In the midst of frantically studying for an endocrine pathophysiology final exam, I decided to take a much-needed break. One of my classmates was bringing her dog to the vet for an acupuncture session, and I decided to tag along to see this ancient practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) be implemented on an animal for the first time in my life. Lung-7, gallbladder-40, and small intestine-3 were just a few points on Buddy’s body through which some thirty or so needles were placed. I have seen it done on people but only had ever heard about it being done on pets until that day. One of my anatomy lab professors also happens to be a certified veterinary acupuncturist and last year mentioned during class a few meridian points associated with the nerves we were studying at the time.
I cannot profess to know the least bit of information surrounding this practice, but I do enjoy learning about it, both from reading about it and now from watching it being done first-hand. A few summers ago, I read a fascinating book called Encounters with Qi by David Eisenberg. Eisenberg was the first U.S. medical exchange student to study in China after the Cultural Revolution. In the book he discusses many aspects of Chinese medicine, including herbal medicine, massage, and needles(s) to say, acupuncture. One of the most vivid anecdotes that sticks out in my mind was a brain surgery done on a man who was alert and responsive for the entire procedure! I believe there were just six needles inserted into his body to offer analgesia. While the surgeons operated, Dr. Eisenberg talked to the patient who said he felt no pain.
Though some may be wary of incorporating acupuncture into their list of clinical offerings, I think it behooves veterinary practitioners to consider this as a treatment modality that could possibly be very efficacious. I view acupuncture less as “alternative medicine” and more so as “complementary medicine,” which can be used in conjunction with the Western medicine training received in vet school to relieve symptoms in some patients.