Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) has been utilized for thousands of year to promote overall health and well-being of animals. The foundation for TCVM is to evaluate an animal as an individual and make an individualized treatment plan for each animal. Bayside Veterinary Services uses acupuncture and herbology as a complementary therapies. These therapies complement our conventional/routine veterinary care and are not meant as a replacement.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture involves inserting a needle through the skin at predetermined sites for the treatment or prevention of disease, which includes pain management. Anatomical examination of traditional acupuncture points has shown that these points are associated with certain anatomic structures of the nervous system. Acupuncture stimulates a complex reaction, by causing a cascade reaction between the nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system. Acupuncture needling causes microtrauma, which in turn leads to a local inflammatory effect. This local inflammatory reaction results in local tissue immune response improved local tissue blood flow, and tissue relaxation. There are also acupuncture points which are “trigger points.” These are tender areas found in skeletal muscle associated with a tight band of muscle. This area contains the muscle’s nerve endings and causes the muscle to contract. Not only are acupuncture points used for treatment purposes, but sensitivity over acupuncture points can aid in diagnosis. Sensitivity over an acupuncture point can also suggest a problem within the acupuncture meridian or pathway associated with the point.

What does a typical acupuncture session entail?

As with any examination, the veterinarian will begin by obtaining a thorough history on the animal. For horses specifically, it is important to understand the horse’s use, competition level, and any issues the animal is showing. A traditional physical examination is completed, as well as an acupuncture diagnostic exam. Sensitivity at certain acupuncture points can suggest other areas to focus on during examination. Reaction at an acupuncture point does not constitute a diagnosis, but rather gives the veterinarian an additional tool to aid in locating a problem and making a diagnosis. After the exam, the owner is updated on the findings. It is discussed if further conventional diagnostics or are needed and necessary treatment options. If acupuncture is warranted, treatment can begin immediately.

Acupuncture Techniques

A variety of acupuncture techniques are utilized: dry needling, aquapuncture, electroacupuncture, moxibustion and hemoacupuncture. These techniques can be used separately or in combination depending on findings from the animal’s physical exam.

 Dry needling- typical “Chinese” acupuncture needle. Needles vary in length and gauge. Smaller needles are more commonly used in the lower limbs, feet, head and ears, while the larger needles are more commonly used in the neck, back and upper limbs. These needles are sterile and disposable.

 Aquapuncture- this method involves injecting a fluid into an acupuncture point. This allows the veterinarian to leave behind a liquid which will continue to stimulate/treat the point over a period of time as it is absorbed. Most commonly, vitamin B12 is used. In addition, it is possible to inject medications into an acupuncture point to combine the effect of both the acupuncture and the medication. This is typically done with antibiotics and hormonal medications.

 Electroacupuncture- this procedure involves attaching electrodes to acupuncture needles and applying a pulsating electrical current to them. Typically this stimulation involves varying the frequency and intensity of the electrical current on the point. Research has shown there are varying physiological responses to different strengths and frequencies of the electrical current. Electrical acupuncture is especially useful for neurological/paralysis conditions and non-responsive pain.

 Moxibustion- moxibustion involves burning an herb either on an acupuncture point with a needle inserted or over the skin at the acupuncture point. This method stimulates the acupuncture point and is most commonly used to treat chronic arthritic pain and equine reproductive disorders.

 Hemoacupuncture- this method bleeds an acupuncture point using a hypodermic needle. It is most commonly used in the treatment of acupuncture points in the coronary band area (“Ting Point Therapy”) and other extremities- head, tail, legs, etc. This treatment is especially beneficial in the treatment of laminitis.