To round out our discussion about senior pets and the aches and pains they experience, today’s post focuses on using acupuncture and laser therapy. Appropriately, today marks the beginning of Acupuncture Awareness Week. Millions of people receive acupuncture treatments each year for relief of chronic pain conditions, including back, headache, and knee pain. Acupuncture has been practiced and studied in Asia for thousands of years and involves stimulating anatomical locations on the body using very thin needles. Western science has documented that acupuncture causes release of endorphins (pain lessening chemicals), immune system stimulation, and blood pressure regulation.
Acupuncture can readily be used to treat animals. Most animals willingly allow the needles to be placed at various points on their bodies. Often this is facilitated by giving their treatment at home, in a place where they are most comfortable. The most important thing I want to stress about seeking out acupuncture therapy for your pet is this: you need to work with a veterinarian who has sought out training in this therapy. We vets are not taught anything about acupuncture and the theories of Eastern medicine during veterinary school. There is much to learn in order to be effective with acupuncture. In addition, in most states in the U.S. (including Pennsylvania), practicing acupuncture on animals is considered medical practice and therefore must be done by a licensed veterinarian. Check out the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) to find vets in your area. Below is a list of ailments (non-inclusive) that commonly affect older pets, for which acupuncture is useful:
- back, neck, and joint pain
- muscle stiffness and pain
- chronic kidney disease
- congestive heart failure
- inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, megacolon, megaesophagus
- seizure disorders; vestibular disease
- chronic ear infection/inflammation
- skin allergies
Laser therapy (sometimes called “cold laser” or “low level laser therapy (LLLT)) dates back to the 1960’s, after the first lasers were produced, when Dr. Endre Mester noted that hair grew back quicker on the backs of shaved mice after their skin was treated with a laser. How does it work? The short answer is that certain wavelegths (635nm-1100nm) of light have a direct stimulatory effect on living tissue, leading to reduction of pain and inflammation and tissue regeneration. Achieving a positive response depends on setting the laser to deliver the correct dose over the right amount of time. In veterinary medicine, many of the manufacturers have already done these calculations and have pre-set their lasers for commonly treated conditions in dogs, cats, and horses. Pretty much any condition involving pain, inflammation, infection, or a wound that you can think of, can be treated using laser. The big exceptions to this are cancer/tumors, eyes, and young, growing animals. Animals are accepting of laser treatments and often seem to enjoy them. The laser feels warm to the skin, and as long as the vet or vet tech keeps the probe moving, the skin doesn’t become too hot. If your pet has laser treatments, expect to be asked to wear special goggles if you stay in the room with your pet. Your pet may also need to wear goggles or have his or her eyes shielded.
So, bottom line with acupuncture and laser therapy for older pets is that they both offer a minimally invasive, non-drug way to alleviate aches and pains and improve quality of life. Has your pet been helped by one or both of these therapies? Write a comment and tell me how!