Veterinary Acupuncture is unique in many ways. One of the most conspicuous is that there is no possibility of a placebo effect. It would appear that the placebo effect is a major roadblock in the mindset of those who might consider acupuncture. The aspect of Veterinary Medicine that is reassuring in a sense is that what you see is what is there. There is no drug seeking behaviour, no faking an illness, no faking a lameness. If the animal doesn’t want to put weight on a leg, it is believable that there is pain there.
If an animal is acupunctured, the first session may be a surprise to the animal. Understandable. The animal is placed in a soft and comfortable position and place then asked to be still. Then, there is the new sensation of the needles being placed. Consider the amount of trust that we are asking of the animal. Anxiety is to be expected and treated with compassion and kindness. It takes as long as it takes for the animal to realize that this is OK and will not be painful. It is a delight to see the ‘old hand’ at acupuncture. They will assume the position of their own volition and wait for the needles. Then, they will very often fall fast asleep. Makes me smile. They doze through out the entire treatment (often snoring) and, the true ‘old hands’ sleep through the needle withdrawal and the doctor driving away.
The dog that, after a series of treatments, walks on a leg that he was just carrying previously is not reacting to a placebo. That aspect is absent in this paradigm. He doesn’t improve because he likes me.
When to Acupuncture
The system is set up such that the Veterinary Acupuncturist is trained first as a Western medical doctor. Training in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture happens only after the person has received the Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. Consequently, the Veterinary Acupuncturist is trained to look at the patient and determine which diagnostic modality and treatment will be most effective for what is this particular patient’s ailment.
Acupuncture will not fix an open fracture. That is a surgical problem. After surgery, acupuncture may be indicated to help reduce pain and reduce the amount of the more dangerous drugs in the cocktail it takes to keep the animal out of pain. It is a valid and recognized element in the mix that will keep the animal comfortable while recuperating.
The good news is that the certified Veterinary Acupuncturist will tell you when a problem is best served by acupuncture or western medicine, or a balance of both.