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Norwich Bulletin - 1/8/2006

Animal Acupunture

Many times we find ourselves at a loss as to how to help our beloved pets through the aches and pains of terminal illnesses or just plain old age. We resort to using all kinds of drugs so that our animals will not suffer.

But many of those drugs come with a price – they can cause damage to major organs, they can change personalities or they cause fatigue and listlessness in our cat or dog so that movement is prevented rather than enhanced. And so many pet owners are willing to try alternative treatments. One of the treatments available is acupuncture.

One of my volunteers was at a routine visit at All Friends Animal Hospital in Norwich when they saw a sign indicating that Dr. Stephanie Torlone was certified for veterinary acupuncture for chronic pain relief, and was accepting new patients. Since she, herself, had benefited from this type of treatment, she decided to delve further into the possibility it may help her ten year old German Shepherd, Thalia, who suffered from spinal spondylosis.

While she was on the proper medication to manage this disease and it was helping, Thalia was still having problems going up and down stairs and even going through her doggy door. So an appointment was made with Dr. Torlone.

Acupuncture is an ancient form of medical treatment which originated in mainland China around 2,000 BC, so it has been around for quite awhile. While this treatment was always used on animals in China, the United States accepted accupunture as a form of treatment in the early 1070’s.

This form of treatment is definitely an alternative practice as the way Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine looks at disease, is quite alien from the way we in America tend to look at disease. Our medicine views disease in terms of a cause and effect type of treatment – germs cause infection and antibiotics kill germs, therefore we deal with the sickness in direct intervention.

Chinese medicine, however, sees health as a balance between different forces affecting the body. Disease occurs when the body in out of balance. So health is maintained through prevention as well as direct intervention, when needed.

Chi, which is the life energy which flows through all living things, follows pathways around the body called meridians. Specific points on the meridians are treated to establish and maintain a balanced flow of energy. Acupuncture is one type of treatment and it consists of very thin, fine needles being inserted through the skin and left in place from ten to thirty minutes for treatment. Typically five to ten needles are used for one treatment and oftentimes the animals immediately relax once the needles are in.

And so it was with Thalia. Her first appointment with Dr. Torlone consisted of a full examination and evaluation of her. The second appointment was when the acupuncture actually was started. The needles were placed in and kept in for about fifteen minutes and the dog was very relaxed and complacent for the entire visit.

There was also almost immediate improvement. By the second week, Thalia was going up and down stairs without having to stop and rest and by the fourth treatment, it seemed that she was a few years younger. Her eyes were bright and she is once more active and playful with the other household dogs. Thalia is being maintained with twice a month acupuncture visits, and while her owner knows that it will not extend her dog’s life, it will certainly improve the quality of the life she has left.

The way Thalia’s treatments started is pretty much the way the sessions are started. How many treatments will be needed for a particular problem or to maintain the comfort of the animal will, of course, depend on the age of the animal, how long they have been sick or injured and how well they respond to the treatment.

How does this work? The majority of acupuncture points lie on a nerve. Stimulating the points thus activates the nervous system, which governs bodily functions. Acupuncture can relieve muscle spasms, increase circulation of blood to an area by causing mild local inflammation, and activate the central nervous system to release endorphins, thus relieving pain.

And if it sounds like I really know what I am talking about, let me assure you that the above paragraph is pretty much a quote from Doctor Torlone, who was gracious enough to supply me with some intricate information about acupuncture.

Conditions that can be helped with acupuncture include arthritis, epilepsy, spinal disk pain, reproductive problems, and respiratory and digestive disease. Many modern doctors and veterinarians combine the teachings of the West and the East to treat these problems.

They use all of the modern technology to diagnose a disease, and use acupuncture as part of the treatment, in order to maximize the benefit to the patient, human or animal. In the hands of a licensed practitioner (for animals that means a licensed veterinarian), acupuncture, almost any age or type of animal can be treated. All Friends Animal Hospital and Doctor Torlone, seem to have found this balance in treatment.

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