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What is Western Approach to Acupuncture and how does it work?

Acupuncture is the practice of inserting fine, solid needles into the body for pain relief or, in some cases, to help the body deal with other diseases. It works through the nervous system. The needles block the pain messages and encourage the brain and central nervous system to produce more of the body’s natural painkillers. In conditions that are not painful, acupuncture may help to reset body’s normal functioning. It stimulates nerves that do not cause the unpleasant feelings of pain. They stimulate other nerves that send a more important message to the brain, which is how they block pain. Sometimes animals may react to this sensation as though they are expecting pain, but then relax because it does not occur. Often they appear to look forward to the next treatment when they come back to have one. Acupuncture is very safe, in the right hands. Legally it must be performed by a certified veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse under supervision of a vet. 

When to use?

Pain is the most common indication for acupuncture. Usually this means pain associated with arthritis, but also muscle strains, pain secondary to disc disease and bony changes of the spine. Other kinds of pain may also respond. Functional conditions such as constipation in cats and irritable bowel type problems in dogs may also respond.

Contra Indication

  • Unexplained or undiagnosed medical or surgical conditions
  • Sepsis and overwhelming infections
  • Unexplained and/or unstable syncope or seizure
  • Damaged heart valves and endocarditis (esp. For electro acupuncture)
  • Immuno-compromised patients (animal undergoing cancer treatment, immunosuppressive patients)
  • Local contraindications – active infection and skin lesions, malignancy at the insertion sites

No strict contraindication however:

  • Bleeding disorders – the acupuncturist should be notified if such problem occurred, nevertheless, the acupuncture needles are thinner and much finer than routinely used needles and intravenous catheters  
  • Pregnancy –the acupuncturist should be informed if patient is pregnant as there are acupuncture points that are known to induce labour. 

What to expect from the first visit

After examination, needles will be put into various parts of the body and moved or stimulated a few times. There is not set ‘’dose’’ of acupuncture as there is for medication, so the vet will judge how much based on your pet’s response both at the time and after treatment. They may become sleepy and relaxed even during the treatment. At the first treatment session only small number of needles is used.


What is needed for acupuncture therapy

If it is possible the therapy will be done at your own home, stable or livery yard in case of horses, so the stress of the patient is down to minimum.

In dogs the therapy is done on the floor, with little dogs, cats, ferrets and other small creatures even on client’s lap. It is a good idea to have ready some mat or a blanket which the pet likes. The animal cannot get cold during the session. Quiet environment is necessary for performing the treatment to its best.

In horses it is preferred to do the session outside so the animal does not feel claustrophobic.

Check up and follow up procedure

It is not uncommon for pets to go home and sleep very soundly for a long time. This is a good sign and shows that your pet will probably respond well to acupuncture. But do not worry if they are not sleepy – this does not mean that they will not respond. Sometimes your pet may seem a little more euphoric than usual; this is also good sign, but keep them quiet for the rest of the day or they may overdo things. Otherwise treat your pet normally after acupuncture. Do not change exercise, diet or medication unless it has been discussed with your vet

The usual course is once a week for 4-6 weeks. After four weeks the vet will know whether acupuncture is working for your pet and then, depending on the condition and how they have responded, the work out plan will be discussed to maintain the effect of treatment for as long as possible.


It is very beneficial for the therapist to keep in touch with the owner and to be informed about the progress of the patient.   If the client is not sure we can always go through the recommended plan of action again and fit it to the patient. In more serious cases the therapy may take 6 month or more.




Electro acupuncture (EA) is defined as the passage of pulsed electrical current though the body tissues via one or more pairs of acupuncture needles for therapeutic purposes. EA is more potent than manual acupuncture and can be considered if manual acupuncture has had no effect in a patient after 3 treatments and the condition is one which should have responded to acupuncture; if the effect of manual treatment cannot be maintained beyond a week; if the conditions appears especially severe; assisting with post and pre-operative pain; drug addictions and for chronic pain management.