Veterinary Acupuncture

Please scroll down to read through some frequently asked questions on veterinary acupuncture. In addition, Dr. Reed not only loves interacting with her patients, but also enjoys client education and is always happy to discuss the many benefits of these therapies. Contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment!

What is Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, food therapy and medical massage to correct imbalances and promote healing. Although practiced for thousands of years, TCVM has only recently gained popularity in the United States during the past 50 years. Now there is an extensive body of research supporting the neurophysiologic mechanisms and benefits of TCVM and an increased acceptance in the human and veterinary medical communities, including the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

TCVM can be integrated with western medical therapies for wonderful results. In addition, therapeutic benefits are often improved by utilizing multiple TCVM modalities together (i.e. acupuncture and herbal therapy ).

Interested in learning more? Check out this PBS Spotlight on TCVM featuring Dr. Xie of the Chi Institute and Dr. Xie's Jing Tang Herbal pharmacy.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture, one of the main branches of TCVM, is the placement of very small, sterile needles into the body at specific points along channels known as meridians - this is also called dry needling. To increase stimulation additional techniques are often used, including electroacupuncture (a small electric current between needles), moxibustion (burning of Moxa at an acupoint), and aqua-acupuncture (injection of B12, blood or other substance at an acupoint). Here is a great overview of veterinary acupuncture provided by Dr. Joanna Robson of Inspirits Equine.

How does acupuncture work and what are the benefits?

In TCVM it is believed that energy, called "qi", flows along the acupuncture meridians and can become blocked at specific points. Acupuncture therapy is used to restore balance of energy flow which in turn promotes healing. From a western perspective, the acupuncture points correspond with important underlying structures - nerves, blood vessels, and myofascial planes - and needling results in local and systemic benefits through the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters, improved circulation and blocking pain stimuli to the central nervous system.

These benefits include:

  • Reduction pain and inflammation
  • Activation of immune and metabolic systems
  • Hormonal and homeostatic regulation
  • Improved circulation and healing
  • Relaxation of muscle
  • Improved nerve function

Plus acupuncture is safe and non-invasive!

What horses can benefit from acupuncture and herbal medicine?

There's no age-limit, height requirement, or job description needed for these therapies - they can truly benefit all horses! Not only is TCVM used successfully for the treatment of many equine conditions, but it’s also excellent for performance enhancement and general preventative medicine.

What conditions can acupuncture treat?

This is our favorite question because the answer is actually very simple - acupuncture, and TCVM in general, can be used to treat many of the same equine conditions that commonly cause us to seek out western medical therapies. Even better, TCVM and western medicine can be used together to provide an integrated approach to veterinary medicine. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but when combined we truly get the best of both worlds - complementary medicine!

Some of these conditions include:

  • Musculoskeletal problems, such as back soreness, arthritis, and laminitis
  • Gastrointestinal disorders, such as diarrhea and non-surgical colic
  • Neurological problems, including radial neuropathy
  • Respiratory conditions, such as heaves
  • Other chronic conditions including poorly healing wounds, anhidrosis, behavioral issues, skin disease and allergies, immune and metabolic disorders, infertility, hormonal dysregulation

Do horses tolerate acupuncture well?

Most horses really enjoy acupuncture and relax during their sessions - this usually surprises our first time clients the most. Our goal is to treat our patients with minimal restraint and allow them to become gradually familiar with the process. To achieve this, we start very slowly and pay close attention to each individual patient's tolerance level and needs. The success of a session is not based on needle number, but rather on improving the patient's health - sometimes that takes 3 needles and sometimes it takes 20. Similarly, some needles will stay in for 30 to 40 minutes, but some may only last a few seconds. With each successive session, we have a better understanding of each patient's personality and our patients are typically increasingly trusting and relaxed.

Equipuncture also offers therapeutic laser services for a wide variety of conditions, including laser acupuncture for our more needle-shy or painful patients.

How long does it take to see results? Will my horse need more than one acupuncture session to see a response?

Horses are truly excellent acupuncture patients - they are wonderfully responsive! The response is almost immediate and usually very noticeable. From the first few needles placed, owners often comment on the changes they are observing in their horse's attitude and body. However, to capitalize on these benefits, we recommend that our patients have acupuncture therapy on a somewhat regular basis - how regular is 100% dependent on the individual. There is no cookie-cutter recipe for acupuncture. New patients, as well as old patients with a new problem, are almost always treated more frequently, such as once a week for two to three weeks. Then sessions can usually be spaced out to every 4 to 6 weeks, or as needed.

Herbal medications are usually recommended for one to six months depending on the condition and disease pattern diagnosed.

What should I expect at my horse’s first appointment?

On average an acupuncture appointment will take about 50 to 60 minutes. The initial session tends to be slightly longer, often lasting closer to 90 minutes, due to the nature of this appointment. To provide the best care for our new patients, we must gather a lot of information. This starts with discussing the horse's medical history, current medications and supplements, and the client's primary concerns and/or goals, and then continues with a detailed physical exam, acupuncture exam and other exams as needed. Based on our discussion and the exam findings, a treatment plan will be recommended - this usually includes both TCVM and western medical recommendations. Then (finally) we treat! There are generally no restrictions after an acupuncture session, but this can vary depending on the condition being treated.

Can anyone perform acupuncture on animals or only veterinarians?

In the state of Texas, acupuncture is considered an alternative therapy and the Texas Administrative Code states that only licensed veterinarians are allowed to perform acupuncture on animals. There are three main veterinary acupuncture certification programs in the United States, and all of these programs require many hours of classroom learning, hands-on practice, and written and practical examinations to become certified. We recommend to horse owners, or pet owners of any variety, that you only use veterinary acupuncture services when they are performed by a licensed veterinarian who is also a certified acupuncturist.

As a side note, there are hundreds of equine supplements readily available for horse owners to purchase, but we strongly recommend carefully reading all labels and consulting with your horse's veterinarian before starting a new supplement. Unfortunately not all of these products are as good as they seem, including many herbal products. At Equipuncture, we are very selective and only work with credible veterinary pharmacies and suppliers to obtain the products we carry and recommend - our patient's health is our top priority.