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What are the Benefits

of Pet Acupuncture?

Acupuncture & your Dog, Cat or Horse

Veterinary Acupuncture, an Introduction 

By: David J Gilchrist, BVSc
Veterinary Surgeon
Veterinary Acupuncturist
Edge Hill, Queensland, Australia

Acupuncture has been used in animals for thousands of years. The origins go back to ancient Chinese times and are recorded in Chinese history. In the western world little had been done until fairly recently when veterinarians Oswald Kothbauer in Austria and Erwin Westermayer in Germany began experimenting with treatment of cattle and horses, respectively.

Western Scientists are still undecided how it works, although they agree that it does. According to the Chinese, when an animal is healthy, there is a circulation of energy, life force, or "chi" along well defined channels on the skin called meridians.

The meridians are connected with internal organs, muscular and joint structures, and the nervous system. Acupuncture points, which lie on the meridians are areas of the skin (which can be shown to exist with modern electronic equipment) at which the flow of "chi" can be influenced.

In disease states, there is an imbalance of, or interference with, the flow of energy. The acupuncturist can manipulate the energy flows by stimulating the acupuncture points, thus rectifying the disorder.


The acupuncture diagnosis revolves around knowing what area of the body contains the problem. The treatment requires a knowledge of:

What meridians pass through that area. What points on that meridian should be stimulated. What method of stimulation should be used. What other special points on other meridians will have a beneficial effect on the problem.

Acupuncturists tend to talk in terms of "problems." For example the vastus muscle may have tears, sprains, strains, bruising, scars, atrophy, or myositis, but the acupuncturist would diagnose a "a thigh muscle problem."

He/she would then select points on the meridians that pass through the affected areas, and stimulate them with either needles or laser beam. To this formula he/she would add points that are beneficial for muscles in general, thigh muscles in particular, and if inflammation or infection is present, special points for those conditions. Most muscular conditions respond with about three treatments three days apart .

A shoulder joint problem would be treated in the same way, first with points on the meridians that pass through the shoulder joint, then special points for joints in general, then special points for any known special disorder; for example, a sprained ligament.

For internal organs a similar approach is made. For inflammation of the liver, as in hepatitis, one would choose points on the meridians that are connected to the liver, and special points that influence the liver, and special points for infection and inflammation.



This is perhaps the most commonly treated indication in the western world. Many practitioners seem to limit themselves to the treatment of arthritic disorders or muscular injuries, ignoring the many other disease conditions that respond favourably to acupuncture.


All female reproductive conditions are known to respond to acupuncture including anestrus, metritis, dystocia, retained placenta, agalactia, mastitis and mesalliance.


Impotence, orchitis, epididymitis, and libido can be successfully treated.


Almost all of the hormonal control systems can be influenced, including all of the pituitary functions, thyroid and parathyroid functions, and adrenal functions. It is possible to normalize blood sugar levels, presumably by stimulating insulin production.

Anxiety, epilepsy and behavioral disorders have all responded well to acupuncture treatments.


The skin organ reflects both the adequacy of the nutrition of the organism via the digestive and respiratory systems, and the adequacy of the waste disposal via the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems.

Accordingly, if an acupuncturist can maintain these systems in good condition, the skin will be maintained in good condition as a result. A more classical acupuncturist will be concerned with the balance within the "metal" (air) element, whereas a less classical acupuncturist will treat skin disorders by stimulating points on the lung and/or large intestine meridians. Both are actually doing the same thing.


Acupuncture is now widely used to influence the performance of a dog or horse indirectly. It is not advisable to use an acupuncture treatment 48 to 60 hours before a race, because any treatment will cause a sedating effect as the healing process is activated. This is followed 48 hours or so later by a bounce-back effect of increased vigour, vitality, and a feeling of well being.

These treatments are completely drug-free, and therefore do not infringe the rules of greyhound or horse racing with respect to the administration of drugs.

The above are just a few of the conditions that are known to respond to acupuncture in animals. Of course there are still many conditions that must be treated with drugs and/or surgery. Acupuncture, judiciously used in conjunction with drugs and surgery can improve the outcomes. Acupuncture is widely used post surgically to hasten recovery.

The laser beam has revolutionized the practice of acupuncture for several reasons.

It avoids the slight discomfort to the animal of inserting the stainless steel needles, ie, it is painless.

The operator does not have to become skilled in needle insertion techniques.

The treatment with the special Helium-Neon Laser is safe to tissue, and the latest Infra-red lasers are safe provided a few common-sense rules are adhered to.

It cannot introduce infection.

It is generally less time consuming than a needling treatment, which takes about 20 minutes.

Acupuncture-lasers are relatively cheap.

In addition, lasers can be used directly on sore or diseased tissue in much the same way as an ultra-sonic machine.

The mode of action of laser beams is, however, different. Whereas an ultra-sonic machine uses sound energy, and it's thermal effect, to increase blood supply to the affected area, the laser uses light energy to exert a photo-chemical action at the cellular level of the tissue.

Diseased tissue cells have been shown to have a reduced or zero level of mitogenic radiation. Normal cells emit a measurable level of radiation, which stimulates adjacent cells to divide, in the normal process of regeneration and healing.

Laser light stimulates abnormal tissue to activate this normal inter-cellular radiation, and thus the normal healing process to start again. Laser stimulation is the greatest breakthrough in centuries. Using laser you are able to treat painlessly, and without any fear of causing infection.

As well as having an acupuncture tool for stimulating points, you also have a method of treating local injuries, much as you probably already do with ultra-sonic therapy, but with significant differences. You are causing a photo-chemical rather than a thermal effect, and you are striking at the diseased cells themselves and initiating healing of tissues, rather than just improving the circulation to the area.

ELECTRO-ACUPUNCTURE is used specifically in some formulae. It can also be tried in other cases where plain needles or lasers do not seem to be working. If instructions are given, they should be followed. Otherwise, general instructions for usage are as follows:

For acute conditions such as infections or fresh injuries, a "sedating" treatment should be used. This involves using high frequency pulsations (100 Hz+) for 20 minutes. In chronic or non-acute conditions use a "tonifying" treatment of low frequency (2 - 5 Hz) for a short time (5 - 8 minutes). A tonifying treatment should be of greater intensity than a sedating treatment, ie, "less comfortable."

The technique is to connect up pairs of needles, by alligator clips, to each circuit of the machine, select the frequency, turn on, adjust the intensity to the comfort of the patient, and then wait the prescribed time. As the patient becomes accustomed to it, the intensity can be adjusted.

MOXIBUSTION, involves the heat treatment of the point with a burning stick of "MOXA". This is like an oversize cigar, and provides heat with particular qualities necessary for successful acupuncture. Just any form of heat will not do!

Dr. Gilchrist has a Web site at:

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