From the Vet

Western veterinary medicine is great. Through advances in medicine, we have significantly extended the lifespans of our pets and management of certain conditions has moved into the mainstream. In any pet store, there are special diets aimed at caring for our senior family members, others for growing animals, and still others designed to sooth inflamed skin or calm a sensitive digestive system, whereas not so many years ago we typically had only one type of food for cats and one for dogs. Through regular vaccination programs the incidence of many veterinary diseases has dropped; few of us has ever encountered a dog with distemper since we vaccinate our pets from puppy- and kitten-hood and throughout their lives.

Still, there are times when Western veterinary medicine just doesn’t seem to work. The medication to ease the discomfort of an arthritic condition has side effects that upset the digestive system, and constant monitoring is needed to ensure that the drug does not damage the liver. And in spite of this, although the arthritis is eased, it doesn’t seem to be enough.

Or the pet that seems to be just a bit “off” – the appetite is down, the energy is low, but the tests all come back normal. There is no diagnosis, therefore there is no treatment. Frustrating for doctors, pets, and their owners all.

Acupuncture can help with these and many other conditions. It is not a cure-all; traditional veterinary medicine cannot heal broken bones or cure cancer. But it may be helpful in setting the body back in balance so that the medications for the arthritic condition may be reduced, the “not-quite-right” animal feels better, and even in conjunction with more familiar treatments for chronic illness such as heart disease and renal failure can increase the pet’s quality of life.

The veterinarian will begin with a physical examination much as would be done in a Western medicine setting, although there is a bit more emphasis on the color and appearance of the tongue and quality of the pulses. This information, combined with some information on the pet’s behavior and history, aids the practitioner in determining a TCVM (traditional Chinese veterinary medicine) diagnosis. It’s not voodoo, it’s simply a different way of thinking about the body- a way developed thousands of years ago before modern medical advances like blood counters and thermometers existed. And it’s a way of thinking that is still effective today. And it is a way of thinking about health and disease that is tailored to each individual animal.

Next the acupuncturist will insert some needles. These are hair-thin, only a little coarser than the hairs on the animal’s coat, and cause no discomfort. It’s a bit like being pinched or bitten by a tiny mosquito. Often animals will feel very relaxed and some even nap for a bit! After a brief period, the needles are removed and that’s it! Acupuncture takes time to work; most animals need at least three treatments before you will notice any significant improvement. But it does work; thousands of studies have demonstrated this.

For more information, check out this video.

To find out how acupuncture may help your pet, or to set up an appointment for other in-home veterinary services, contact me at (425) 395-4815 or email me at