Acupuncture may be defined as the insertion of needles into specific points on the body to cause a desired healing effect. It is generally believed that acupuncture originated in China over 3000 years ago. Modern veterinary acupuncture is used either by itself or in conjunction with Western medicine to treat a variety of ailments in domestic animals.
Dr. McCullough was certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) in 1998. IVAS is dedicated to promoting excellence in the practice of veterinary acupuncture through educational programs and an accreditation examination. Certification involves a five month course of study and rigorous written and practical examinations. It is Dr. McCullough's goal to integrate Western medicine with acupuncture, thus providing more treatment options for the patient.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: For which conditions is acupuncture indicated?
A: Acupuncture is indicated mainly for functional problems such a those that involve lameness, noninfectious inflammation (such as allergies), and pain. For small animals, the following are some of the general conditions which may be treated with acupuncture:
- Musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis or intervertebral disc pathology
- Skin problems, such as lick granulomas
- Respiratory problems, such as asthma
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea
- Geriatric conditions, such as deafness
In addition, acupuncture can be used on a regular basis to help dogs involved in athletic endeavors (such as agility, hunting, or showing) stay in top physical condition. World class professional athletes often use acupuncture as a routine part of their training
Q: How does acupuncture work?
A: According to ancient Chinese medical philosophy, disease is the result of an imbalance of energy in the body. Acupuncture is believed to balance this energy and, thereby, assist the body to heal disease.
In Western terms, acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself by affecting certain physiological changes. For example, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasm, and cause the release of hormones such as endorphins (one of the body's pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid). Although many of acupuncture's physiological effects have been studied, many more are still unknown. Further research must be done to discover all of acupuncture's effects and its proper uses in veterinary medicine.
Q: Is acupuncture painful?
A: For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. Once the needles are in place, there should be no pain. Most animals become very relaxed and may even become sleepy. Nevertheless, acupuncture treatment may cause some sensations (probably tingles, cramps, or numbness, which humans experience) which may be uncomfortable to some animals.
Q: Is acupuncture safe for animals?
A: Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals when it is administered by a properly trained veterinarian. Side effects of acupuncture are rare, but they do exist. Occasionally an animal's condition may seem worse for a day before it improves as a result of treatment. Other animals may become sleepy or lethargic for 24 hours after acupuncture. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the animal's condition.
Q: How long do the acupuncture treatments last, and how often are they given?
A: The length and frequency of acupuncture treatments depends on the condition of the patient and the method of stimulation that is used by the veterinary acupuncturist. Stimulation of an individual acupuncture point may take as little as 10 seconds or as much as 30 minutes. A simple acute problem, such as a sprain, may require only one treatment, whereas more severe or chronic ailments may need several or several dozen treatments. Some treatments, such as those for arthritis, may be given at intervals throughout a pet's life.
When multiple treatments are necessary, the patient often starts with 1-3 treatments per week for 4-6 weeks. A positive response is usually seen after the first to third treatment. Once a maximum positive response is achieved (usually after 4-8 treatments), treatments are tapered off so that the greatest amount of symptom free time elapses between them. Many animals with chronic conditions can taper off to 4-6 treatments per year.
Q: How should I choose an acupuncturist for my animals?
A: Your veterinary acupuncturist must be a licensed veterinarian. He or she should have formal training in the practice of acupuncture for animals, such as the training offered by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.