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Pets get aches, pains and anxiety just like the rest of us. To help furry friends feel better, some pet owners are turning to veterinary acupuncture.
This traditional Chinese health practice is similar to the treatment lots of humans seek out: thin needles are inserted into muscles, tendons and other parts of the body to enhance blood circulation, stimulate the nervous system and release anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving hormones.
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Pet acupuncture can be used to treat a host of issues, from joint pain to age-related appetite loss and separation anxiety — something many pets are grappling with as owners trickle back to office work instead of hanging out at home.
Acupuncture is also helpful “with conditions that Western medicine has had limited success with, especially organ disease, neurological problems, quality-of-life improvement for cancer patients or chronic pain issues, to name a few,” says veterinarian Fredric Schlesinger, 66, who practices acupuncture on pets in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A practice growing in popularity
Veterinary acupuncture has a long history. Acupuncture in general predates written records, but it’s believed to have originated in China during the Stone Age, with sharpened stones and bones used as instruments for puncturing and draining abscesses, according to the article “A Brief History of Acupuncture,” published in Rheumatology.
In 1939, with the publication of his book L’Acuponcture Chinoise about acupuncture as a cure for cholera, George Soulié de Morant ignited interest in the practice that continues today.
Veterinary acupuncture reportedly started during the Zang and Chow dynasties, around 3000-2000 B.C., when “horse priests” were caretakers of the Chinese army’s horses, the article notes.
In modern times, it “is definitely becoming more popular,” says Lori Bidwell, 50, a veterinarian in Lexington, Kentucky, and president of the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture. Membership in the AAVA has quadrupled over the past two decades and continues to grow steadily. “It was difficult to find someone to do acupuncture on horses or pets just 10 years ago. Now, there are options in most areas.”