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Acupuncture needles on a horse

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine provides acupuncture to large animal patients in our hospital and to equine patients on the farm through our Equine Field Service. If you have questions about our acupuncture services or believe your animal may benefit from acupuncture, please contact us at 540-231-4621 for in-hospital or on-farm treatment.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the insertion of small, sterile, stainless steel needles into a patient at precise locations and depths on the body. The insertion of the needles at these points alters the body’s biochemical and physiological properties primarily through the stimulation of the central nervous system.

Acupuncture has been utilized in veterinary practice for over 3000 years to treat a variety of animal conditions, and may also be utilized as an adjunct to standard medical/surgical treatments of disease, or as a preventative measure.

The American Veterinary Medical Association considers veterinary acupuncture a valid modality within the practice of veterinary medicine and surgery. All animals may benefit from acupuncture.

What conditions respond to acupuncture?

Acupuncture is indicated for functional problems that involve pain, non-infectious inflammation (such as arthritis and allergies), and neurologic dysfunctions (such as paralysis). These include the following:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders: arthritis, intervertebral disc disease, hip dysplasia, back pain, laminitis, tendon injuries
  • Gastrointestinal disorders: diarrhea, constipation, nausea, decreased appetite, inflammatory bowel disease, non-surgical colic
  • Skin disorders: allergies, wound healing, granulomas
  • Neurological disorders: seizures, nerve dysfunction/damage, paralysis
  • Respiratory disorders: inflammatory airway disease
  • Ocular disorders: keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye)
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Numerous other disorders have also responded well to treatment with acupuncture
Acupuncture needles on a horse

Is acupuncture painful?

The insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless; and once they are in place, there should be no pain. The majority of animals of all species tolerate needle placement without any restraint besides normal owner handling. Many animals will appear drowsy or may sleep during the treatment session.

Is acupuncture safe?

The needles utilized during an acupuncture session are very small, sterilized, and of high quality and precision. It is one of the safest therapies if practiced by a certified veterinary acupuncturist who is educated in animal anatomy. Side effects or complications are rare.

How long does each acupuncture treatment take and how long do the effects last?

The length of each treatment and the frequency are often dependent on the individual animal, the disease being treated, and the response to each treatment. Most treatments take a minimum of 20 minutes and may also include electrical stimulation of the points (electroacupuncture), aquapuncture (injection of a therapeutic drug at the site of an acupuncture point), or heat treatment (moxibustion).

A typical patient is treated weekly for 3-4 weeks and then placed on a less-frequent maintenance program (every month to 3 months). Animals with more acute and severe disease may be treated more frequently initially.

Dr. Funk performing acupuncture services

Our Veterinary Acupuncturists

Dr. Rebecca Funk, DVM, MS, DACVIM

Certified Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Practitioner by the Chi Institute: Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Food Therapy, Tuina