It happens. We all get older – our dogs included. Do you remember the fun days of puppyhood where they could run for hours playing fetch? Does your dog now struggle to even get to her feet? If you’d like to try a natural approach to treating your dog’s arthritis, or if his pain meds aren’t working as well as they once did, consider giving acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine a try. Read on to learn how to find a qualified acupuncturist and a few things you can do at home to help your aging pup!
- find a practitioner who is trained in animal acupuncture
- know that acupuncture isn’t a quick fix
- ask your veterinarian about switching to a grain-free food
- some home acupressure on your pet
- try acupuncture or herbalism on your own
- worry that your pet won’t sit still
- give your arthritic dog foods from the nightshade family
- be afraid to try acupuncture
In 11 states it is legal for non-veterinarians to treat your pets using acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Some states require that the acupuncturist obtain a referral from the pet’s veterinarian, while others require that the acupuncturist work in the office of a veterinarian under their supervision. Make sure that your acupuncturist is licensed and has been board certified by the American Board of Animal Acupuncture (ABAA). This ensures that the acupuncturist has been trained to safely use acupuncture on animals.
If your state doesn’t allow non-veterinarians to treat pets, make sure that the veterinarian treating your pet has completed acupuncture training through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) or the Chi Society. Remember, you wouldn’t want your general practitioner performing brain surgery on you – and you don’t want someone not fully trained in acupuncture and Chinese medicine sticking needles in your pet!
Acupuncture is a system that treats the whole animal in order to get to the underlying cause of the disease. Most arthritic pets seem spunkier after 1-4 treatments. Most pets will need to continue to be seen 2-4 times a year for “tune up” treatments to keep the arthritis at bay.
In Chinese medical theory, grains are inflammatory in dogs and cats. Many pets can handle eating foods with grains in them – their bodies are healthy and are able to deal with small amounts of inflammation, but a dog with arthritis is dealing with inflammation in her joints as well. Switching to a grain-free diet can allow the body to focus on the inflammation associated with the arthritis, instead of being distracted by inflammation in the gut.
There is a system of acupuncture points in your dog’s ears that can treat its whole body! Take the pinna (the flappy part of your dog’s ear) between your thumb and fingers. Have your thumb on the inner, fleshy side and your fingers on the outer, hairy side. Be careful to keep out of your dog’s ear canal, but rub little circles all over the rest of the flappy part! Most dogs (and cats!) love it – it’s like a full body massage!
Your licensed acupuncturist has had over four years of training in acupuncture and Chinese herbalism. If they are board certified with the American Board of Animal Acupuncture, they have had an additional 120 hours of training in Animal Acupuncture. A veterinarian who has taken acupuncture classes has 50-160 hours of training in acupuncture beyond 4 years of veterinary school. Chinese medicine is a complex diagnostic system in which no two cases of arthritis are the same. Your practitioner has been trained to make such a diagnosis, and then treat each patient using acupuncture points and Chinese herbs specific to that patient, based on their Chinese medical diagnosis. An herb that is helpful in one patient can make another patient’s symptoms worse!
You might be surprised to know that most dogs do lie still and many even fall asleep with their needles in! Dogs love acupuncture! If your dog won’t sit still, know that the biggest effect from the needles occurs when they’re first inserted. If a needle falls out a little early, it’s not a big deal!
Foods in the nightshade family include: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and sweet and hot peppers. This family of foods is very inflammatory and will make arthritis worse. Check your dog’s food label for these ingredients.
There’s a lot of talk out there about acupuncture being nothing more than a placebo. However, dogs respond very quickly to acupuncture (in about half the time that a human patient would!), and yet dogs can’t experience the placebo effect. Acupuncture is simply a tool that the biomedical world doesn’t understand yet. The sooner you get your achy dog into treatment, the sooner you’ll see that spark of life again!
Acupuncture has been around for over 5000 years and Chinese herbalism for even longer than that. Acupuncture is a very effective treatment for arthritis that is safe when performed by a properly trained practitioner. If your dog is suffering from arthritis, give this ancient healing modality a try – they’ll thank you for it!