Veterinary Acupuncture in Pacifica

Linda Mar Veterinary Hospital is pleased to offer veterinary acupuncture and herbal therapy with Angelique Cucaro, DVM, ABVP, who is a certified veterinary acupuncturist (CVA) through IVAS (International Veterinary Acupuncture Society). We believe that acupuncture used alone or in concert with Western veterinary medicine as an integrative approach which can yield significant improvements to the health of pets with a wide variety of acute and chronic medical conditions.

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What is veterinary acupuncture?

It is derived from the ancient art of human acupuncture and is
just one part of Chinese traditional medicine. Dating back to 11th century BCE, this medical treatment has been used on domestic animals in ancient China and in the 17th century, it was introduced to Europe.

Gradually, acupuncture has evolved into a sophisticated medical treatment, both in the United States and throughout the world and it has been applied to all animals with their own defined acupuncture points for the treatment of specific medical conditions.

How does disease occur?

According to Chinese medical theory, pain and/or illness is an indication that there is an invasion of disease-causing factors and/or a weakness or blockage of the energy that flows through the body. This energy, known as “Qi” (pronounced “chee”), is responsible for all of the body’s dynamic and resting functions and an imbalance of Qi results in disease.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture, along with herbal treatment and diet modifications, is used to re-balance the body’s Qi to restore health and prevent disease. It involves either the insertion of fine, disposable needles (a technique known as dry needling) or the injection of a small amount of sterile liquid- usually vitamin B12 or sometimes, Adequan (an injectable form of glucosamine). This technique is known as aquapuncture. Occasionally, a low level of electrical stimulation is applied to inserted needles to enhance their effect. This technique is known as electrostimulation.

Whether done by needles, liquid or electrical impulse, the goal is to stimulate specific points along the Qi pathways (known as meridians). These sites are used to treat certain conditions and this helps the body to eliminate obstructions and re-establish the normal flow of Qi. Note that for chronic conditions, it may have several (up to 5 – 6) sessions to see an improvement.

In Western terms, acupuncture helps the body heal itself by stimulating nerves, increasing blood circulation and causing the release of hormones such as endorphins (the body’s way to relieve pain).

Which conditions can be treated with acupuncture?

It can be used for a variety of problems but especially for managing pain and compromised function resulting from: musculoskeletal problems (arthritis, degenerative joint disease), neurological problems (mild disc compression on the spinal cord, resulting in weakness and/or pain), skin problems (lick granulomas, allergies), cardiac and respiratory problems (asthma, heart failure), gastrointestinal problems (vomiting, diarrhea, nausea) and some reproductive problems.

Note that acupuncture is usually used along with Western treatments for medical conditions but in some cases, acupuncture alone can be used. While it is useful as an adjuvant treatment, it is not meant to replace surgery, and there are conditions that only surgery can correct (ie. ruptured cruciate ligament, disc compression causing hind limb paralysis).

Is acupuncture painful to animals and is it safe?

Most animals tolerate acupuncture very well since the needles are small and thin. However, there can be some tingling or numbness associated with it, and some animals may react at the time of the needle insertion. When acupuncture is done by a properly trained veterinarian, the procedure is safe and side-effects are rare. Occasionally, some animals may temporarily (for about 1-2 days) be lethargic or experience a slight worsening of their condition before their condition improves.

Why may a change in diet be recommended?

In Chinese traditional medicine, an improper diet can be a important contributing component of a disease, and the institution of a proper diet can be part of treating a pet’s medical condition.

Why may Chinese herbs be prescribed?

Herbs are used to complement and complete acupuncture treatment. They support the natural processes of the body usually, without the negative side-effects that can occur with many conventional drugs. Note that herbal companies carefully screen their products for quality, and most of these herbs are grown and produced in the United States. Herbal prescriptions are not included in the acupuncture fee, but are generally modestly priced. Herbs can be purchased through Linda Mar Veterinary Hospital or through a convenient website that will ship and bill directly to the client. Kan Herb, based in Santa Cruz.

How long is the course of treatment?

The number of treatments used to treat a condition depends on the duration and the severity of the problem(s); the patient’s age, constitution and overall health. Acute (suddenly occurring) conditions are more likely to resolve with fewer treatments; more
chronic (longer lasting) conditions are more likely to require more treatments for resolution.

For humans, a course of treatment may involve 10-12 sessions. For pets, a positive response is usually seen after the 1st-3rd treatments, at weekly intervals but a maximum response may not be achieved until 4-8 sessions once a week or every other week intervals. Once a maximum response is seen, the treatments are tapered off in frequency. A maintenance schedule may vary from every 3-4 weeks to every 2-4 months, depending on the pet and the condition being treated.

What is involved in becoming a veterinary acupuncturist?

Since acupuncture is not found in the standard curriculum of most veterinary schools, to become a veterinary acupuncturist involves enrollment in formal training through courses, externships and case report presentations. The accreditation for certification as a veterinary acupuncturist can be achieved only through a few programs in the United States, amongst them, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) and the Chi Institute. For more information, their websites are IVAS www.ivas.org or the Chi Institute www.tcvm.com.

Acupuncture point for cats.
Acupuncture for dogs.