Acupuncture ( acus = needle, pungere = to sting) is part of a complete health care system. Besides acupuncture, the system consists of diets, moving and breathing exercises, massage and herbal medicine. Apart from homeopathy, acupuncture is one of the most known methods that is applied for animals as well. An estimate of 150.000 vets have had schooling / training in acupuncture . (Comp. and Alt. Med p149). A multitude of methods exist in acupuncture, what they have in common is that, with or without the use of needles, the aim is to solve energies that are stagnated.




The first writings about acupuncture, from China, are dated approximately 1500 BC. It is evident that vets used acupuncture in China during the Zang and Chow dynasties ( around 2000 – 3000 BC ). Acupuncture is not exclusively Chinese though. In Egypt, Japan, India, Tibet, Sri Lanka and among the Bantu, written accounts have been found that prove there was knowledge of this practice.
In Northern Europe as well as among the Eskimos needles have been found that were probably used for acupuncture. The first writings about this medical practice in Europe where published in 1671.



Pilosophy-Yin and yang

A healthy organism is provided by the balancing of yin and yang. Yin stands for the female principle, negative, receiving, the result. Yang for the masculine, positive, creative, actual, the cause. Within acupuncture one speaks of yin-organs or yang-organs.
Yin and Yang are not at all static, but in motion constantly.
Chinese symbol for yin and yang.



Qi is the name of the life force providing constant motion. Living, as well as dead matter, everything is drenched in Qi. It consists of two components: yang and yin. Qi is comparable with the Greek pneuma, the prana in yoga and the Latin ‘spiritus vitalis’. Qi is meandering across the body in meridians. Along these meridians are points that have been located in an empirical way, they are used for diagnosis and treatment. Next to Qi, four other “basic substances” are described in Traditional Chinese Medicine.


The five elements

Several rules of nature are applied within traditional Chinese philosophy. One of them is the system of elements , dividing the world in the elements: water, metal, wood, fire and earth.
Each element has its typical characteristics; water, among other things, stands for kidneys, fear and winter. The elements are connected clockwise and influence each other in fixed patterns. The system of the five elements is best shown in the Sjeng cycle.
For instance: by stimulating the element wood, automatically the element fire is stimulated while the element earth is hampered. Thus by stimulating one element / organ / meridian other elements will be influenced. Acupuncture
emplois this to its advantage. Many more rules exist and so, a multifaceted system came into being, in which ultimately, the hand of the master has a decisive role.




Pulse diagnosis is in fact not being applied in veterinary medicine. Because of the diversity of species the differences are too big. Also, there is not so much experience in this field. The same applies to tongue diagnosis. Generally, the acupuncturist comes a diagnosis making extended use of anamnesis (answers of the owner about the ailment, diet etc. ), his / her own observation and physical investigation. During physical investigation local differences in body temperature are being noted and the reaction of the animal on deep and superficial palpation. What is the nature of the ailment. A sickness or resulting illness can lead to a certain organ or the influence of a “perverse energy”. For more information click here.


The treatment

Treatment is directed at restoring harmony between yin and yang. Obstructions, a lack or excess of energy is being corrected by pricking the skin.
Besides acupuncture needles, laser, acupuncture ointment, heated and electrally stimulated needles are used.




It has been tried numerous times to prove the effects of acupuncture in a scientific way. It was impossible to prove the existence of meridians in histological way. If you want to read more about the various studies that have been done click: here.


Harmful effects

Acupuncture, executed by an expert will very rarely lead to danger or harm. (Van Dijk , dutch magazine for medicine). The biggest risk is formed not so much by being exposed to the wrong treatment, but by faulty diagnosis. As a result an animal could suffer unnecessarily long or even die of an undiagnosed disease.



Some of the examples of ailments that are treatable well: lameness, back problems, allergies, hormonal imbalance, intestinal problems, asthma, artrosis and hernia. Problems of the locomotor system are best treated, unless chronic physical changes have occurred. Contra indications are very seldom.


How does it work with animals?

Most of the animals endure a treatment without any problem. Often the animal is more at ease as with their own regular vet and sometimes even, they fall asleep. Diagnosis and method of treatment differ with every acupuncturist.
Alongside acupuncture treatment, other methods, like manipulation or neural therapy can be put into practice. In many cases, your animal will go home with medication.


Perverse energies

The perverse energies, or sickening conditions are subdivided in three groups:
1 External climatological conditions;
2. Internal emotional conditions
3. Special conditions.
The immune system, the Wei Qi naturally plays an important role in this.



External climatological conditions, if its effects are deep and piercing can lead to certain illnesses.
Every weather type has its own season and element.
-FLUID-after summer-earth
And each element has its organ. An animal that is sensitive to cold could very well be a ‘kidney’type.
Each element has its own organ. For instance, an animal sensitive to cold, is likely to be a ‘kidney-type.

Cold & wind
Cold, especially winter – cold, is a significant ill-making condition. Cold is subdivided with Yin-energy; it diminishes Yang energy in the body. Cold influences kidney – energy and apart from being a source for physical problems , like pain in the lower back, menstrual problems and cold limbs, it can be a source of fear. In reverse fear can also influence kidney – energy.
External cold attacks the surface. The patient looks pale, shivering, has cold limbs, thin feces and clear urine.
Inner cold is caused by fear, cold food and external cold. Symptoms are dependant on the organ affected. If, for instance, the stomach is affected by cold, one gets stomach ache, can feel like vomiting or have a lack of appetite.
One the major causes of illnes is Wind. Wind is expansive, comes in blows and is able to change place and intensity fast. Affections come and go suddenly.
Examples are: alergic reactions of the skin,problems with the bladder/kidney, epilepsia, acute infections, colic.
Wind can arise from within the body. In that case, balance of Yin and Yang is disturbed in the liver and Yang becomes dominant. Inner Wind is almost always ‘liver-wind’ and results in headaches and shivering. Important causes are anger and rage.

