Animal Acupuncture: More Pets Get the Point

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Historical Uses of Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been practiced on humans in China for more than 4,500 years. The first use of acupuncture on animals can be traced to the western Jin dynasty period of China from 136 to 265 A.D.

In this early form, sharp stones were used to cut and bleed specific locations on horses and other large working animals.

Traditional eastern medicine explains acupuncture as a method to assess and rebalance the flow of qi, or energy, that travels along 12 main linear pathways, or meridians, in the body.

Sickness comes from blocks or imbalance in the body's qi. To correct these imbalances, small needles, inserted in any number of 365 basic acupunture points, redirect the flow of energy and restore the body to health.

The West explains acupuncture by pointing out that most of the body's 365 main acupuncture points are located at clusters of nerves and blood vessels. Stimulating these areas triggers a host of local and general physiological effects, leveraging the body's own healing power.

Studies have shown that acupuncture can increase blood flow, lower heart rate and improve immune function.

Acupuncture also stimulates the release of certain neurotransmitters like endorphins, the body's natural pain-killers, and smaller amounts of cortisal, an anti-inflammatory steroid.

Closing the Research Gap

A leading research center on acupuncture and animals is Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Ft. Collins.

Researchers there are exploring how acupuncture, in conjunction with anesthesia during and after surgery, can reduce the amount of anesthetic gas and post-operative pain medicine that a patient requires.

The reduction in medication can significantly lower the risk of adverse drug reactions in patients, according to Narda Robinson, a veterinarian and adjunct faculty member in the veterinary program at Colorado State University.

"I think the thrust of all this [research] is, how can we improve patient safety from medical procedures and [improve] their quality of life," Robinson said.

"The more that veterinarians learn and accept acupuncture and some of the other complimentary [alternative] medical techniques, the safety of medical intervention for animals will be that much better."

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