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Acupuncture For Pets

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  • 1. Acupuncture For PetsDr. Allison Mhoon received her DVM from the University ofFlorida and began practicing with CareFirst Animal Hospitals in2007. In 2008 she went back to UF to receive her Certification inVeterinary Acupuncture. She travels to each of the fourhospitals to perform acupuncture on dogs and cats.What is acupuncture for animals?Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine and, likeits use in human medicine, it is used with animals to stimulateimmune function, improve pain relief, boost overall stamina,and improve body homeostasis. In acupuncture, we use verythin needles to stimulate specific points on the body (calledacupoints). These acupoints are special because they containlots of free nerve endings and immune cells, as well as bloodvessels.I’m not sure I buy into the idea of needles in my pet, how does
  • 2. traditional Chinese veterinary medicine fit into Westernmedical views?Great question! There definitely is a scientific reason for whyacupuncture works. The tiny prick evokes a cascade ofreactions. At a local level, the prick stimulates immune cells torelease histamine and heparin. This improves the blood flow tothe area, which is great because improved blood flow meansmore immune cells and more healing. The prick also stimulatesthe free nerve endings. Now, there are different types of nerves- thin and fast sensory nerves versus thick and slow pain nerves.The prick stimulates more thin sensory nerves which, in result,blocks the thick pain nerves (like when you rub your bangedknee to make it feel better). So, if a dog has painful hips andreceives local acupuncture there, the dull pain will be blocked.Additionally, the nerves stimulate signals in the spinal cord andbrain for endorphins, enkephalins, and seratonin to release,which function in systemic pain relief. Lastly, the brain signalsthe pituitary gland to activate hormones that function as anti-inflammatories and in homeostasis control.How did you become interested and trained in acupuncture?I was pretty skeptical of acupuncture growing up. I didn’t knowmuch about it and just figured it was a placebo effect. My first
  • 3. exposure to veterinary acupuncture was during college. I rodealong with an equine veterinarian who also practicedacupuncture. She worked on a horse that had an obviouslameness, and after the acupuncture session, the horse had anormal gait. Talk about getting my attention! I then went to vetschool at the University of Florida. UF is fortunate to have anacupuncture service in the hospital, as well as the Chi Instituteof Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine nearby. I wasexposed to several cases during my neurology and orthopedicrotations. One particular patient of mine stood out. He was aparalyzed Chow who had an unsuccessful surgery to removecompressed disc material. He was anxious, painful, could noturinate, and was just miserable! Within 15 minutes into theacupuncture session, he was calm and resting. It was the firsttime in almost 2 weeks he had been able to do so. Within 2weeks after the session he was urinating on his own, and withina month he was walking. Acupuncture helped him heal whenour regular Western medications and therapies wereunsuccessful. I decided then that I wanted to utilizeacupuncture for my patients. After joining CareFirst AnimalHospitals, I went back to Florida to study at the Chi Instituteand became certified in small animal acupuncture.What ailments have you had the most success with usingacupuncture as a treatment?
  • 4. Intervertebral disc disease, Wobbler’s disease, and hipdysplasia. I have ~ 80% success rate for improved function andpain relief with these patients. Other conditions that typicallyrespond well are: degenerative joint disease, inflammatorybowel disease, as well as post-operative orthopedic pain andlow stamina after chemotherapy or radiation treatments.Acupuncture may also be used to treat allergies, chronic renalfailure, megacolon, chronic urinary infections, urinary or stoolincontinence, heart disease, and anxiety conditions.How does an acupuncture treatment schedule work? Is itexpensive?It depends on the patient and his/her health. Young pets withan acute condition usually only need acupuncture for a shorttime. For example, I saw a young cat with femoral nerveparalysis after getting stuck in a tree. She only needed 3treatments - each 1-2 weeks apart. However, a senior pet withmany conditions will respond slower and will need moresessions. Since acupuncture has an accumulative effect, westart out on a weekly basis. Typically by the 3rd session, we cantell a pattern and can discuss spacing out the appointmentsmore. Often pet owners can tell when the acupuncture benefitsare "wearing off," which is helpful in determining the frequency
  • 5. of sessions. Most senior pets come every 2-8 weeks.The initial consult is $100. Acupuncture sessions are $95individually. Pet owners can choose to purchase a package ofthree sessions with a 10% savings. When you consider the costsinvolved in Western medicine therapies for many of thediseases pets have, acupuncture can be a great deal. Forexample, arthritis medications alone for dogs can run $100-200/month. Acupuncture can lessen or replace the need forthose medications and thus lessen frequent sick pet veterinaryvisits and negative side effects of medications. Also, whenowners are faced with a paralyzed dog and a $3000+ backsurgery, acupuncture can be an affordable option and a greathelp. Lastly, consider a dog with inflammatory bowel disease.Often these patients are hospitalized for 2-4 days at a time foreach flare up. Even if the pet needs to come in monthly foracupuncture, the cost would be significantly less than eachhospitalization.Anything else you’d like to share?We now offer acupuncture appointments at all four CareFirstAnimal Hospital locations! Dates and times vary, so pleasecontact your pet’s Care First Animal Hospital for details. Also, Ican be reached directly at
  • 6. amhoon@carefirstanimalhospital.comOur patients are amazing animals! It is such a gift to get to workwith them and their families. I never imagined how rewardingacupuncture would be - to hear reports of pets playing again athome and enjoying life is a huge blessing. I praise God for thisopportunity!Contact Care First Animal:Contact Person: Debbie GordonAddress: 571216 Oberlin Rd, Raleigh NC 27608Contact No: 919-523-0441Email Id: dgordon@carefirstanimalhospital.com

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