Basics of Veterinary Acupuncture
By Michelle Lawson, DVM, ©2000
Acupuncture has been used in China for over 3000 years. Interest in the US started after an improved political relationship with China was established in the 1970s. Research began to show acupuncture was a safe treatment for problems that were challenging to treat with Western medicine alone. The spillover of interest from human to veterinary applications has stimulated an increase over the past 25 years in the number of veterinarians who offer acupuncture services.
In 1989, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognized acupuncture as “a valid modality and an integral part of veterinary medicine.” It is considered a medical procedure and should only be performed by a licensed vet with post-graduate training in this modality.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body surface to regulate or normalize body functions. To do this, acupuncturists work with the body's energy flow, called Qi (also spelled Chi, pronounced “chee”). Qi has positive (Yang) and negative (Yin) components that flow through channels or pathways in the body called meridians. Chinese medicine believes that an imbalance of Yin and Yang or blockages in the meridians allow pathologic conditions to begin. Stimulating acupuncture points adjusts the energy level, returning the body to a normal balance and allowing healing to begin.
Scientific studies have shown that acupuncture pathways run along pain pathways and produce endorphins, natural chemicals that block pain. There is also electricity generated at the acupuncture point. A variety of illnesses can be addressed with acupuncture. Strengthening immune systems, improving organ systems, and providing anti-inflammatory analgesic effects are common. So kidney disease, asthma, and arthritis are examples of typical disease syndromes treated. Techniques There are several ways to stimulate acupuncture points to help move Qi or break up Qi stagnation. Some ailments respond well to specific techniques. Following are brief descriptions of common techniques. Dry needling – Sterile disposable needles are inserted into the acupuncture points. They are available in a variety of lengths and diameters. Pain relief and organ imbalances are common problems addressed with dry needles. Acupressure – This is the manual stimulation of specific acupuncture points to encourage the flow of Qi. It is excellent for relaxation, pain relief, and reducing muscle spasms. Aquapuncture – With this technique, acupuncture points are stimulated by injecting a sterile solution into a point, rather than just dry needling. Vitamin B is used most commonly. Stressed animals that may not tolerate a 15–30 minute treatment may benefit from this method. Moxibustion – The addition of heat helps stimulate acupuncture points with this approach. Moxa is the term for the powdered leaves of the mugwort Artemisia vulgaris. They are pressed into a stick and applied to the tip of an inserted needle and set on fire; it burns into ash very much like incense. The heat travels down the needle, further enhancing the point stimulation. Dogs, cats, and horses are the most common species receiving veterinary acupuncture, but exotic animals can reap the benefits as well. Choosing a vet to perform acupuncture on your pet will include a traditional Western medicine diagnosis and treatment plan along with acupuncture, depending upon your pet’s specific needs and goals of therapy. There is an extensive training program, usually over the course of five months, plus a licensing exam given by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) every year. IVAS, Colorado State University Veterinary School, and the Chi Institute in Florida are the currently accepted organizations offering post-graduate veterinary training. Acupuncture as a complementary component of patient therapy is becoming more popular every year. All of the training classes are full well in advance. Pet owners are asking for it, especially if they have received acupuncture treatments themselves! Discuss the appropriateness of acupuncture with your veterinarian, there may be new help available for your beloved four-legged family member. References: Rivera, Michelle – Fundamentals of Veterinary Acupuncture, Vet Tech. Jan 2000, pp. 32-36. Glimski, Maria – Introduction to Veterinary Acupuncture Workshop, Phoenix, AZ. Oct 1999.
Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia
By Sylvia Lueck, DVM, © 1999
Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) is one of the most common hematologic disorders in the dog and is defined as increased destruction of red blood cells by the animal’s own immune system. The mechanisms that trigger self destruction are poorly understood. At the end of its usefulness, every red cell undergoes changes that trigger the immune system to remove it from circulation. The reason for failure of “tolerance”, or recognition of “self” that leads to premature or oftentimes massive destruction of red blood cells is a mystery and probably multifactorial.
Incidence of IMHA may occur at high frequency within familial lines, and studies in rodents show genetic factors may increase susceptibility. Although most cases are idiopathic (cause unknown), hemolytic anemia can be secondary to assorted blood parasites, cancers (lymphoma and Hemangiosarcoma), and exposure to certain drugs, toxins, and recent vaccination. It may also be seen as just a segment of overall autoimmune failure involving several organ systems simultaneously. IMHA occurs four times more often in bitches than dogs and most commonly in middle age. Many immune mediated disorders trigger in late spring (unknown why) and intact bitches can trigger around the time of their heat cycle. The course of this disorder varies from mild and almost unapparent to fulminate, nasty mass destruction and death despite treatment within a day or two. The severe cases will have pale mucous membranes, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), urine that is dark burgundy brown, and respiratory distress due to tissues being starved for oxygen and as the condition worsens, due to pulmonary thromboembolism (clots in the lungs). Mortality is directly correlated to the severity and rapidity of the destruction of the red blood cells and exceeds 80% in severe cases. Treatment is aimed at suppressing the immune system, usually with hefty doses of cortisone plus aggressive cytotoxic (chemotherapeutic) drugs. If anemia is severe, blood transfusions may be needed, but are controversial since they may accelerate the hemolytic process and can have other deleterious effects. Transfused blood requires blood typing, has a short shelf life, and often is in scarce supply. A new product of great value for these patients is Oxyglobin, an oxygen-carrying solution to be given intravenously. This product is universally compatible (cross matching and blood typing is unnecessary), readily available, and has a long shelf life. Oxyglobin delivers oxygen immediately to the tissues and expands the blood volume, which is important to continued function of major organs. In recurrent or resistant cases, removal of the spleen MAY be indicated since this is where most of the red cell destruction occurs. However, it can be more than challenging to get some patients stable enough to survive the procedure. Dogs that respond to treatment are SLOWLY tapered off medication over several months. They should be watched carefully for signs of recurrence forever after. Animals that relapse are frequently harder to get under control a second time. Intact bitches who recover from an autoimmune condition should be spayed as soon as stable (and off of cortisone), since as previously mentioned, the heat cycle can be a “trigger” for autoimmune events.
