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 recommend 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 every time 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, like most other acupuncturists, have found that patients treated with acupuncture have lower rates of recurrence of symptoms (along with dietary management).
Managing fertility issues
Many Greyhound veterinarians grab acupuncture needles when fertility issues rear their ugly heads. I prefer to prevent fertility rather than treat infertility 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 noticeable improvement in the 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, stimulating homeostasis and promoting 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 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 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
Veterinary Acupuncture is an expanding field with more veterinarians taking up an intense 18-month post-graduate training program with weekly online lectures and three practical face-to-face hands-on workshops throughout the course, to qualify for the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) Certification in Veterinary Acupuncture. Find out more about the Australian College of Veterinary Acupuncture HERE.
More acupuncture success stories
Acupuncture for Chronic Epiphora in a Cat – Case Study By Dr Ulrike Wurth
Jimmy Cooke – A veterinary acupuncture success story By Dr Ulrike Wurth
If you have any questions about how acupuncture could help your patients, why not ask Belinda in the comments section below?