Archives for August 2008

Unusual Animal Careers: Dog Acupuncturist

Above: Photo of Dog Receiving Canine Acupuncture

Acupuncture is considered an newer alternative health practice and is becoming more popular for furry family members. But acupuncture has been around a long, long time.

I’ve written on this topic before and you can read my article about pet acupuncture but I got a question specific to dogs and thought I’d tackle the topic again.

Acupuncture is based on the belief that energy, known as chi, flows through the body but can be upset or get out of balance due to injury or disease.

To restore the healthy flow of chi acupuncture needles are placed at points on energy pathways known as meridians.

Ancient Chinese acupuncture is thought to have originated in about 1,000 BC but scientists in 1991 found Otzi and the iceman’s therapeutic tattoos are believed to have been applied in 3,200 BC.

You might find it interesting to know that one of the earliest records of veterinary acupuncture involved treating elephants some 3000 years ago in India.

To become a canine acupuncturist takes years of training and a good investment of time and money.

In most cases, people train for human acupuncture and then get additional specialty training and special certification.

I was asked about the Animal Acupuncture Academy based out of Australia which is registered to David Gilchirst a veterinary surgeon. The site has been up since 2001 so it hasn’t been around a long time.

Since the Animal Acupuncture Academy it is not an accredited program and doesn’t have any background history available, I’d encourage seeking education from one of the sources I list below instead.

For instance, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society which begins new sessions in San Diego, California and Atlanta, Georgia this October (2008) is a good choice.

If you are in Colorado this September you might check them out by attending the 34th Annual Congress on Veterinary Acupuncture. Thirty-four years in exisitence is a good sign.

Time investment needed to become a dog acupuncturist? Four to eight years.

Each state has different certification requirements which can be located through an Acupuncture Society Standards Board in your area or the the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture.

In addition, it would be a good idea to get some business training because running a practice requires record keeping and other skills.

Specialty training can be obtained through:

An average treatment session may be as long as ten minutes up to thirty minutes depending how cooperative the dog remains. Fees for treatment start from around $50 and go up from there.

The field is growing…remember when I mentioned SimDog?

If not, I wrote about this teaching aid to help acupuncture students learn the proper needle meridian points back in March 2008 when Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences introduced the first simulated canine with a virtual reality interface.

There are two views about studying for an animal career–be a generalist or be a specialist.

I am a product of the generalist approach which has worked wonders because of my broad background, training and hands-on experience.

However, specialty fields of practice are becoming more advantageous due to increased demands and vast advances in certain areas that can be hard to keep up with if you are a generalist.

So, specializing in canine acupuncture would be a very specialist practice instead of attempting to treat various species but either way the field is growing.

Canines also seem to be the animal many courses focus on…although I’ve come across some horse acupuncture charts and even a cat acupuncture video.

Acupuncture has been effective for pain reduction but some skeptics still question the effectiveness on other issues.


My thoughts? I see alternative services such as canine acupuncturist as a fast growing unusual animal career.

Additional Reading:

Pets Get the Point

Medical Acupunture for Veterinarians

Acupuncture for Pets from Pet Connection 

Pet Thunder Phobia aka Noise Phobia

pet thunder or thunderstorm phobia

Pet thunder or thunderstorm noise phobia creates anxiety & trauma for many pets.

Today it was storming here in the mountains. Lightening strikes and the thunder that comes with it are not a problem for most animals but there are those who do suffer from noise phobia.

This problem escalates over time and it is thought that some dogs learn the behavior others of their species.

However in most of the cases I have seen, it is the humans who accidentally reinforce the behavior over time.

Just the other night a pet owner asked me what he could do for his dog to help with this issue.

It depends.

In some cases desensitization works but in other cases psycho-pharmacology might be needed.

There is also a correlation between noise phobia and thyroid or adrenal issues.

So, once again get the pet checked out prior to any attempts to address a dog’s thunder phobia or noise phobia.

Cats also fear thunder but I see less cases in felines than I do dogs.

A pet owner might first see symptoms of noise phobia when they are triggered by thunder, lightning, or a change in barometric pressure.

In some extreme cases wind or rain can create problem if the animal associates this weather with the traumatic noise that so often follows intense storms.

There are desensitization disks with noises from thunderstorms or fireworks that can be used in attempts to desensitize the thunderstorm phobic pets.

These tools should be used under the supervision of an animal behaviorist as part of a program to address the issue.

Ideally the compact disks will be played during non-thunderstorm season at the lowest volume where there is no reaction from the dog.

