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Acupuncture For Pets Dr. Allison Mhoon received her DVM from the University of Florida and began practicing with CareFirst Animal Hospitals in 2007. In 2008 she went back to UF to receive her Certification in Veterinary Acupuncture. She travels to each of the four hospitals to perform acupuncture on dogs and cats. What is acupuncture for animals? Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine and, like its use in human medicine, it is used with animals to stimulate immune function, improve pain relief, boost overall stamina, and improve body homeostasis. In acupuncture, we use very thin needles to stimulate specific points on the body (called acupoints). These acupoints are special because they contain lots of free nerve endings and immune cells, as well as blood vessels. I’m not sure I buy into the idea of needles in my pet, how does


traditional Chinese veterinary medicine fit into Western medical views? Great question! There definitely is a scientific reason for why acupuncture works. The tiny prick evokes a cascade of reactions. At a local level, the prick stimulates immune cells to release histamine and heparin. This improves the blood flow to the area, which is great because improved blood flow means more immune cells and more healing. The prick also stimulates the free nerve endings. Now, there are different types of nerves - thin and fast sensory nerves versus thick and slow pain nerves. The prick stimulates more thin sensory nerves which, in result, blocks the thick pain nerves (like when you rub your banged knee to make it feel better). So, if a dog has painful hips and receives local acupuncture there, the dull pain will be blocked. Additionally, the nerves stimulate signals in the spinal cord and brain for endorphins, enkephalins, and seratonin to release, which function in systemic pain relief. Lastly, the brain signals the pituitary gland to activate hormones that function as antiinflammatories and in homeostasis control. How did you become interested and trained in acupuncture? I was pretty skeptical of acupuncture growing up. I didn’t know much about it and just figured it was a placebo effect. My first


exposure to veterinary acupuncture was during college. I rode along with an equine veterinarian who also practiced acupuncture. She worked on a horse that had an obvious lameness, and after the acupuncture session, the horse had a normal gait. Talk about getting my attention! I then went to vet school at the University of Florida. UF is fortunate to have an acupuncture service in the hospital, as well as the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine nearby. I was exposed to several cases during my neurology and orthopedic rotations. One particular patient of mine stood out. He was a paralyzed Chow who had an unsuccessful surgery to remove compressed disc material. He was anxious, painful, could not urinate, and was just miserable! Within 15 minutes into the acupuncture session, he was calm and resting. It was the first time in almost 2 weeks he had been able to do so. Within 2 weeks after the session he was urinating on his own, and within a month he was walking. Acupuncture helped him heal when our regular Western medications and therapies were unsuccessful. I decided then that I wanted to utilize acupuncture for my patients. After joining CareFirst Animal Hospitals, I went back to Florida to study at the Chi Institute and became certified in small animal acupuncture. What ailments have you had the most success with using acupuncture as a treatment?


Intervertebral disc disease, Wobbler’s disease, and hip dysplasia. I have ~ 80% success rate for improved function and pain relief with these patients. Other conditions that typically respond well are: degenerative joint disease, inflammatory bowel disease, as well as post-operative orthopedic pain and low stamina after chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Acupuncture may also be used to treat allergies, chronic renal failure, megacolon, chronic urinary infections, urinary or stool incontinence, heart disease, and anxiety conditions. How does an acupuncture treatment schedule work? Is it expensive? It depends on the patient and his/her health. Young pets with an acute condition usually only need acupuncture for a short time. For example, I saw a young cat with femoral nerve paralysis after getting stuck in a tree. She only needed 3 treatments - each 1-2 weeks apart. However, a senior pet with many conditions will respond slower and will need more sessions. Since acupuncture has an accumulative effect, we start out on a weekly basis. Typically by the 3rd session, we can tell a pattern and can discuss spacing out the appointments more. Often pet owners can tell when the acupuncture benefits are "wearing off," which is helpful in determining the frequency


of sessions. Most senior pets come every 2-8 weeks. The initial consult is $100. Acupuncture sessions are $95 individually. Pet owners can choose to purchase a package of three sessions with a 10% savings. When you consider the costs involved in Western medicine therapies for many of the diseases pets have, acupuncture can be a great deal. For example, arthritis medications alone for dogs can run $100200/month. Acupuncture can lessen or replace the need for those medications and thus lessen frequent sick pet veterinary visits and negative side effects of medications. Also, when owners are faced with a paralyzed dog and a $3000+ back surgery, acupuncture can be an affordable option and a great help. Lastly, consider a dog with inflammatory bowel disease. Often these patients are hospitalized for 2-4 days at a time for each flare up. Even if the pet needs to come in monthly for acupuncture, the cost would be significantly less than each hospitalization. Anything else you’d like to share? We now offer acupuncture appointments at all four CareFirst Animal Hospital locations! Dates and times vary, so please contact your pet’s Care First Animal Hospital for details. Also, I can be reached directly at


amhoon@carefirstanimalhospital.com Our patients are amazing animals! It is such a gift to get to work with them and their families. I never imagined how rewarding acupuncture would be - to hear reports of pets playing again at home and enjoying life is a huge blessing. I praise God for this opportunity! Contact Care First Animal: Contact Person: Debbie Gordon Address: 571216 Oberlin Rd, Raleigh NC 27608 Contact No: 919-523-0441 Email Id: dgordon@carefirstanimalhospital.com


Acupuncture For Pets