Acupuncture for Pets

 Photo: Jessica Boston

Photo: Jessica Boston

by Kaley Lefevre


Acupuncture, a centuries-old traditional Chinese practice, has recently made strides in popularity amongst Athens veterinarians. This natural approach to healing has resulted in notable success, specifically among patients who were not benefitting from Western medicine.

Dr. Heather Fields, a veterinarian at Sycamore Veterinary Services, said one of the most amazing events she’s participated in involved a paralyzed dog who was not responding to any Western medicine she prescribed. With the use of acupuncture, however, the dog walked again. Fields said she chooses to incorporate acupuncture with herbs and Western medicine simultaneously, considering that all the drugs will work together in different ways to help the patient find relief.

“We treat internal medicine problems, skin problems, anxiety and more,” Dr. Fields said. “You name it, and there’s a treatment regimen with acupuncture to treat it.”

Acupuncture is able to address these various problems by stimulating different channels in the patient’s body. This stimulation releases anti-inflammatory mediators and opioid receptors and also stimulates blood flow and healing. The body is essentially finding ways to heal itself, resulting in less side effects, aside from the initial discomfort of the acupuncture process.

 Photo: Jessica Boston

Photo: Jessica Boston

Because of the side effects that accompany Western medicine, Dr. Fields said she has some pet owners who request natural medicine and practices before Western drugs. She prefers to try a natural approach with her patients before introducing them to other drugs.

Dr. Angela Dodd of Animal Wellness Center of Athens said she has also seen extraordinary results from the use of acupuncture, even with her own pets. Though she is still a traditional veterinarian, she chose to take a course with the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society to learn about the many other ways she could treat her patients.

“[Traditional Chinese medicine] is a whole other mindset; it’s a whole other way of looking at a patient; it’s another way of thinking about a patient’s problems; and it’s another way of treating that patient,” Dr. Dodd said.

 Because of her understanding of Chinese medicine, Dr. Dodd said she has also found it to be beneficial to incorporate both natural practices and Western medicine simultaneously.

Dr. Dodd, like Dr. Fields, admits that the specifics of the actual acupuncture process are complicated. By sticking needles into the area causing problems for the patient, she is increasing blood flow and nutrients to that area, pulling waste products away and strengthening the organs that are causing issues.

“I’ve seen success time and time again,” Dr. Dodd said. “[Practicing Chinese medicine] adds another dimension to our practice that has proven to help our patients.”

Simply because of the lack of side effects, Dr. Dodd encourages pet owners to consider natural medicines and herbs before resorting to traditional Western medicine and surgeries.

“I like to use everything I have to treat animals because [they are] so important to me and to so many other people,” Dr. Dodd said. “These animals are members of the family and deserve to be comfortable.”