Calm behavior can be rewarded with treats and the volume gradually increased over time. This is an effort that must not be rushed.

Just this morning I stopped by to see a neighbor’s dog and turned on the radio to drown out some of the thunder.

The dog only recently began to react to storms and the owner accidentally reinforced it. The canine was running frantically around the house when I arrived but settled down quickly.

When dogs fail to react to the desensitization efforts, in many cases the cue (discriminative stimulus) is more than just the noise of the thunder and may be linked to lightning or changes in barometric pressure or electromagnetic radiation.

The key to solving an pet behavior problem is to identify the trigger and avoid accidentally rewarding the phobic behavior by physically comforting or reassuring your dog during fearful episodes.

In addition, avoid punishing, yelling, or getting upset since these actions only escalate the pet’s anxiety.

One strategy that can help is to teach a replacement behavior or get the pet distracted into play or other activities.

I had to do this during aftershocks with a tremor phobic animal…and soon he associated the tremors with positive activities and treats!

We just ran through obedience behaviors and his focus shifted to performing and getting the rewards.

Animals that are really crazy for a particular toy (such as a ball) can be enticed to play with their favorite during storms–if they are not into total overload. In that state the animal usually cannot respond.

You can also provide a safe haven for your pet. Some dogs will hide under beds, under covers and similar places.

Closets, bathrooms, basements and crates are areas you can use for confinement and to provide an area they consider safe because it is snug. I happen to prefer those locations because it limits escape options and destructive behavior.

I know of dogs who have plunged out windows and off decks in response to thunder storms–their panic propelled them.

In addition, avoid punishing, yelling, or getting upset as it will only make the situation worse.

One strategy is to teach a replacement behavior or get the dog distracted into other activities. Natural disasters of all types can bring rise to phobic behavior. Techniques are the same and if you do this early with professional help, a phobic animal will soon associate the tremors with positive activities and treats!

Animals that are really crazy for a particular toy can be enticed to play with their favorite toy during storms–if they are not into total overload. He or she should see the ball

Be sure to provide a safe haven for your pet. Some dogs will hide under beds, under covers and other similar places. Closets, bathrooms, basements and crates are other areas you can use for confinement and to provide an area they consider safe.

Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) is another tool that can help calm a dog (there is also a cat product) and it is available in a few ways.

For the home I prefer the Dog Appeasing Pheromone Electric Diffuser (DAP) but there is also a Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) Collar, and a Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) Spray.

HomeoPet Thunder Fireworks Loud Noise (TFLN) Anxiety drops is a specific formula for thunder phobic pets but other homeopathic products such as Rescue Remedy can help, too.

A few people have found their pets improve when given Melatonin.

ProQuiet is another option which comes in both tablet and liquid form and contains L-Tryptophane, Taurine, Hops, Chamomile, Brewers Yeast, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Ginger, Vitamin B12, and Folic Acid.

Although drug therapy and sedation can work, the pills must be administered in advance–and in most cases this is not something that can be done far enough ahead of a storm.

However, you can crush the pills and make them into a liquid to help with faster absorption but many of the psychotropic medications need to be administered on a daily basis for up to take 3-4 weeks before they are effective.

Ask your veterinarian about some of the following medications used to manage noise phobia. Each animal may need a customized approach or combination of drugs before the right mix is found.

  • Buspar (Buspirone)
  • Clomicalm (Clomipramine)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Elavil (Amitriptyline)
  • Inderal (Propranolol)
  • Paxil (Paroxetine hydrochloride)
  • Reconcile aka Prozac (Fluoxetine hydrochloride)
  • Tranxene (Clorazepate)
  • Xanax (Alprazolam)

There are also natural remedies that include aromatherapy oils such as lavender which has a calming effect when used topically.

Newer products on the pet market may actually shield dogs from the electromagnetic changes that come with (and probably signal the impending arrival of) electrical storms.

Some of these products for sale online include:

However, if you want to do it yourself, use a light spray leave-in coat conditioner on your pet, rub in, and then crate.

Next, cover the crate with two layers of aluminum foil and cover that with towels or blankets.

Make sure the “den” is encased so that it becomes like a cave.

Read the rest of this series for a look at CDs that can help you with counterconditioning and desensitization.

There are also two other products you may find useful–a general noise phobia CD available by Gentle Leader, and StarFire Rapport has offered a noise shy pet series of CDs since 1985.

F7 Sound & Vison also offers both a fireworks and thunderstom pet noise CD.

Finally, please, please, PLEASE get professional help with noise phobia and dog thunderstorm phobia.