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Pet Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body in move Qi, or "life force". Over 300 points exist and have been charted in both humans and animals. These points, observed by the Chinese, are theorized to not only connect with one another, but to act as links to internal organs. These points are connected by "meridians" which travel through the body. By stimulating a point on the outer surface, or meridian, we can cause a response in the various internal organs. 


Acupuncture truly is an art form, and traces its origins to China at least 3000 years ago. Acupuncture has been gaining acceptance in North America since the 1970's, and as such has been recognized by The American Veterinary Medical Association as a valid treatment modality. Since acupuncture is a medical practice it should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian.


Veterinary acupuncture successfully treats common disorders such as: fertility, musculoskeletal injury, neurologic disease including intervertebral disk disease, breathing problems, gastrointestinal issues and skin conditions. The most common conditions chronic pain and arthritis, degenerative myelopathy, epilepsy, chronic asthma, and allergic skin disease. Acupuncture, in the hands of a qualified practitioner may improve healing, relieve pain, and may reduce or eliminate the need for chronic and continued medication. Any condition may potentially benefit from acupuncture.


Acupuncture can be used alone or in combination with moxibustion, (the application of heat) electro-acupuncture, and aqua acupuncture. Acupuncture can also be used in conjunction with massage, herbal remedy and even conventional medicine. In certain cases, the combination of acupuncture with Western drugs and therapy may hasten recovery, or decrease the need of certain drugs. 


Certified Veterinary Acupuncturists have undergone rigorous training and certification. In the United States, there are two organizations that certify veterinarians in acupuncture, the Chi Institute and IVAS. These extensive courses train veterinarians in the use of acupuncture points, the understanding of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, and in Chinese physiology of Internal organs. CVA's have the knowledge and skill to understand the interactions between the different forms of treatment and to interpret the patient’s response to therapy. If your pet is receiving acupuncture from an CVA that is NOT your pets primary care provider, it is imperative that both individuals be kept abreast about the ongoing treatment in order to provide a balanced treatment plan and to minimize any complications. 

A successful treatment outcome depends on the skill of the practitioner, the disorder being treated, and the number and frequency of acupuncture treatments. As a general rule of thumb, 3 treatments equally spaced are needed to determine if acupuncture will be helpful or not. About 20% of the cases treated may not respond to therapy, but the vast majority of cases show some improvement. As with Western therapy, the earlier a disease is caught and therapy begins, the better the outcome. 

Side effects and complications of acupuncture are rare, but do exist. These include: bruising or swelling at the acupuncture site, a mild worsening in symptoms (usually resolves in 24-48 hours) and occasionally muscle spasms and even infections. These complications are reduced in the hands of a qualified CVA. Acupuncture is generally contraindicated if an animal is pregnant, or is suffering from a bleeding or clotting disorder.

An initial acupuncture visit includes a thorough physical examination, extensive history taking, and evaluation of the case from a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine point of view and requires an hour commitment. Subsequent visits (generally 3) are required and will vary due to the disease condition being addressed and most importantly, the pets response to the treatment.

Acupuncture and TCVM truly are remarkable healing tools, and I look forward to working with you and your pet. 

Dr. Bart Iaia attended the Chi Institute of Veterinary Acupuncture and received the title of Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist in January 2010 after completing the requirements of the Chi Institute.