At RBVH, Veterinary Acupuncture Brings Comfort to Pets


Red Bank Veterinary Hospital offers safe, comforting acupuncture treatments for patients with chronic pain and a variety of other conditions. Our certified acupuncturist consults with the treating veterinarian or rehabilitation specialist for optimum results.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of medicine which encourages the body to heal itself. Fine, sterile needles are inserted into the skin and underlying tissues at specific locations called points. This process sends a signal to the nervous system telling the body to heal and return to normal function. Acupuncture has been in use for more than 5,000 years.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

The main therapeutic effects of needling begin with activation of nerve fibers near a point. These stimuli then bring about changes that help to balance nerve signaling and neurotransmitter activity from the “periphery” (i.e., the acupuncture point) to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and autonomic nervous system centers (that govern processes like glandular activity, immune status, digestion, mood, and more). Acupuncture also releases tension from the muscles and enveloping fibrous network called “fascia”.

Types of Acupuncture

Medical Acupuncture–Medical acupuncture relies on a knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pathology, evidence-based medicine and research to effect a change in the body. A medical acupuncturist starts with a history and physical exam, including a special type of exam called a myofascial exam. During a myofascial exam, the practitioner examines the muscles, joints, tendons, and connective tissues that unite all of the body structures and identifies the sources of pain, discomfort, and dysfunction. Once these sources are identified, a treatment plan is created to correct the dysfunction through neuromodulation. Neuromodulation involves activating nerve pathways through stimulation of acupuncture points, both at the primary site of the problem, and across the patient’s body. A medical acupuncturist may use dry needles, electrostimulation, and/or therapeutic laser to treat their patient.

Traditional Chinese Medicine–Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a healing system that is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism. TCM encompasses many different practices including acupuncture, acupressure, cupping, Chinese herbal medicine, tui na (Chinese therapeutic massage), food therapy, and taichi and qi gong to restore and maintain health and longevity. This type of acupuncture involves the concept of Qi, which is the body’s life force energy. When Qi is disrupted due to injuries, diet, environment, lifestyle or emotions, the result is physical and/or emotional pathologies. During an acupuncture treatment, the Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner places the needles in acupuncture points, which are positioned along a network of pathways, known as meridians. The goal is to regulate and restore the normal flow of Qi, thereby restoring physical and emotional health.

When is Acupuncture Used?

Acupuncture may be used for any condition whether chronic, acute, oratypical. It can be used alone, combined with laser therapy and certainforms of massage, or combined with Western medicine. It is often foundto be helpful with:

  • Chemotherapy Treatment (to decrease side effects)
  • Chronic Pain
  • Degenerative Joint Disease and Osteoarthritis
  • Degenerative Myelopathy
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Infertility
  • Intervertebral Disk Disease
  • Neck and Back Pain
  • Nerve Disorders
  • Overall Well-Being
  • Some Allergies
  • Urinary Incontinence
  • Wobbler Syndrome and Cervical Issues
  • Wound Healing

Are There Side Effects?

Acupuncture is very safe and there are no negative side effects when administered by a trained professional. Some possible contraindications include pregnancy (certain points should be avoided), open fractures, bleeding disorders, low white blood cells, and extremely weak or debilitated animals. Placing needles close to tumors is also avoided. Uncommonly, an acupuncture patient could experience a temporary worsening of the condition. Usually, however, most side effects are mild and even pleasant – a sense of relaxation, an improvement in sleep, or improvement in digestion and motility.

How Will My Pet React To The Needles?

Most animals do not mind the needles. While some of the acupuncture points may be sensitive, very few animals react negatively to the experience. Pets may choose to walk around during the session or lay down and relax. The needles stay in for approximately 15 minutes, and owners are always invited to watch and be part of the appointment.

How Many Treatments Will Be Needed?

The number of treatments needed differs from patient to patient. For difficult or long-standing conditions, he or she may need one or two treatments weekly for several weeks. Usually there will be visible changes in the patient within the first few treatments if the acupuncture is going to make a meaningful difference.

Forms of Treatment

Acupuncture includes several variations:

  • Acupuncture: The insertion of small needles under the skin; this is the most commonly utilized form of treatment.
  • Electroacupuncture: Once the traditional acupuncture needles are placed, wires are attached to the needles and connected to an electroacupuncture stimulation unit. The unit is controlled by your veterinarian and delivers a gentle electrical current to the needles. Most animals absolutely love electroacupuncture! In fact, many fall asleep. This type of acupuncture is commonly used on people as well. The electrical current feels like a gentle tingling sensation that promotes relaxation and improves the potency of the treatment.
  • Acupressure: In this form of acupuncture, there are actually no needles used. Instead, a veterinarian applies gentle pressure to the areas where a needle would otherwise be inserted. This is beneficial for animals who may be extremely sensitive to the needling because of its very gentle and soothing nature. It can also be used with traditional acupuncture where needling is used to give additional benefits.
  • Aquapuncture: This type of acupuncture incorporates a water-based solution, typically with a vitamin formulation, that is injected into the points where needles would otherwise be inserted. This can give a much longer-lasting version ofthe acupuncture treatment.
  • Dry Needling: The insertion of needles into myofascial (muscle) triggerpoints, as a method to release tension and source of local and referred pain.