Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of treatment that most people have heard something about. It is based upon the concept that the body has meridians, or energy lines, running along it, and when the body is out of balance the energy lines are blocked or deficient in some way. The use of needles at appropriate acupuncture points will rebalance or redirect this energy and balance the body.

The acupuncture points have been mapped over thousands of years by the Chinese and now have even been identified with modern scientific techniques. Some of the effects of acupuncture include pain relief, a strong sense of well-being, decreased inflammation and increased blood flow to the area being treated. By appropriate use of acupuncture, conditions such as hip dysplasia, inter vertebral disc collapse, arthritis and nerve damage can be treated successfully. Additional benefits can include longevity and this refers to an increase in both the quality and quantity of life.

Many old dogs treated with acupuncture live longer than average and enjoy less arthritis and increased energy and it is a joy to watch them respond. Acupuncture certainly offers a viable alternative to the use of pain killers and steroids, as well as surgery and has few, if any side effects when used appropriately.

Questions: Are the meridians the same on horses, dogs and cats?
The meridians in animals are extrapolated from those in people and were researched over the years by acupuncturists, animal acupuncture has been practiced widely in Asia for many thousands of years. It is correct to say the meridians are the same but due to the different anatomy between species the exact points are in different places, as the bones and structure varies between species even though the origin of the points is the same. So it is important to know not only the comparative anatomy of each animal but where the points are.

How often should an animal have a treatment?
There really is no set time it depends on the animal, the age, the condition, the chronicity of the problem and other factors. It varies between once and twice a week for an acute and serious condition to every 2 to 4 weeks for more chronic problems, and often after a time treatments can be reduced to every 3months or when it is apparent the body is out of balance.

What is the most common condition requiring acupuncture?
The conditions that respond well to acupuncture are many and varied, I would say in my practice I use it most commonly for orthopedic problems, such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, back problems such as prolapsed inter-vertebral discs and other problems including strains and injuries. It can however treat anything from kidney failure, to obesity to epilepsy.

What are the needles made of?
Needles can be made out of different materials, most commonly now they are stainless steel, with either plastic or copper wire handles, which was the more traditional but plastic handles work well for animals and are easily available.

Here is an example of an acupunture treatment, performed on Don the Belgian on Orcas Island, Washington State.

This point is called Large Intestine 11 and is an important point for reducing heat (such as inflammation or fever) from the body as well as being on the Large Intestine meridian and a local point for the elbow. Since Don has been having a little problem with proper absorption of water in the large intestine as well as the threat of arthritis in his hocks, it was a good point to use for both these issues at the same time. It is also a useful point for the immune system and always good to include in a treatment protocol where indicated.

This is another important point called Stomach 36, it is a local point for the stifle, or knee joint, and is a major point for the stomach and intestinal tract. It was selected because of both of these benefits, to strengthen the digestion, help the low grade arthritis in the stifle and also as a general immune system point.

This point is called Bladder 11 and is on the bladder meridian, it is important for the bones, in that it strengthens them and is called a Master Point. I like to use this point in treating any problem to do with the bones, such as arthritis, joint inflammation and also for back problems.

These 4 needles along with Bladder 11 are on the Bladder meridian and are used to balance the body and strengthen the back, which is important to do in addition to just treating the limbs as the body functions as a whole so it is essential to treat the whole animal and balance the body. The Bladder meridian is a very important one and points along its length correspond to the internal organs, such as heart, lungs and kidney as well as the bladder itself. Additional benefits can include longevity and this refers to an increase in both the quality and quantity of life. Many old dogs treated with acupuncture live longer than average and enjoy less arthritis and increased energy and it is a joy to watch them respond. Acupuncture certainly offers a viable alternative to the use of pain killers and steroids, as well as surgery and has few, if any side effects when used appropriately.

USEFUL LINKS

Acupuncture

The site to visit for information on acupuncture with lots of detailed information, links and articles that explains acupuncture and what it can do.

The Holistic Horse

Holistic & alternative therapies for horses, they also have an excellent Holisitc Horse Newsletter which will gives detailed information about holistic horse care.

International Veterinary Acupuncture Society

Lots of interesting information on acupuncture for veterinarians and links to find a veterinarian near you who practices acupuncture.

Center for Animal Paralysis Research

The Center for Paralysis Research is a unit of the Purdue vet school that works with spinal cord injury cases. They have researched this area for over 10 years

Dr. Anna Maria Gardner is a holistic veterinarian, based in Washington State, and is certified in acupuncture and homeopathy. She lives in Washington with her daughter, two dogs, seven cats, sixteen chickens, two goats, a donkey, a horse, two ducks, a pair of geese and one bossy parrot.