Acupuncture & your Dog, Cat or Horse
Veterinary Acupuncture, an Introduction
By: David J Gilchrist, BVSc
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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: http://home.austarnet.com.au/gilk/oldindex.html
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