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Can Acupuncture Help Dogs With Intervertebral Disc Disease?

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If your dog is experiencing muscle spasms, gait issues, or an inability to support his or her own weight, you should visit your vet for a diagnosis. Your dog might be suffering from a condition known as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). IVDD is an age-related disease where the shock-absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae gradually harden and break down. IVDD mainly affects breeds like basset hounds, beagles, and dachshunds, but it can occur in any breed. Medications and physical therapy can help mild and moderate cases, while severe IVDD cases may require surgery. With mild or moderate cases, a vet might also recommend acupuncture. Read on to learn more about acupuncture and how it can help IVDD.

How Does it Work?

Acupuncture for pets is very similar to acupuncture therapy for people. During an acupuncture session, your vet—or another natural healthcare provider—will insert needles at specific points of the body to improve the animal's immune system and overall health. Acupuncture is great for IVDD as this treatment can improve your dog's mobility. Acupuncture helps to release endorphins and enkephalins, which are chemicals that act as the body's natural pain killers.

Does Acupuncture Hurt the Dog?

No. Your dog may feel a slight pinch as the needles are inserted, but they are very thin, so he or she shouldn't feel pain. Some dogs may find the therapy relaxing and may even fall asleep. If your dog happens to be sensitive to too many needles, there are acupuncture-related therapies like aquapuncture and or laser therapy. For example, with aquapuncture, the health provider can use fewer needles and inject saline, Vitamin B, or another sterile fluid into specific points on the body. With laser therapy, a healthcare provider won't use any needles and will instead use a low-level laser light to stimulate traditional acupuncture points.   

What Do Studies Say?

Because pet acupuncture is a relatively new and specialized therapy, more studies need to be conducted on its efficacy. The good news is that the current studies are very promising. For instance, one study's abstract says that using acupuncture by itself or with analgesics was able to improve the quality of life in dogs with musculoskeletal diseases. Another study found that electro-acupuncture—a type of acupuncture where needles are stimulated with a current—was combined with other treatments, it was an effective way to reduce pain and improve ambulation for dogs with signs of IVDD.

Ultimately, you and your dog's healthcare provider should discuss the pros and cons of acupuncture and other treatments at your disposal. Reach out to a provider in your area for more details of pet acupuncture and other natural healthcare treatments.