Dr Erika Sullivan
Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, Certified in Chinese Herbal Veterinary Medicine

What is Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) is the study that explains the body as having a continual flow of energy (“Qi”) that travels through each Meridian (energy channels). When the distribution of Qi is equal, the body has achieved harmonious balance of Yin and Yang. Some organ systems relate to Yin (parts lower than the head, dark, cool) and the others relate to Yang (high on the animal’s body, hot, energised). The Meridians are named after the organ system it follows and are paired in a corresponding Yin -Yang relationship for balance.

The order in which Meridians are listed follows the direction of flow of Qi, specifically: Lung (yin) – Large Intestine (yang) – Stomach (yang) – Spleen (yin) – Heart (yin) – Small Intestine (yang) – Bladder (yang) – Kidney (yin) – Pericardium (yin) – Triple Heater (yang) – Gall Bladder (yang) – Liver (yin).  There are also eight extraordinary Meridians, two having their own Acupoints:  Governing Vessel (yang) – Conception Vessel (yin).  

When there is pathway interference to the flow of Qi, Yin and Yang are thrown out of balance, resulting in either an Accumulation or Deficiency in the organ system preceding or following it… This causes illness. 

What Conditions May Benefit From Chinese Herbal Veterinary Medicine?

In TCVM, CHM is said to perform the functions of; balancing yin and yang (restoring imbalance), fighting infections (strengthening immune responses), restoring and improving Qi (energy, blood, and vital source), nourishing the blood and restoring circulation, removing toxin accumulations in the body, improving digestion and absorption of nutrients, and improving genetic weakness, such that susceptibilities as a result are less frequent.

As a result, it is not uncommon to that such therapy is sought for inflammatory disorders (like osteoarthritis, pain, and musculoskeletal disorders), cancer (neoplasia), autoimmune conditions (hyper or hypo reactive immune system), allergies, endocrine disease (diabetes, thyroid disorders, liver diseases, etc), and/or behavioural / cognitive imbalances (psychological enhancement through restoration of circulation).

Ultimately, we will obtain a complete thorough history and TCVM examination on your pet and prescribe a tailored treatment approach that suits your own and your pet’s needs.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice involving the precise placement of acupuncture needles into points (called “acupoints”), which are located in specific locations on the body along energy channels (called “meridians”),  which circulate the animal’s vital life force (called “Qi”), in an attempt to stimulate the animal’s own body to heal.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture dates back to millions of years ago, long before the advent of modern western medical advances and tests, where ancient Chinese practitioners used patterns of cause and effect to show repeatable outcomes. Current science continues to support theories which explain the benefits of acupuncture, from a medical point of view. 

The effect of acupuncture on an animal will vary according to three variables:  the Acupoint selected, the method of stimulation, and the duration of stimulation. In western terms, acupuncture assists the body to heal itself by affecting physiological changes in an individual. Acupuncture has been shown to raise levels of triglycerides, specific hormones in the body (like cortisol and endorphins), affect white blood cell responses in healing, improve circulation, relieve muscle spasms, and ‘trick’ pathways in the central nervous system involved in the resolution of pain. 

What Conditions Can Acupuncture Treat?

Acupuncture is useful for conditions of pain, paralysis and inflammation originating from non-infectious causes. Some of the common problems I treat small animals for, include:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions (osteoarthritis, nerve trauma, intervertebral disc disease)
  • Psychological conditions causing inflammation (stereotypies, acral lick dermatoses)
  • Respiratory conditions (bronchitis, feline asthma)
  • Gastrointestinal conditions (pancreatitis, diarrhoea)

Large animals (horses, cattle, pigs, etc) benefit from acupuncture therapy as well, where it is often used in the treatment of:

  • Musculoskeletal injuries (muscle inflammation and trauma, downer cows)
  • Nerve paralysis (facial paralysis, isolated neuropathies)
  • Skin conditions (dermatitis, allergies)
  • Respiratory conditions (asthma or heaves in horses, allergic bronchitis)
  • Reproductive conditions 

How are Acupuncture Needles Used?

There are as many as nine types of acupuncture needles available, however veterinary acupuncturists generally use either Chinese needles (thicker and uncoated) or Japanese needles (thinner and coated), of desired length and size, in specific Acupoints to stimulate an effect. Needles vary in length, diameter, and shape of its head. Needles today are disposable and must be disposed according to local biohazard and waste regulations. Needles are inserted at different angles relative to the skin, and either slowly or abruptly placed or removed, in order to produce a desired effect. Placement should result in a desired sensation, called “da-Qi,” which is not painful for the patient. Needle selection depends upon practitioner preference, patient size and ailment, and location of the Acupoints selected for therapy.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Our veterinary patients tolerate the insertion of acupuncture needles very well. These needles are often coated, small diameter, and smooth and are virtually painless on insertion. Some animals will feel drained the day following their treatment and improvement in symptoms may not be noted immediately. However, side effects are extremely rare and animals don’t seem to resist needle placement. In fact, a lot of animals become calm or even sleepy during their treatment.

Acupuncture is a valuable tool for the veterinary practitioner and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medical Doctor to aid in the recovery of your pet.

Book an appointment today with Dr Erika Sullivan (Head Veterinarian – AdelaideVet Goodwood Road). Speak to our friendly team at Goodwood Road to arrange your appointment.

AdelaideVet Goodwood Road – AdelaideVet