Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine where small needles are inserted into specific points along meridians on the body to enhance blood circulation, stimulate the nervous system, and release hormones that reduce inflammation and pain. It can help with arthritis, back and neck pain, seizures, liver and kidney disease, ligament strains, and even allergies.
My first experience with acupuncture was 20 years ago when I came down with an episode of Bell’s palsy. Bell’s palsy is a form of temporary facial paralysis where the nerve that controls the facial muscles swells, resulting in facial weakness or paralysis. Most scientists believe that it stems from a viral infection. By the time I went to see my doctor, I was told that it was too late for me to get a steroid shot that might have helped. He also wouldn’t be able to tell me just how long this episode would last. Yikes!!!! I was just at the beginning of my relationship with my now-husband, and being introduced to his friends continually with my lopsided face was something that I can only find the humor in now. Out of desperation I turned to acupuncture, and truly credit it for my speedy recovery. Then, several years later, after several failed IVF treatments, I once again gave acupuncture a stab and definitely believe it contributed to a successful pregnancy. So let’s just say, I’m a believer!
Several years ago, our sweet little pound cake of a senior dog, Barkly, suffered a herniated disk. His appetite had greatly diminished and he wasn’t feeling himself. When performed by a trained veterinary acupuncturist, acupuncture it is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals. We set up a visit with our beloved doggy acupuncturist, Dr. Steve Chiros of East Meets West Veterinary Care in New York City. Dr. Chiros treated Barkly back to his old self in no time, and Barkly really enjoyed his sessions. My kids were present for the treatments, and after seeing how relaxed Barkly was, they were game to try acupuncture for themselves as well.
Living outside of the city a few years down the road (and with a few more additions to the family), I found myself turning to animal acupuncture once again — this time for my senior pig, Pugsley; my three-legged dog, Dipper; and once more for Barkly, who had been diagnosed with cancer. We called on the help of oncologist and veterinary acupuncturist Dr. Kendra Pope.
Pugsley is a potbellied pig whom we estimate to be around 9 years old. He is a very gentle soul who loves belly rubs and naps. Before being rescued, he experienced a lot of trauma, and he’s been known to startle easily. In his old age, Pugsley has developed arthritis, which can make getting up and walking around difficult, slow, and painful. Our local vet recommended acupuncture to help relieve Pugsley’s pain. Just weeks after beginning his treatments, we were able to reduce his dose of pain medication, and all who know him have noticed a remarkable improvement in both his mobility and his overall sociability.
Dipper, our 4-year-old tripod, had a fractured leg when he was found as a stray at 6 months old. His fracture was too severe to repair, and the vet felt that amputating the leg would be Dipper’s best chance at a happy life. Since adopting him, we’ve done what we can to help his remaining three legs feel strong enough to carry his weight as he grows. In addition to physical therapy, acupuncture has helped Dipper with his strained muscles.
Barkly was diagnosed with a brain tumor early last year. His tumor has since shrunk in size, and he could possibly be in remission. Knowing how helpful acupuncture had been for Barkly in the past, his oncologist recommended more sessions to help decrease his nausea and lethargy and to help with his overall wellness.
All three animals began acupuncture treatment with Dr. Pope once a week for the first few weeks, and have since gone down to one session every other week. During these sessions, our animals lay comfortably on a padded mat as they relax to their favorite Pandora radio station, Ray LaMontagne. The insertion of the tiny needles is virtually painless, and the treatment helps them all relax, sometimes to the point of taking a nap! The improvements in Pugsley, Dipper, and Barkly’s conditions are undeniable. Our gang truly loves their acupuncture sessions with Dr. Pope. Not to be left out of the fun, we’ve also started acupuncture treatment for our horses with Dr. Penny Rochelle.
If you would like to find a licensed veterinary acupuncturist for your animal friend, The Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine provides a directory and database, which can be accessed at tcvm.com.