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The many ways acupuncture can help your veterinary patients

Posted in Operations @ Aug 17th 2017 - By Dr Belinda Parsons, Director, ACVA
2020 Acva Set Your Practice Apart With Acupuncture Skills Red

Veterinary acupuncture - it's not just about treating senior pets with arthritis...

At a Feline Conference in Sydney, one of the delegates asked the feline specialists “What analgesia do you recommended in an elderly cat with arthritis and concurrent kidney disease?” After much discussion the answer bounced around using a non-steroidal which we know is not great for kidney disease, tramadol (with unreliable analgesia), pentosan polysulphate (which isn’t great for severe arthritis) and gabapentin (very strong anti-seizure medication which is also used for neurogenic pain). Well the acupuncturist in me couldn’t keep quiet – I had to put my hand up and discuss the benefits of acupuncture. It is patients like this where acupuncture can make the most difference to their quality of life.

Acupuncture - it's not just for senior pets

I have been a certified veterinary acupuncturist for over 7 years and a veterinarian for over 10. Whilst the majority of my acupuncture patients are senior pets with arthritis, they are not the only patients that I treat with acupuncture. It can significantly improve their quality of life, particularly when it comes to controlling chronic pain without affecting their internal organs. However it would be amiss of me not to discuss other conditions that respond to acupuncture.

Being an acupuncturist means that my crash cart not only includes adrenalin, but also a box of acupuncture needles. It takes me a few seconds to place an acupuncture needle in GV26 and without fail it helps to stimulate breathing. I use this point during CPR, when patients become apnoeic under anaesthetic and for apnoea at birth.

GV26 has been studied and shown to:

  • increase heart rate,
  • increase stroke volume,
  • increase mean arterial pressure,
  • reduce peripheral resistance, and  

is comparable to an adrenalin injection without pulse pressure changes.

There was also an 88% response with apnoea compared to 40% with placebo acupuncture.

So my question to you is why aren’t you reaching for an acupuncture needle for these patients?

Hands up if you cringe everytime you need to pass a urinary catheter in a blocked male cat!

Acupuncture is one of my tricks that makes passing a urinary catheter much easier. Acupuncture can be used to help ease urethral spasming, provide analgesia and reduce the levels of stress experienced by the patient. I, as most other acupuncturists have found that patients treated with acupuncture have lower rates of recurrance of symptoms (along with dietary management).

Managing fertility issues

Many Greyhound veterinarians grab the acupuncture needles when fertility issues rear their ugly head. I prefer to prevent fertility rather than treat inferility but if I started seeing breeding animals, I would definitely trial acupuncture. I have used acupuncture to stimulate labour in breeding bitches with dystocia with noticable improvement in strength and quality of their contractions.

Strengthening the immune system

Because acupuncture stimulates the body to heal itself, it can be used to help strengthen the immune system and clear pathogens. Needling acupuncture points activate the body’s innate survival mechanisms that stimulate homeostasis and promote self-healing. It does this by stimulating tissue repair mechanisms including immune and anti-inflammatory reactions, tissue and nerve regeneration and pain modulation. So for those patients with cat flu, kennel cough and sinusitis grab your needles and help your patient heal themselves.

Neurological conditions

Neurological conditions can be difficult and frustrating to treat. However acupuncture gives you more weapons in your arsenal. Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome can leave you feeling helpless, however acupuncture can help hasten the resolution of clinical signs and alleviate the nausea your patient may be feeling.

Tricky lameness cases

How many lameness cases have you diagnosed that radiographically are normal and clinically do not respond to traditional Western Medicine analgesia? Chances are they are experiencing myofascial trigger points, which not only cause lameness but also referred pain and occasionally lick granulomas.  Acupuncture and trigger point therapy can resolve this pain in just a few treatments.

Whilst musculoskeletal conditions are by far the most common reason that I am treating a patient with acupuncture, they are by no means the only reason I recommend it. From appetite stimulation, to apnoea there are many indications for acupuncture. I feel like my treatment options were greatly improved once I was able to treat my patients with both Eastern and Western Medicine.

Clinical Applications of Acupuncture

Interested in reading more acupuncture success stories? 

If you have any questions about how acupuncture could help your patients, why not ask Belinda in the comments section below?

About Belinda

Dr Belinda Parsons is a small animal veterinarian who graduated from the University of Sydney in 2005. She has been a certified Veterinary Acupuncturist since 2007 and is currently on the Board of the Australian College of Veterinary Acupuncture (ACVA).

Belinda lives in Sydney with her family and their 17 year old rescue dog Jack and she has had a passion for animals for as long as she can remember.


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