Alternative Medicine


Here at VCA Lynnwood Veterinary Center, we are proud to offer veterinary medical acupuncture. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is medical acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points on the body via the insertion and manipulation of very fine, sterile needles in the superficial tissues of the body. Each treatment is tailored to your animal's unique situation based on a thorough medical history review, careful physical examination and assessment of your pet????????s neurological and musculoskeletal systems. Our practice builds on the tradition of the ancient Chinese Acupuncturists by incorporating modern scientific understanding of anatomy and neuroscience to yield a system of treatment that is powerful, safe, and complementary to other therapeutic modalities.

How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture enhances blood and lymph flow, relieves myofascial (muscle and connective tissue) trigger points, modulates conduction in the spinal cord and peripheral nerves, causes release of anti-pain and anti-inflammatory molecules, and improves balance between the sympathetic (stress response) and parasympathetic (rest response) nervous systems.

Acupuncture is one of several methods of neuromodulation--a process where the body is encouraged to ???????tune up??????? or ???????calm down??????? various elements of the nervous system, thereby influencing the natural balance between ???????stressors??????? and ???????relaxers??????? that are supposed to exist within the body.

In summary, the effects of acupuncture treatment include improved function of nerves, relaxation of muscle and fascia, better circulation and healing, control of pain and inflammation, as well as improved sleep, mood, and quality of life.

What can acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture is frequently used for the management of:

  • Acute or chronic pain (from injury, surgery, or other disease process)
  • Arthritis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Cruciate ligament injury
  • Nerve injuries/paralysis
  • Back and/or neck pain
  • Lameness
  • Post-operative pain
  • Rehabilitation and physical therapy (i.e., post-operative and post-trauma recovery)
  • Digestive issues (constipation, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, nausea and vomiting)
  • Skin problems (lick granulomas, wound healing)
  • Urinary tract disorders (night-time leaking, incontinence, kidney disease, feline lower urinary tract disease)
  • Behavioral problems (general anxiety, separation anxiety, storm phobias, obsessive/compulsive disorders, etc.)
  • Respiratory disorders (asthma, sinusitis)

Are there any side effects?
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years as a safe treatment for diverse health problems. In the hands of a qualified and appropriately trained medical professional, acupuncture is incredibly safe. On occasion, some patients???????? symptoms may seem a little worse the day after treatment. Usually within a day or two this effect passes.

Is acupuncture painful for my pet, will my pet need to be sedated?
For most patients, needle insertion is essentially painless. Placement is fast and a very small gauge needle is used. Many animals experience sedation and relaxation throughout the treatment. We generally do not sedate pets for acupuncture, and the pet can stand or lie down in a position that is most comfortable for him or her. 

What is a typical treatment like?
First time:

The first visit is booked for 1 hour and includes meeting with the doctor, and discussing your pet????????s unique history. This is followed by a complete physical examination, including a careful evaluation of your pet's musculoskeletal and nervous systems. One of medical acupuncture's main tenants is that appropriate treatment can only stem from appropriate diagnosis. If the doctor????????s examination brings up any questions, she may recommend further work-up prior to setting up a full treatment program.  Finally, the doctor will design a treatment plan specific to your pet's needs, and will proceed with treatment.

One of the primary goals of treatment is to calm the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and avoid any association between treatment and fear or pain.   Therefore, the first treatment often only involves needling 3 or 4 points. The needles stay in place for 10 to 15 minutes depending on the condition being treated. Once the tissues have responded, the needles frequently fall out on their own or the doctor will remove them.

Follow-up appointments:
During subsequent appointments, various parts of the initial visit will be repeated, but normally follow-up treatments are booked for 30 to 45 min of time.

How many times do animals typically need to be treated?
Normally 2 or 3 treatments lasting 20-30 minutes are given within the first 2 weeks, and then the frequency is tapered to what is appropriate for each case. Depending on the type of illness, severity of symptoms, and overall health of the animal, this may be once per week, once per month or two, or simply as needed.  For most conditions, patients usually require a course of about 6 to 8 treatments total or fewer if symptoms are of recent onset and limited to one area. More treatments may be necessary for chronic conditions.

How soon will I see improvement?
Some patients improve with the first treatment. Others require several treatments for improvements to be seen.

Does acupuncture always help?
In a word, no. As with any treatment, a few cases will dramatically improve and a few will not be responsive. The majority (about 80%) will show some benefit. After 3 treatments, or about 1 month, it will usually be clear if acupuncture is beneficial to a particular patient.

What should I bring to an acupuncture appointment?

  • An open mind
  • A portable kennel for your feline friend, with a removable top if possible
  • A list with any questions or concerns, including notes about changes since the last visit
  • Treats that your pet loves to eat (especially if your pet has specific dietary needs; we do provide treats as well as part of your pet's treatment)
  • Your pet's favorite bed/blanket/pillow
  • Comfortable clothing that allows you to sit on the floor with your animal if you wish

How should I prepare my animal for acupuncture?
Take your dog for a relaxing stroll before your appointment; make sure that opportunity is given for "nature to call." Try not to schedule any stressful or exciting appointments (grooming, play dates, routine vet visits, etc.) back to back with acupuncture. Remember, we're frequently trying to get the "fight or flight" response calmed down! Also, for performance animals, acupuncture should not be scheduled for the day before or the day of a competition. It is advised that strenuous exercise be avoided for 1 to 2 days following an acupuncture treatment. 

On acupuncture treatment days try to change as little of your daily routine as possible. Animals are incredibly capable of picking up on our non-verbal cues! Give any prescription medications or supplements as usual.

How do I schedule an appointment and how much does acupuncture cost?
Please call the clinic to schedule an appointment or to inquire about prices.