Humidity in acupuncture, is used as a term for a type of disease. An example is dirty skin infection
Accumulation of humidity can lead to stiff joints or grow worse into mass (tumor). Humidity is heavy, thick and tends to pull down. Think about a swamp.

Warmth Heat and Fire
Warmth always comes from outside, in the summer for example it could be caused in a badly ventilated car.
Heat and Fire arise from within. They are instigated by emotions and inflammation or infection with fever. Fire can also be a sign of weakness. If Ying in the body is weak. Yang, the fire, ignites.

The last ill – making element on the list is dryness, the lung its corresponding organ. The energy of the lung is associated with that of the colon.
Drought gives us, besides a dry nose and throat, hard and dry stool. Cold-drought blocks immunity (Wei-energy of the lungs).
Warmth-drought reduces bodily fluids.
Long term external dryness caused by transpiration, diarrhea, fever, sadness can result in internal dryness.


Emotional circumstances

In acupuncture one also considers the influence of emotions on getting or being sick. All emotions have an effect on the organ’s energy. In reverse: a disharmonious organ can cause an emotion. Anger damages the liver, fright and excessive joy – the heart, sadness and grief – the lungs, sorrow affects the spleen, and terror/fear – the kidney. Generally a disharmony in emotions influences several organs at once according to the system of five elements.
So a disharmony in the spleen causes a lack of concentration and in extreme cases “against the current” can damage the liver and in an animal with a calm temperament, result in fits of anger.


Extraordinary causes of illness

common causes of illness are a wrong diet and little ( or sometimes too much ) movement.
Food counseling is also part of traditional Chinese Medicine ( TCM ). Food influences mainly the spleen, pancreas and the stomach.
As well as advice on movement and exercises ( Tai Chi ).
Other special causes are: over abundant sexual activity, trauma as occurring after accidents, shock, etc. infectious diseases, hereditary factors (ancestral energy), stagnating blood en phlegm.


Examination / results

Varying attempts have been made to prove the effects of acupuncture scientifically.



– It has been discovered recently, that the DNA on the acupuncture points amounts to 10 – 12 times as much as on any other point of the skin.
– In 1966 Kellner examined 1100 tissue samples with a polarisation – microscope. On the acupuncture points he found a significant amount of free nerve endings , corpuscles of Meissner and of Krause. This provided solid proof for those that wanted to explain acupuncture according to neurological models. Still, most of the acupuncturists are convinced that acupuncture is not directly related to the nervous system.
– A significant discovery was made in 1950 by Voll in Germany and Niboyet in France. They discovered that the electrical resistance of the acupuncture points and meridians was different than that of the surrounding. The differences in resistance appeared to fit to the meridians and points that were described thousands of years ago.



A lot of research has been made concerning the effects of acupuncture. Here are some examples.
-WeeLim, Kranz and Scott (1977) investigated the effects of acupuncture on anaesthetics with healthy volunteers. Heat was used as pain simulation. The volunteers were divided in 6 groups, members of the sixth group were given placebo acupuncture.
The placebo therapy consisted of a treatment in which the right spot was pinched , but not stimulated. There was no result with this group.
In the five other groups the rise of the pain level was significant and became normal again after the stimulation. The investigators concluded that acupuncture can be a useful contribution to the existing anaesthetic methods.

  • Turban en Ulrich (1978): analysed treatment results of acupuncture of 661 patients. The health condition was diagnosed during, shortly after and 6 months after the treatment. After treatment 73% of the patients stated that ailments were reduced by at least 30%. In 52% of the cases had the same conclusion after 6 months.
    Best results were with:
    a. Patients with migraine, headache, pain in the neck and arthritis
    b. Middle aged people
    c. 7 to 14 treatments
    d. Pains that existed for a short while
    No difference was noted between men and women, nor between the four acupuncturists.
  • Ter Riet e.o.(1989) lead a massive literature investigation on the functionality of acupuncture with respectively, back problems, neck pain, migraine, tension type headache, facial pain, asthma and addictions. In total 91 controlled studies were valued. The quality of the various studies was generally low. As a result the final conclusion was: the effects of acupuncture are not yet proven. This concerned all categories of illnesses. It was made credible that as the quality of the investigation was rising, the abilities of acupuncture became less effective.
  • Wu Y., Liu C., Chen Q. (dec 1999, resume; original in Chinese) investigated the effect of acupuncture on the regulation of enzymes (ACHE, SDH and ACP) on damaged spinal marrow of rats. They concluded that acupuncture regulated the enzymes that influenced the degeneration and healing in a positive way.

More research has been done in the field of veterinary acupuncture, but most of the articles are a description of a number of diseases that have been cured successfully (casuistics). Since no good placebo-acupuncture treatment has been developed yet, it is difficult to assemble a control – group. And then remains the question if it would be ethically sound not to apply treatment. Apart from that, in the philosophy of acupuncture a given case can have varying causes and thus ask for different treatments. As this conflicts with protocols within regular veterinary medicine, research is difficult.