Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) are now being offered at the UC Davis Large Animal Hospital as an adjunctive clinical service to inpatients and outpatients. Acupuncture and TCVM can easily be integrated into conventional diagnostic and treatment modalities to optimize clinical outcome.
What are Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM)?
Acupuncture has been used to treat various medical conditions in humans and animals for over 3000 years in China. Horses were among the first animals treated with acupuncture due to their importance in warfare and farming.
Acupuncture and TCVM take into consideration the animal as a whole and not just as an isolated system; hence, they are often referred to as "holistic" medicine. The general theory is based on the premise that there are patterns of vital force called Qi (pronounced chee) throughout the body, which are related to the internal organs and musculoskeletal system. Pain or illness result when the flow of Qi is disrupted due to pathological factors, such as bacteria and viruses, trauma, stress, poor diet or other conditions.
Acupuncture focuses on restoring the flow of Qi in the body by inserting very fine needles (acupuncture needles) into the skin at particular acupuncture points. Stimulation of these points resolves the blockage of Qi, relieving pain and restoring the body's ability to heal itself.
The ancient Chinese discovered 361 acupuncture points in humans and 173 in animals. Modern research shows that acupoints are located in areas with a high density of free nerve endings, mast cells, small arterioles and lymphatic vessels. Stimulation at acupoints induces the release of beta-endorphins, serotonin and other neurotransmitters. Therefore, acupuncture's use for pain relief is well supported and elucidated by modern research studies. Acupuncture's effects on internal organs and on "balancing" the body as a whole is less well understood and more research is necessary to fully explain this ancient therapy.
The benefits of acupuncture have been widely recognized and integrated into Western veterinary and human medical practices. In November 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a panel of scientists to review the effectiveness of acupuncture. The result was the first formal endorsement of acupuncture by the NIH, stating: "There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture's value to expand its use into conventional medicine and to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value."
When is Acupuncture indicated?
Clinical trials indicate that acupuncture therapy can be effective as an adjunctive treatment in the following conditions:
Musculoskeletal problems: Muscle soreness, back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, obscure lameness, laminitis.
Neurological disorders: Seizure, laryngeal hemiplegia, facial and radial nerve paresis.
Gastrointestinal disorders: Diarrhea, impaction, chronic colic, gastric ulceration.
Other chronic conditions: Heaves (COPD, RAO, asthma), anhydrosis, uveitis, behavioral problems, Cushing's disease, hypo- or hyperthyroidism, infertility, renal failure, geriatric weakness, skin problems. Performance enhancement and prevention of disease
What physiological effects are induced by Acupuncture?
Regulation of gastrointestinal motility
Hormone and reproductive regulation
Promotion of microcirculation
Are there contra-indications to Acupuncture?
Pregnancy, Fracture, Open wounds, Infectious conditions
What are Acupuncture methods?
Diagnosis: An acupuncturist's diagnosis is based in part on conventional western methods: obtaining a thorough medical history, discussing the primary complaint and goals for improvement, performing a physical exam, blood work, radiographs, ultrasound etc. However, particular attention will be given to the tongue color and pulse quality of the animal and a diagnostic acupoint palpation exam will be performed which will identify particular Qi flow disturbances and disease patterns.
Treatment: Modern acupuncture needles are 0.5 to 3 inches long, ultra-fine, and very flexible stainless steel. They are pre-sterilized, non-toxic and disposable. Depending on the condition being treated, 10 to 20 needles will be inserted and left in place for 5 to 30 minutes. Stimulation of acupoints by needles can be done by rotating the needles, or attaching electrodes to send a weak electrical current through the needles (electroacupuncture). Heating the needles with a burning moxa herb (moxabustion) may be indicated in certain conditions.
How long does each Acupuncture session last?
Each session may take between 20 to 60 minutes.
How many treatments are needed?
The number of treatments depends on the nature, severity and duration of the disease. A single treatment may be enough for a very acute condition but generally 3 to 5 treatments are necessary to obtain results for chronic conditions. Some animals may need to be treated at regular intervals to prevent recurrence of degenerative conditions.
How safe is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a very safe medical procedure when performed by a qualified veterinarian. Very few negative side effects have been reported in clinical cases.
Does Acupuncture hurt?
More than 95% of human patients tolerate acupuncture very well and experience profound relaxation. Typically acupuncture will produce a tingling or "heavy" sensation at the acupoint. Most animals tolerate this very well and progressively relax throughout the duration of the treatment.
Who performs Acupuncture and TCVM at the Large Animal Hospital at UC Davis?
Sarah le Jeune, DVM, DACVS, DECVS, CVA
Dr. le Jeune is originally from Belgium and received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Liege (Belgium) in 1999. After completing a residency in Equine Surgery at UC Davis, Dr. le Jeune became a board-certified surgeon and has been a member of the UC Davis Equine Surgery faculty since 2003. Throughout her veterinary career, Dr. le Jeune has had an interest in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. Since becoming certified in veterinary acupuncture by the Colorado State University, she has integrated acupuncture and TCVM into her equine practice. Dr. le Jeune is also currently pursuing a Master's degree in TCVM at the Chi Institute in Florida.