Is your pet looking, feeling or acting a little off? Pet parents know when there’s something wrong with their beloved fur babies but they may not always know how to help.
While it’s always a good idea to take Max or Misty to the vet when he or she is feeling under the whether, it’s an even better one to seek out a veterinarian that pulls out all the stops when it comes to providing care – and that includes holistic care.
That’s right, some veterinary offices will let you skip pills, in some cases, and instead let you opt for holistic treatment, either with standard care or by itself, depending on what’s wrong with the pet.
Curious as to how this ancient Chinese practice can help your pet? Dr. Bhupender Nath, the medical director at VCA Southland explains.
Acupuncture, a history
Acupuncture, which aims to stimulate certain points on the body with the insertion of small needles, has been practiced for some 2,500 years, according to Dr. Nath.
“(Acupuncture) is manipulating the needles at certain loci on channels thereby regulating or enhancing the flow of energy; the flow of chi(Qi),” says Dr, Nath, who will be certified in pet acupuncture in December. “I struggled initially with that sort of thought process, but with my own personal experiences I learned there’s more to the body and health than taking pills and being (full of) organs.”
Dr. Nath explains that those who are certified to perform acupuncture look at each patient as an individual entity and try to figure out the source of the health problems they may have. That approach gives more sustained results.
“If a person is very aggressive and controlling, most likely they will get blood pressure issues,” he says. “We try to analyze that and get to the root of the problem, rather than treating the symptoms by resetting the points in the body.”
And this kind of treatment is backed up by science and neurologists that have found correlations with neurological pathways and acupuncture points, Dr. Nath adds.
Treating with acupuncture
In humans, acupuncture is typically used to treat body aches and pains, among other conditions, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, but in pets, it can be used for more serious ailments.
As Dr. Nath explains, pets with chronic pain conditions, cancer, sports injuries and heart and renal failure are all candidates for acupuncture, as are those with long-term medical conditions, like diarrhea. It can be done on all types of pets, from birds to horses – though for now, Dr. Nath is sticking with dogs and cats.
“It promotes life quality if your pet can’t have surgery (age or other risk factors or personal choice) or harsh medications,” he says.
Acupuncture, and other holistic treatments, can also be used alongside standard veterinary treatments and medications to help alleviate pain or side effects of needed medication.
“Medicine and holistic medicine work in tandem,” Dr. Nath explains. “There are people that totally want a holistic approach, but it’s only a handful. Most try to do an integrated approach.”
In his experience, Dr. Nath says that acupuncture treatments tend to take longer and sometimes need to be done more often than standard treatments, but most pets take well to it. Oftentimes additional techniques like moxibustion, aquapuncture and electroacupuncture are utilized to have more sustained effect. Diet changes according to ailments, herb usage and therapeutic messages can also help alongside.
“The size of the needles are so small that they don’t even notice it much. They acknowledge that something is done but they don’t bite at it (or anything),” he says. “We put initial needles at the calming points and once you put those needles in, after a few minutes, they just relax and some may even go to sleep.”
Still, Dr. Nath admits that all pets are different and that pet parents should always talk to their doctor about treatment plans.
“I would say there are certain pets that may not like it, so I wouldn’t say it’s good for all,” he adds. “But it can be an amazing option for many pets and one pet parents should consider.”
Are you interested in starting your pet on pet acupuncture? Contact Dr. Nan at VCA Southland Animal Hospital for more details and to set up an appointment.