Veterinary Acupuncturist

Dog receiving acupuncture.
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Veterinary acupuncturists insert small needles into specific areas of an animal’s body to stimulate nerve activity, increase circulation, and relieve pain.

Duties

Veterinary acupuncturists insert small needles into various pressure points on an animal’s body. The insertion of the needles into these pressure points causes various natural chemicals (such as endorphins) to be released in the body.

Acupuncturists may also connect tiny electrodes to the acupuncture needles after insertion, using a mild electrical current to stimulate the various muscle groups and nerves.

Veterinary acupuncture can be used to treat a wide array of conditions such as arthritis, neurologic disorders, reproductive disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, paralysis, and muscle injuries. It is also frequently used as a maintenance procedure for healthy, athletic animals used in performance competition events. Many Thoroughbred racehorses, for example, receive regular visits from their veterinarian for acupuncture treatment.

Veterinary acupuncturists develop and implement treatment plans based on the individual animal’s needs. The acupuncturist must determine the frequency of treatment as well as the anatomical points that must be stimulated to correct the problem. Most treatment plans for acute problems involve more frequent treatments in the initial stages and taper off over a period of a few weeks.

Veterinary acupuncturists may also design special nutritional and behavioral modification programs to work in conjunction with the acupuncture regimen.

Career Options

Veterinary acupuncturists may specialize by species, with equine and canine treatment being the most popular. Some acupuncturists may also specialize in treating avian or exotic species.

Acupuncturists may practice their art in veterinary clinics, kennels, or zoos. Large animal acupuncturists tend to travel to provide services to their clients, while small animal acupuncturists tend to see patients in an office setting.

Some acupuncturists choose to branch out into offering additional alternative treatment options, such as herbal therapy or massage therapy.

Education & Training

To become an accredited veterinary acupuncturist, the practitioner must be a licensed veterinarian that has completed extensive additional training related to muscle physiology, anatomy, and acupuncture techniques.

The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) has offered the most prominent international acupuncture certification path for over 35 years. The IVAS certifies licensed veterinarians and fourth-year veterinary students to practice on large animals, small animals, avian species, and exotic species. The IVAS certification course is comprised of both educational lectures and practical hands-on training.

Most American veterinary acupuncturists also choose to join the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (AAVA), the U.S.-based affiliate of the IVAS. This group focuses on offering additional continuing educational opportunities and information for U.S.-based veterinary acupuncturists.

It is important to note that most states only allow acupuncture to be practiced by a licensed veterinarian as it is classified as a surgical procedure.

An aspiring acupuncturist is unlikely to gain entry to the profession without first obtaining a veterinary degree. It would be wise to check with veterinary boards and departments of health for specific requirements.

Salary

The salary that a veterinary acupuncturist earns can vary based on factors such as number of patients treated, job location, years of experience, level of education in the field, and whether the vet has partner or associate status in their practice. With significant experience and skill, the veterinary acupuncturist can earn top dollar for their services.

When calculating their yearly salary, a veterinary acupuncturist must take into account additional expenditures such as the purchase of medical equipment and travel expenses for making home and farm visits to work on their clients.

Most experienced veterinarians earn a salary in excess of $80,000 per year. Board certified specialists can earn salaries well over $150,000.

While veterinary acupuncture is not recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association as an individual specialty category at this time, many board certified vets have completed the additional training in acupuncture and use it as a part of their practice.

Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that careers in the veterinary field will continue to grow at a slightly faster than average rate. The interest in alternative therapies for animals also seems to be growing steadily. Veterinary acupuncture is expected to grow in popularity as it gains recognition in the medical community and continues to prove beneficial in treating various physical problems.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average salary of a veterinarian increases by nearly six percent each year, outpacing the rate of inflation and cost of living increases. Veterinary acupuncture is part of the very stable veterinary profession that has an excellent outlook for the future.