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An Introduction to Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a healing art that originated in China over 4000 years ago.  It is the practice of inserting very small, sterile needles into specific points on the surface of the body.  Needling these points manipulates the flow of energy (Qi) which runs through the body.  Disease occurs when the flow of Qi is deficient, obstructed, or unbalanced.  Using acupuncture to restore proper energy flow can balance the body and help the body heal itself.

Modern Western medicine has improved the length and quality of life for our pets.  However, it often fails with stubborn long-term or recurrent illnesses.  Western drugs and medication can also induce uncomfortable or dangerous side effects, particularly in older animals.  Acupuncture and herbal therapies offer an alternative path to wellness.  It can be helpful for animals whose chronic illnesses have not responded adequately to conventional medical treatments.  Acupuncture and holistic therapies can be safely used together with most Western medications and treatments.  These complimentary therapies can often improve quality of life and help reduce the amount of drugs needed to control chronic disease conditions such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, renal failure, and chronic skin conditions to name a few.

The Philosophy of How Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture differs from traditional Western medicine by focusing on treating the root cause of disease rather than only alleviating its symptoms.  Using acupuncture to resolve unbalanced energy can be essential for preventing the body from drifting back into repeated patterns of illness, as well as preventing future tendencies towards illness.


In Western terms, acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself by affecting certain physiological changes.  It is well documented that acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, block pain transmission, relieve muscle spasms, and cause the release of many hormones and neurotransmitters including endorphins (the body's natural painkillers) and cortisol (a natural steroid).  The exact mechanism of how it works is still unknown, but continuing research will help to further illuminate acupuncture's effects and proper use in veterinary medicine.

Conditions That Can Be Treated with Acupuncture

In veterinary medicine, acupuncture has been used as a successful complementary treatment for many disorders involving pain (such as arthritis or back/spine diseases), paralysis, and non-infectious inflammation (such as allergies or immune problems).  It can also be used to treat respiratory diseases (such as asthma), gastrointestinal diseases (such as vomiting and diarrhea), urogenital problems (such as recurrent bladder problems or kidney failure), cardiovascular, behavioral, and skin disorders.  In human medicine, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a comprehensive peer-reviewed study of the effectiveness of acupuncture. See pages 33-37 in the WHO report to see a list of medical conditions that were found to be responsive to acupuncture.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals when it is administered by a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist.  It is a natural alternative therapy that uses the body's healing mechanisms to manage the disease process.  Acupuncture has a very low incidence of side effects.  In some rare cases, an animal's condition can be temporarily worsened for 24-48 hours after a treatment.  Other patients may be tired or sleepy for a day after treatment.  However, both of these effects are typically followed by an overall improvement in the animal's condition.  Acupuncture is generally painless.  Your pet may only feel the acupuncture needle as it goes through the skin, if at all.  Many animals relax and may even fall asleep with their needles in place.  The main disadvantage of acupuncture is a misunderstanding of what to expect from its use: the belief that there will be an instant and miraculous improvement, that all problems can be treated with acupuncture, and that the animal will only need one treatment.  Although the response to acupuncture can often be amazing, generally a course of treatment is needed.

Treatment Schedules and What to Expect

The response to acupuncture is individual and the effects are cumulative.  Although some conditions can be resolved with one or two treatments, most require a course of treatment based upon your pet's needs.  In general, acupuncture is given once to twice a week for approximately 3-6 treatments, and then the sessions are reduced in frequency and tapered to the minimum number needed to keep the condition controlled.  Pets with chronic conditions often receive acupuncture three to four times a year for maintenance.  Please allow approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours for the first acupuncture examination and treatment.  At this visit Dr. Dossey will perform a thorough medical history, and both a Western and a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) physical examination.  If your veterinarian has referred you to Dr. Dossey for acupuncture treatment, we request that you have a copy of the medical records faxed to us in advance so that they can be reviewed prior to your appointment.  Follow-up acupuncture treatment appointments take approximately 30-45 minutes.

Meet our Acupuncture Doctor

Dr. Dossey is a graduate of U.C. Davis, earning a Bachelor's Degree in Biochemistry, a Masters Degree in Animal Physiology, and then a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1990.  She continues to expand her veterinary knowledge and abilities, and thinks of herself as a "lifetime student".

Dr. Dossey has been treating patients at Town & Country Veterinary Hospital since 1995.  After over 18 years of veterinary practice she embarked on the study of holistic medicine to help provide different healing options for her pet patients.  She found that alternative therapies such as herbs and acupuncture often provided safer and more effective relief for her older patients, and for some common chronic disease conditions such as kidney failure in cats, arthritis, recurring intestinal problems, side-effects of cancer, and allergies.

Dr. Dossey is certified in Veterinary Acupuncture through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS), and received her Chinese Herbal Medicine degree through the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), to give her patients the best that all worlds have to offer.