Acupuncture for Animals
Frequently Asked Questions
Kim Luikart, DVM, cVMA
Certified Veterinary Medical Acupuncturist
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points on the body via the insertion and manipulation of very small, sterile needles into the superficial tissues of the body. Each treatment is carefully tailored to your pet’s unique situation. Treatment plans are based on a thorough medical history review, careful physical examination and assessment of musculoskeletal and neurologic systems, as well as any additional diagnostics that may be required. Our practice incorporates the cutting edge of neuroscience to provide a treatment that is a powerful adjunct to other therapeutic modalities.
How does it work?
Acupuncture invokes neuromodulation by stimulating nerve endings and inducing local and distant changes in the body. Acupuncture enhances blood and lymph flow at the local level, relieves myofascial trigger points, modulates traffic in the spinal cord and peripheral nerves, causes release of anti-pain and anti-inflammatory molecules from the brain stem and local tissues, and improves balance between the sympathetic (stress response) and parasympathetic (rest response) nervous systems.
Anatomic and physiologic studies confirm the presence of specific “afferent” nerve endings at acupuncture points, which transport input to the peripheral nerves, associated spinal cord segments, and brain. This information is processed and endogenous regulation results in improved circulation and organ function, analgesia, muscle relaxation, and normalized immune function. Dr. Luikart and other medical acupuncturists study these connections and choose acupuncture sites according to the desired neuromodulatory effect.
Improved nerve function
Relaxation of muscles and fascia
Improved circulation and faster healing
Control of pain and inflammation
What types of conditions can you treat?
Nearly any medical condition can benefit from acupuncture. Some of the most common conditions treated include:
Neurologic injury (such as intervertebral disc disease)
Digestive disturbances (gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, colitis, diarrhea, constipation)
Allergies (itching, ear infections, chronic licking)
Urinary dysfunction (cystitis, incontinence)
Post operative/trauma recovery
Chronic pain (from injury, surgery, or other disease process)
In addition, many hospitalized pets can benefit from daily acupuncture treatment while in our hospital.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Most pets find their treatment enjoyable, or at least tolerable. Some pets even fall asleep during treatment. We try to maintain a relaxed and nonstressful environment as much as possible. Some pets however, may be very sensitive, and we never force treatments on any pet.
Are there any side effects?
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years as a safe treatment for many health problems. In the hands of an appropriately trained professional, acupuncture is very safe. On occasion, some pets may seem lethargic or even a little worse for a day or two after the first treatment. This usually passes and the pet feels much better.
What is a typical treatment like?
First Appointment: On your first visit, Dr. Luikart will book an entire hour to spend with you and your pet. This visit is very important, because every case is different and we need to thoroughly understand your pet’s specific situation.
Dr. Luikart will perform a complete physical examination, including a careful evaluation of your pet’s musculoskeletal and nervous systems. One of medical acupuncture’s main tenets is that appropriate treatment stems only from appropriate diagnosis. Therefore, Dr. Luikart may recommend further workup prior to setting a treatment program, which could include diagnostics such as bloodwork or radiographs.
Dr. Luikart is trained in osteopathic myofascial palpation and trigger point diagnosis. This helps to identify fascial restrictions and painful spots, directs attention to specific joints or body parts, and guides the selection of points for acupuncture treatment.
Finally, Dr. Luikart will proceed with needling. We often go very slow and easy on the first treatment since we do not want pets to find the treatment stressful. First treatments may only involve needling of 3 or 4 points, although this is highly variable. The success of treatment does not depend on the number of needles used. Often we may use adjunct therapy at this time such as laser or massage. The needles often stay in for 10-15 minutes, and we may incorporate electrical stimulation in some patients. Once the fascia has relaxed, and the tissues have responded, the needles may fall out on their own, or Dr. Luikart will remove them.
Follow up appointments: During subsequent appointments, various parts of the initial visit will be repeated, but normally follow up treatments will take about 30 minutes.
How many times do animals need to be treated?
Often 2-3 treatments lasting 20-30 minutes are given in the first 2 weeks, then the frequency is tapered to what is appropriate for each case. Depending on the type of illness, severity of symptoms, and overall health of the pet, this may be once weekly, once per month or two, or simply as needed.
Does acupuncture always help?
Not always. Like any treatment, we see a few miraculous cases and a few do not respond at all. The majority of pets will get some significant benefit. Acupuncture does not replace regular veterinary medicine and other treatment modalities, and we do encourage a thorough diagnostic workup prior to initiating treatment. Every animal is different and the benefits may increase over time. Acupuncture is a valuable adjunct tool for many problems and can often reduce dependency on more invasive or side effect prone treatments.
How much does acupuncture cost?
The initial consultation and treatment as described above is $180, and all follow up visits are $70.
Hospitalized patients are treated on a case by case basis and prices range from $45-65 per treatment.
Please call our hospital to schedule an appointment with Dr. Luikart or give us a call for more information.