As dog owners, we are continually in search of ways to ensure that our dogs stay happy and healthy.
In addition to traditional veterinary care, some vets recommend acupuncture for dogs.
In an interview with The Gazette, Dr. Sarah Hickey of Edgewood Animal Hospital sees acupuncture as “another tool in the toolbox.”
In Iowa, only a few animal hospitals and veterinarians offer acupuncture for dogs. Despite the scarcity, Hickey notes that it is “nice to have another option” for dogs and other pets who have run out of treatments to alleviate their pain.
One of those animals is Drake, a 12-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever. Drake had a cancerous tumor removed from his back right leg. The surgery caused nerve damage that resulted in a partial loss of control in his leg and tension in his shoulders from the increased weight on his front paws.
When Justin DeMoss, Drake’s owner, first heard of acupuncture for dogs, he was “pretty skeptical.” His major concern was inserting the needles.
After researching acupuncture for dogs and on Dr. Hickey’s recommendation, DeMoss decided to go ahead with the treatments.
In an attempt to alleviate tension and repair nerve damage, Hickey began to treat the dog with acupuncture with electrical stimulation in the hope of giving him back some control of his leg.
“When you have an old dog that you’ve been with for so long, you’d do anything to help him,” DeMoss said.
DeMoss’s Labrador Retriever is a hunting dog. He says he hoped the treatment could help Drake catch a few more birds.
“You never know when the last retrieve is,” he said.
Hickey admitted that owners are often skeptical about acupuncture for dogs and think it sounds like “hocus-pocus.” However, she said after owners see their pets relax and improve, they are usually more accepting.
Acupuncture for Dogs: Targeting Trigger points
Hickey takes a western or medical approach to acupuncture — the process of putting small needles into the skin to relieve pain and tension and treat a variety of conditions — rather than a traditional Chinese approach.
The vet said she uses acupuncture for dogs in a “limited scope” and for cases in which she definitely knows it will help, such as arthritis.
Before scheduling an acupuncture session, Hickey tests how the animal reacts to just a few pricks. If it goes well, she begins acupuncture treatment by finding the dog’s “trigger points” or tense spots. Then she inserts usually no more than 20 small needles into those trigger points and leaves them for about 15 minutes.
While the cost of numerous acupuncture treatment sessions can add up, Hickey says lifelong pain medication is also expensive. She said if improvements are seen, the number of acupuncture treatments can reduce over time.
Another dog owner who has had positive results with acupuncture for dogs is Lela Schumacher. He Corgi, Chloe, had had acupuncture treatments for seven years, and she believes she has seen an improvement in the dog.
When Chloe was still a pup, she developed arthritis and disc problems in her back.
“It’s not a cure by any means, but I don’t think she’d be here today without the acupuncture treatment,” Schumacher said.