What to Expect from a Pet Acupuncture Appointment
His owner, Christine Meginness of San Francisco, wanted to do everything she could to support him through his illness and any adverse reactions to the chemo. "Acupuncture creates a calm, almost spiritual space that allows Buster and I to escape from the clinical side of his treatments," says Meginness.
"Every time we go for his treatments, he literally strains at the end of his leash, trying to head down the hall to his doctor, Ella's room. His tail wags furiously when Ella even walks by him in the waiting room."
During acupuncture, tiny thin needles are placed in various points in the body to influence energy flow. Its main objectives are to relieve pain, to strengthen the immune system and to balance and harmonize bodily functions.
Acupuncture is used to relieve conditions such as arthritis, degenerative joint disease, kidney disease, and as adjunct therapy to ease the discomfort of cancer treatment.
Dr. Ella Woods, who holds a doctorate in acupuncture and oriental medicine (DAOM), typically spends 60 to 75 minutes with a patient during the first visit, including the acupuncture. Follow-up visits last from 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the patient. "A 140 lb. Maremma Sheepdog will retain needles 30 minutes or so, a 6 lb. Chihuahua only 10 minutes or so, " says Woods.
The most important part of the therapy, according to Woods, is getting her furry patients to relax. "While humans get to choose their doctors and have a say in their therapy, animals are brought by someone who loves them, sometimes against their will," she says.
Just as humans are often asked to sign a form called 'consent to treat,' Woods likes to give her animal patients a chance to consent to treatment. After the caregiver fills out an intake form, Woods sits on the floor with treats in her pockets, asking questions, getting to know the people and their animals. Woods asks that cats be left out of their carrier and dogs be let off leash, so that they can check out their surroundings and sniff all they want.
The pet usually decide that Woods is no threat and the treats convince him she is a friend. Woods touches the pet when his body language tells her it is okay to proceed. Once the animal has begun to trust her, Woods begins a gentle examination.
When it's time for treatment, Woods has the patient's person put their hands on both sides of the patient's face (i.e. holding the collar) while she inserts the needles and while the needles are retained, to prevent the animal from licking and accidentally ingesting a needle. "Usually once I have completed the point prescription and all needles are in, the patient gets very relaxed. Many even fall asleep."
Dr. Marc Siebert, owner and medical director of Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital in New York City, starts with one or two relaxation points. "If we can't use every point - maybe because of the way the pet is lying - we'll do the ones that are needed."
Siebert recommends once a week acupuncture treatments for four to six weeks. "If it's a very serious problem, twice a week," says Siebert. "After four weeks, they are spaced out more and if there's a flare-up, we do it more often."
Buster the Kerry Blue Terrier has exceeded expectations. "Once Buster hadn't eaten anything for several days, as his stomach was very upset due to a recent chemo treatment but after an acupuncture session with Ella, Buster's previously glazed-over eyes brightened up, and he stood up and immediately started accepting treats from Ella. He finished an entire bag of them!"