Survivors of autoimmune crises should have an annual Distemper and Parvo titer (immunity level check) blood test. Vaccines should only be given if they fall below protective levels, and not in combination with any other vaccine or medications. Since roughly 40% of all IMHA cases occur in late spring, I would avoid doing any vaccines at that time of year in susceptible individuals. References: 1. Kirk’s current Veterinary Therapy XII, 1995, pp152-157. 2. Personal Communication, David Bostwick DVM, member ACVIM, Critical Case Associates, Seattle, WA.
By Dr. Michelle Lawson, ©1999
If you suffer from pet-related allergies, here are some tips for you and your household to help make your co-existence with those special dogs and cats more enjoyable.
Allergy-Proofing Your Home
1. Keep all animals out of your bedroom.
2. Improve the filtration capabilities of your vacuum cleaner with special filters and bags that trap more particles. Look for a high allergen containment rating in new vacuums.
3. Consider replacing carpeting with tile, wood, or vinyl flooring and using throw rugs that can be washed.
4. Encase your mattress and box springs in vinyl covers, reduce upholstered furniture, and wash blankets, curtains, and pillows regularly.
5. Use an air purifier to help minimize allergens in the household air
6. Replace or clean furnaces, ducts, and air conditioner filters often.
7. Circulate the air in your house daily by opening windows.
8. Keep your home scrupulously clean.
Tips for Minimizing Human-Pet Allergic Episodes
1. Make sure your pet is really the source of your allergies. Many people mistakenly blame their pets when the real allergy
source is something else.
2. Wash your hands after petting your animal.
3. Bathe your pet with an antiseborrheic shampoo to reduce the accumulation of skin dander and shedding hair. Bathing
also reduces the oil and bacteria build-up that causes skin irritation. This irritation leads to excessive licking by the pet
and results in the spread of shed hair and dander throughout the house.
4. Have your pet groomed regularly to keep excessive hair and dander in check.
5. Spray the pet with a pet-approved moisturizer to hold down the dander until bathing. 6. Be aware that dusty or deodorized kitty litter is another potential source of allergens.
NO Chocolate for Canines!
It may sound unbearable to us chocoholics, but chocolate in any form can be deadly to dogs. No milk chocolate, dark chocolate, baker’s chocolate, or any type of chocolate for our dogs. Be especially watchful during holidays when you may have dishes of candy sitting around the house. Warn children about not sharing their candy with the pets. And be careful when baking—baking chocolate is ten times more dangerous than milk chocolate. The toxic ingredient in chocolate is theobromine, which may cause increased or irregular heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, and seizures. If your pet ingests chocolate, call your vet or emergency vet clinic immediately.
Do not feed or let your dog eat raw fish! Eating raw fish (not just salmon, but many other freshwater fish in the Pacific Northwest) may lead to salmon poisoning. The poisoning is caused by a bacteria carried by infected parasites in fish. Symptoms in your dog include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and dehydration. Onset of symptoms is usually five to seven days after eating the infected raw fish. When you clean or prepare fish, be sure you wrap any remains and discard in a trash can with a well-fitting lid.
If you take your dogs near a beach or river, keep them on leash and keep an eye out for dead fish on the shore. If you like to go fishing,consider leaving your dog home. All fish should be well-cooked before eating.
Just as you should never ingest raw eggs in any form, never feed your dog raw eggs. This means any recipe containing eggs must be well cooked. Salmonella bacteria is rampant in the chicken population, and is transmitted to the chickens’ eggs. Salmonella causes food poisoning and gastrointestinal inflammation.
Do not allow your dog to eat the following:
Tomato leaves or stems
Peach pits Chocolate (of any type)
Potato leaves, stems, or eyes
Coffee (incl. grounds or beans)
Hops [used in beer brewing]
Salt (in excess)
Avocado leaves, seeds, stems, skin
Tobacco (not safe for you either)
Onions, onion powder
Yeast dough, uncooked
Potentially Perilous Plants
May cause reactions ranging from skin rash or inflamed mouth, to diarrhea and vomiting, to organ failure and death. Amaryllis (bulb)
Schefflera (umbrella plant)
Bird of Paradise
Lily of the Valley
Tomato (leaves, vine )
Crown of Thorns
Holly, holly berry
Beware of Plastic Bags
Beware of all airtight bags, especially those that contain food—potato chip and pretzel bags, the bags inside cereal boxes, and so forth. There have been several cases of Corgis suffocating in a chip bag—they stick their head in to get the food, then cannot get the bag off their head or muzzle. Consider storing the food in a plastic container with a lid and destroying the bag immediately. Rip the bag open on at least two sides, or cut it up, before putting it in the trash can.
Skunk Smell Remover
This really works! The formula was supposedly developed by a chemist whose dog was “skunked”.
1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide
¼ cup baking soda
1 T. liquid dishwashing soap
Mix all together in a large bowl or bucket; it will be fizzy. Thoroughly wet the dog with this solution. Work it well into the coat, developing a good lather. Be careful to keep solution away from the dog’s eyes, nose, and mouth; carefully clean the face with a sponge dipped in the solution. Rinse thoroughly.