Anyone who knows me or follows me on social media knows I’m crazy about my dog, Shanti. A few years ago, when Shanti was six, she began acting and walking like a senior dog. She would struggle to get up from her bed and refused to play with any other dogs who walked up to her on our daily walks. I took her to the vet to see what was wrong and that’s when I found out she was suffering from severe arthritis and was in a lot of pain. The vet suggested doggie acupuncture, which I thought was a little crazy at the time, but I was open to anything to help her feel better.
After a month of weekly acupuncture, Shanti began acting like her old self. She would bounce up from her bed and wag her tail rapidly back and forth when meeting new dogs on our daily walks. She was back and rather puppy-like.
I now take Shanti on a weekly basis to see Dr. Gina Kwong who works at a veterinarian hospital in West Los Angeles. Shanti seems to look forward to her hour-long sessions which consist of acupuncture, massage and water therapy. Within minutes of the first tiny needle being placed carefully on her head, Shanti will get a glazed look on her face and fall asleep as Dr. Kwong works her magic. I’m so grateful for Dr. Kwong and this Eastern therapy that has helped my little girl live a nearly pain-free life (best part… 90% is covered by insurance!).
So what is it about doggie acupuncture that’s so helpful? Here’s what Dr. Kwong has to say:
Q: How does acupuncture work and what are the benefits of it?
A: Acupuncture is the practice of stimulating specific anatomic points in the body to improve the body’s functions and natural healing ability. Stimulation of the points is generally performed by insertion of very fine, sterile needles into the skin and underlying tissues. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture points are found along certain pathways called ‘meridians’ that correspond to organ systems. However, scientific exploration shows that these points are also closely correlated to blood vessels and nerve pathways in the body. Therefore, stimulation of these points will also enhance nerve function, improve local circulation, and help release muscle tension. Modern research has shown that acupuncture causes endorphin release (resulting in a “natural high”) and stimulates the body to produce morphine-like pain-relieving substances (endogenous opioids). In a nutshell, acupuncture can help resolve pain, improve digestive function, and promote tissue healing.
Q: What are some conditions that can be treated with acupuncture?
A: Acupuncture can be used to treat a variety of disorders, including intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), pain from osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), seizures, and even chemotherapy-induced nausea. I most commonly use acupuncture for its pain-relieving effects and to treat neuromuscular conditions (any disease of the nerves or muscles).
Q: I’ve watched you use some sort of electrostimulation during Shanti’s weekly sessions… what is it and how does it help?
A: It’s called electrostimulation and it can help enhance the effects of certain acupuncture points. It is also a great way to stimulate nerves and help relax muscles.
Q: You also use a laser in conjunction with acupuncture… why?
A: Laser therapy or Low-Level Light Therapy (LLLT) uses light energy or photons to stimulate a biochemical change in your cells. Without getting overly complicated, LLLT basically stimulates the ‘power plant’ of each cell (called the mitochondria) to produce more energy for the cell. This improves cellular metabolism and allows damaged cells to repair themselves. LLLT is used commonly in human and veterinary medicine to promote tissue healing, in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders, and for pain relief. I use it primarily for arthritic joints, muscle strains, and injuries to tendons/ligaments.
Q: You’re trained in both eastern and western medicine… is one better than the other? Or, should they be use simultaneously?
A: I regard Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and other holistic therapies as complimentary therapies to Western medicine practices. They can be used safely together and can have an increased benefit to the patient (i.e. by reducing the amount of medication needed). I believe that more good-quality scientific studies are needed in certain “Eastern” medicine techniques to prove their safety and efficacy. However, I do believe that a combination approach is often needed to address difficult disease processes and can only improve the quality of care for our furry loved ones.
Note: Shanti is a Sanskrit word for “inner peace”