Acupuncture for our Older Dogs - A Safe, Effective and Ancient Treatment by Ann-Marie Fleming

25 June, 2009


Intro by: Ann-Marie Fleming

If you are like many senior dog owners then you have no doubt considered some form of alternative therapy to care for your dog. We struggle with balancing the need for treatment, with the desire to maintain our dog's quality of life.

As our dogs get into their senior years the risks of anesthetic become scary and we are hesitant to put our senior dogs through invasive procedures that come with difficult recoveries. Perhaps you have looked into the topic we are focusing on today - Acupuncture. In our quest for information on senior dog care we have been fortunate to have connected with Cara Gardner DVM, CVA with the Broad Ripple Animal Wellness Center.

Dr. Gardner will be a regular contributor to this blog, helping us to understand the benefits across a variety of non-invasive treatments available for our older dogs.

Today Dr. Gardner provides us with in-depth information on the various techniques and options available within the acupuncture umbrella and I can guarantee that you will learn something as I have. _____________________________________________________________________________________

Overview of Holistic Pet Care and Integrative Veterinary Medicine

Guest post written by: Cara Gardner DVM, CVA Broad Ripple Animal Wellness Center | @holisticpetdr

Integrative medicine takes standard western medical diagnostics and treatments and combines them with alternative practices to develop the most complete method of treatment for each particular patient. Veterinary integrative medicine does just that for our pets. Modern western medicine treats each symptom and disease process independently while eastern and alternative medical techniques treat the body as a whole working interactive unit.

The ancient eastern medical traditions attempt to maintain all the of the body’s organ systems in a state of balance. This holistic view of the body allows alternative and integrative medical practitioners to include many different ways to manage disease. Acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, food therapy, reiki, therapeutic massage and chiropractic manipulation are just a few types of alternative therapies used to help bring our pets a sense of improved health and well-being.

Veterinary Acupuncture in Practice: Ancient Art Meets Modern Medicine Traditional Chinese Veterinary Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been practiced for over 2000 years. That is 10 times longer than western, or modern medicine, has even been around! The basic theory behind eastern medicine and acupuncture is that the natural state of the body is balance. Disease occurs when the body and it’s components are out of balance. Acupuncture is the practice of using small needles to stimulate very specific points on the body to activate local pain relief and body system changes. By stimulating acupuncture points underneath the skin, a combination of events occurs. Acupoints correspond to nerve bundles under the skin and when stimulated by the needle, inflammatory cells, blood vessels, nervous impulses and endorphins are triggered to respond. The wide range of bodily responses to this stimulation helps to promote balance, treat disease and alleviate pain. It is useful for any disease process from chronic arthritis pain, to infections like sinus and nasal problems and allergy flare ups. Dogs and cats tolerate acupuncture very well and, in fact, often really enjoy the process.

Methods of Acupuncture Acupuncture needles usually stay in place for 10-20 minutes at a time, and sessions are initially done about every 2 weeks until the disease process begins improving, usually 3-4 sessions into treatment. Once the disease process responds to treatment, whether it’s arthritis, liver disease, behavior problems etc., the sessions will be spread further and further over weeks to months until balance and relief has been achieved.

Acupuncture points can also be stimulated by a solution of vitamin B 12 and saline placed under the skin over the point to allow the animal to move around during the treatment without having to worry about the needle falling or being pulled out. This is a process called “aquapuncture” and is not common in human acupuncture since people generally lie still during treatments. Electroacupuncture is another method using a small battery operated unit that attaches electrodes to the acupuncture needles and generates a gentle current that runs from one acupoint to another, or along the meridians of the body.

Meridians are the pathways on which each acupunture point is found. They are essentially road maps of the acupoints that cover the body. Electroacupuncture helps promote the flow of energy, blood, lymph and nervous impulses all over the body along these pathways. Lastly, moxibustion is the practice of using a combustible herb or an herb that burns, to help warm the body and the meridians for conditions that are made worse by cold, like some arthritis and other conditions common in older animals. There are numerous methods and reasons to pursue acupuncture therapy for our pets. It is an uninvasive and gentle way to help almost any painful or difficult disease process.

To find a certified veterinary acupuncturist and herbalist in your area, visit the Chi Institute.

About Cara Gardner, DVM, CVA: Dr. Gardner received her DVM from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. Originally from Knoxville, TN, Dr. Gardner received a bachelor of arts and science in 1999 from Xavier University in Cincinnati, majoring in Natural Sciences and minoring in Women and Minority Studies. While there she was vice president of the collegiate soccer club team, attended the School for Field Studies Marine Park Management Program in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and was a veterinary assistant at a local clinic.

She graduated with the class of 2003 form the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine and has a strong interest in brachiocephalic (or 'smush-faced') breeds, dermatology, behavior, nutrition, and integrative alternative medicine. She completed a dermatology externship with Dr. Terry Grieshaber at the Animal Allergy and Skin Disease Clinic (now Circle City Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital) and has obtained her Certification in Veterinary Acupuncture through the Chi Institute for Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Gardner spends much of her free time giving back to the local animal community.

She was an appointed member of the Indianapolis Animal Care and Control Board for almost 2 years, and is currently a working board member for a non-profit organization called Paws and think. This organization pairs at-risk youth with orphaned canines and teaches young adults how to train the dogs to be assistance dogs. Paws and Think then donates these well-trained and valuable animals to underpriveleged families in desperate need of an assistance dog. Dr. Gardner also donates her medical and surgical knowledge to INDY Feral, a non-profit organization that helps track, feed, spay/neuter and medically care for the enormous population of stray cats in our local area. She is also a member in good standing of the AVMA and the CIVMA, IVAS, and a volunteer for the Midwest Boston Terrier Rescue Organization. Currently residing in Indianapolis with her husband, Joe, Dr. Gardner' s family includes four dogs: Bug, a Boston 'terror', Xephe, and Australian cattle dog mix, Oscar, a shepard-whippet mix, Sophia, a 12-year-old teacup poodle rescue and two cats named Roto and ED. qzf7h2bayw

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