Acupuncture for dogs

Published on: 26 Aug 2016

Otis the dog

Otis has a wonderful personality – he charges through life full of enthusiasm. It led him into trouble when he didn’t see a chest-height metal fence whilst running full tilt and barrelled into it – ouch! Six months later he was still pretty miserable despite painkillers and hydrotherapy and his owner was missing that ebullient personality and fed up of restricting his exercise to lead-walking.
I had recently completed the ABVA course in acupuncture at Bristol University and was keen to find patients to treat. Acupuncture is an ancient art but is also increasingly accepted as part of modern medicine, as the ability to perform MRI brain scans starts to explain some of the observed effects. It involves placing very slim sterile needles into specific points, often corresponding to places where bundles of nerves, connective tissue and blood vessels come close to the surface of the body.  Stimulating these points can improve blood flow, relax painful tense muscles and provide long lasting pain relief.
I became interested in acupuncture several years ago when searching for something to help my own old dog, Chloe, who had a tumour at the base of her brain affecting the nerves and muscles in her face. Neuralgia (nerve pain) is very difficult to treat and often responds poorly to conventional painkillers.
I took Chloe to the SMART clinic in Cardiff, which specialises in rehabilitation, and she was treated with four tiny needles, three in her face and one in her front leg. I was sceptical, but she got better. I learned to place her needles myself, and she continued to ‘do better’ for another 2 years, lopsided but happy.
Otis had pain when stretching his front legs forward, restricting the movement of his shoulder joints and making him lame. The muscles of his chest were tender and painful.  He had a 20 minute treatment with needles placed around his shoulder region and into the muscles across the front of his chest. Despite being a bouncy dog he tolerated the needles very well.
Many animals become drowsy during treatment, but not Otis! After the first treatment his owner noticed he could flop down onto his belly rather than easing himself down. After another couple of weekly treatments he was able to fully extend his shoulders, roll onto his back, run and swim as he used to do.
Acupuncture is most often used in veterinary medicine to treat chronic pain, particularly that caused by arthritis, but it can also be useful for lots of conditions affecting other parts of the body, and it’s not just for dogs (the SMART clinic recently used acupuncture successfully to treat a lame elephant) If you have a pet that you think might benefit, please phone and ask to speak to Jenny Rawling at Avenue.

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