Animal Acupuncture

By Jill Firth PG Dip(AM) CertEd

Acupuncture was first brought to Europe from China in the late 17th century and is based on the belief that normal health is the result of a continuous circulation of energy called Qi (pronounced Chee) through the body.

If there is an interruption of the flow of this energy there is an imbalance created. This leads to an excess of Qi building up in one area and a corresponding deficiency in another, which could lead to illness. Acupuncture aims to re-establish normal energy flow.

Qi flows through the body along 14 pathways known as “meridians” these usually closely follow the nervous system.

Linked to the concept of Qi is the concept of the “Yin-Yang” balance. Yin is negative and Yang is positive and these two qualities are intermixed and interdependent for normal function.

In Chinese Medicine the concept of internal organs is different to that of western medicine.

There are 12 major organs in the body which have their own meridian and to which they give their name. Each of these organs are classified as predominantly Yin or Yang. Acute disease is an excess of either Yin or Yang whereas chronic disease is a deficiency of either Yin or Yang.

Acupuncture treatment aims to restore the balance by stimulating or depressing particular organs using the appropriate acupuncture points located along the meridian.

For example:-

Infection is a heat pathogen i.e. an excess of heat, therefore it needs cooling by stimulation of the water elements, i.e. appropriate acupuncture points along the kidney and/or bladder meridian

This is why the needle is not always inserted in the area where the problem is located.

If an acupuncture point is in need of stimulation it is tender to the touch and a needle placed in the correct position penetrates the tissues easily and without pain. The needles remain in place for about 10 minutes.

A point that does not need stimulating, or because of treatment no longer needs stimulating, often resists the entry of a needle. Finding the tender points can often help the Vet in diagnosis.

The difference between Chinese and Western Medicine

In the West, disease is thought of as a dysfunction of an organ or body system caused by, usually, an EXTERNAL influence – perhaps an infection, bad nutrition etc. This dysfunction will then produce physical symptoms. No consideration is given to the part that the body’s own energy might play in this, or indeed whether this energy exists.

Chinese Medicine considers that a disease condition is allowed to exist only because of an INTERNAL influence – a disruption of the flow of energy within the body. If, for whatever reason, the body’s energy flow is altered this weakens normal defence mechanisms allowing disease to take hold and flourish.

How Veterinary Medicine views Animal Acupuncture

Although there are many, many vets (and doctors) using Acupuncture in the West it remains a controversial subject and there are many differing opinions about it. Many vets do not believe that acupuncture can affect the course of a disease condition but most are convinced of its pain killing effect, and that whether the acupuncture points are stimulated by needles, massage, laser or whatever, the effect is just the same.

Animal Acupuncture – Explained

There is a scientific explanation as to how acupuncture works – at least in its pain-killing role. The stimulation of acupuncture points trigger various sensory receptors (pain, temperature, pressure and touch).

These receptors then transmit impulses to the hypothalamic-pituitary system (located at the base of the brain). The hypothalamus-pituitary glands are responsible for releasing neurotransmitters and “natural pain-killing” hormones. These are opium-like substances, called endorphins and enkephalins, and act like morphine in their ability to suppress pain – nature’s own painkillers! They may also produce other beneficial effects throughout the body: increasing circulation, relieving muscle spasm, stimulating nerves and the body’s defence system.

There are many conditions that respond to veterinary acupuncture but remember it is against the law for anyone other than a qualified veterinary surgeon to treat an animal using acupuncture needles.

Musculo-skeletal
This is probably the most commonly treated condition in the western world. Hip Dysplasia, Arthritis, disc problems, lameness, muscular disorders and other ailments of the musculoskeletal system can be treated with acupuncture.

Gynaecological
All female reproductive conditions are known to respond to acupuncture.

Male reproductive
Impotence, libido and other conditions have been successfully treated.

Hormonal
Almost all of the hormonal control systems can be influenced by veterinary acupuncture.

Neurological/psychological
Anxiety, epilepsy, neurological disorders and behavioural problems have all responded well to acupuncture treatments.

Dermatological
Skin complaints respond favourably to veterinary acupuncture. The skin reflects both the adequacy of the nutrition of the animal, and the adequacy of the waste disposal system. So, if acupuncture can maintain these systems in good working order, the skin will be maintained in good condition as a result.

Performance
Acupuncture is now widely used to influence the performance of a dog or horse indirectly – releasing muscle spasm, relieving tense sore muscles and improving circulation. It is not advisable to use an acupuncture treatment 48 to 60 hours before an event, because any treatment will cause a sedating effect as the healing process is activated. This is usually followed later by a bounce-back effect of increased vigour, vitality, and a feeling of well-being.

The above are just a few of the conditions that are known to respond to acupuncture in animals. But there are still many conditions that must be treated with drugs and/or surgery, but acupuncture used in conjunction with drugs and surgery can improve the outcomes.

See the other articles about Animal Complementary Therapies