture originated in ancient China to treat a variety of diseases. It is an alternative medicine that treats patients by inserting fine needles into very specific points in the body. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the belief that the body is regulated by Qi. Qi is an energy-like entity which flows through the body, and disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease. Meridians are channels that run over the whole body and are used to map the flow of the Qi. Along the meridians are specific acupuncture points that are used to place needles. Acupuncture stimulates these points with the aim to correct imbalances in the flow of Qi by thin needles penetrating the skin. The principal of acupuncture in traditional Chinese medicine is based on a holistic approach of correcting the equilibrium of the body, in other words the whole body is addressed rather than just the problem area. According to western research, the insertion of needles during acupuncture releases endorphins which are endogenous opioids, the body’s own natural pain killers.

However, acupuncture is not just used for pain relief. The act of inserting needles into specific points in the body results in the release of other hormones as well. Hormones are chemical messengers that help control the finely tuned homeostasis of the body. The release of hormones can have a normalizing effect on the hypothalamus and autonomic nervous system, which can result in improvement of the health of the body. The effect of acupuncture can also be segmental. This means that nerves, muscles and acupuncture points in the same spinal cord segment as the painful area are targeted with needles. This causes the brain and spinal cord to release natural pain relieving chemicals, such as endorphins and serotonin, which results in generalised pain relief. Acupuncture can alleviate pain and allows the body to restore itself to its natural state. The needles are placed into trigger points and specific meridian points related to the problem areas that are the reason for the animals discomfort. It is predominantly used in the treatment of musculo-skeletal disorders and in chronic pain. There are very few side effects from acupuncture when practiced by a fully qualified practitioner. According to legislation, only qualified veterinary surgeons are allowed to perform acupuncture on pets. Any minor side effects such as bruising at the needle site are mild and self-correcting. If orthodox treatments are not having the desired effect they can be combined with acupuncture. Also, if the side effects of orthodox treatment prohibit their use in the patient, acupuncture can be used, especially in chronic disease. On average ten to twenty needles will be used per treatment session. This is repeated on a weekly basis for four to six weeks depending on the animal’s response to the therapy. Once the animal’s symptoms have improved, the intervals between the sessions will increase according to the animal’s needs. Some animals may need maintenance sessions on a monthly to two monthly basis. Some animals can be signed off with only the occasional top up session as required.

Most common conditions that respond well to acupuncture are:
· Osteoarthritis
· Acute pain (ie back pain)
· Chronic pain (ie hip dysplasia)
· Certain skin conditions (ie lick granuloma)
· Certain bladder problems (ie idiopathic cystitis)

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