Interview with Beth Hirschfeld, DVM, CVA, DMO about the history and uses of Acupuncture for your Fur Baby: Part 1
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the insertion of needles into specific points of the body in order to cause a specific physiological response. Acupuncture originated in China, and is perhaps the oldest medical practice in the world. It has developed through continuous practical experience in both animals and people over thousands of years. Acupuncture treatments for people have been endorsed by the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Health.
Is acupuncture now part of ‘mainstream’ veterinary medicine?
Yes. In veterinary medicine, acupuncture is now recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association. In order to practice veterinary acupuncture, a considerable amount of knowledge is required. In the United States, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) is the visible leader and currently sets the standard for recognized training and certifications of veterinary acupuncturists worldwide. I have been IVAS certified since 2004.
How does acupuncture affect the body’s energy?
Acupuncture in veterinary medicine has been used to promote balance in the body’s total energy system and ability to heal. In all animals there are precise locations on or near the surface of the body known as acupuncture points; these points, when stimulated, may produce changes in the body’s internal organs and functions. Traditionally, inserting a fine stainless steel, gold, or sterling silver needle into the point does the influencing of these points. Other methods of stimulation include:
- the application of heat (moxibustion);
- electricity (electrostimulation);
- LED light (lacer);
- Laser therapy (Class IV therapeutic laser) – needleless acupuncture using a special dual beam Class IV laser with an acupuncture probe;
- injection of biotherapeutics (biopuncture);
- injection (aquapuncture) with vitamin B-12 to help prolong the effects of the treatment; and
- gold or silver bead implants or sono (sound) stimulation of acupuncture points.
Veterinary acupuncture utilizes both the ancient theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the western observations of physiological response and correlation of effect, in the selection of acupuncture points to treat. As with people, each animal responds differently to acupuncture and has individual needs to be addressed. Every treatment is tailored to the animal’s individual needs.
Tell us more about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
The ancient theories of TCM describe the body as having a network of energy channels, called meridians, which conduct the flow of Qi, the body’s sustaining energy force (pronounced Chee). Qi regulates bodily functions as it flows to and through all parts of the physical body. When Qi flows in a smooth harmonious manner, the result is health. The healthy flow of Qi through the meridian channels may be disrupted by any number of things, such as:
- Chronic injury
- Sudden trauma
- Environmental factors such as heat, cold, wind or toxin(s)
- Poor or inappropriate nutrition
- Inadequate exercise or overexertion
- Insufficient rest
- Genetic weakness
Whenever Qi becomes disrupted, imbalance occurs and disease may result. The flow of Qi may be influenced by the stimulation of acupuncture points. Qi may be nourished by proper food, herbs, exercise, and body manipulation. The stimulation of acupuncture points by needles or other means is an attempt to re-establish the proper balance or flow of Qi throughout the body. The use of herbs, homeopathy, nutritional support, and exercise may also be implemented in an attempt to assist the body in obtaining the appropriate Qi it must acquire from its environment. Acupuncture helps to reset the energy system ‘circuit board’ by balancing the flow of Qi within the body. Excesses or deficiencies of Qi from inappropriate diet, exercise, sleep etc., may be addressed by herbal, dietary, and physical therapies.
What are some of the other benefits of acupuncture?
The use of acupuncture has been shown to:
- Provide generalized oxygenation and increased blood flow to specific areas of treatment
- Aid production of endogenous cortisone and other anti-inflammatory secretions
- Release the internal production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers
- Stimulate immunity by increasing white blood cell count and antibody production
Acupuncture’s influence on the body’s nervous system is such that it may inhibit pain and increase cardiac output, as well as stimulate bone healing, and suppression of the cough reflex. However, structural problems require structural answers. Acupuncture cannot stabilize a broken bone but can aid in the healing process and help with alleviation of pain. Several theories have been used to explain the effects produced by the treatment of acupuncture, but none of these theories, standing alone, is able to explain the effects observed.
Can acupuncture be used in conjunction with other types of treatment?
Acupuncture can be used as the sole treatment modality or it can be combined with other treatment modalities such as chiropractic, homeopathy, herbal or nutritional support. My approach uses acupuncture as an adjunctive therapy to traditional western medicine. Acupuncture is combined with more conventional western treatment modalities to enhance the body’s response to the treatment and has also been used to help wean animals off of chronic therapies with medications that may be harmful or have systemic effects such as steroids. Acupuncture should be combined with appropriate antibiotic and/or herbal treatment and can then accelerate healing and help decrease discomfort. I also use whole food nutrition products, biotherapeutics and nutraceuticals to support the patient during and between the treatment periods.
Are there certain drugs which diminish the efficacy of acupuncture?
While acupuncture works harmoniously with most other forms of treatment, certain drugs can significantly alter the effects of acupuncture. Ideally, the patient should not receive acupuncture treatments while on tranquillizers, narcotics, steroids (cortisones), or anticonvulsants. There are times when acupuncture is necessary while taking these drugs, but the effect(s) may be inhibited by the drugs’ presence in the system. One should always make sure to alert the doctor of new supplements or medications prior to treatment. Treatments are often started while on these medications and as the animal improves, these medications are slowly weaned.
Next week Dr. Hirschfeld, in Part 2 of our interview, will talk to us about how acupuncture is administered and what you and your fur baby can expect post-treatment.
Dr. Hirschfeld is the president of Hirschfeld Veterinary Consulting, Inc. She currently works as the veterinarian for Flamingo Gardens Wildlife Sanctuary in Davie, FL, Billie Swamp Safari in Clewiston, FL and as a per diem surgeon for the Humane Society of Broward County, Humane society of Greater Miami and for other private clinics and rescue groups. Dr. Hirschfeld has appeared on various TV shows and news clips, most notably Swamp Men’s most wanted episode.
She is an IVAS Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist.
She is the President of the Florida Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, veterinary consultant and volunteer for Meals for Pets (providing pet food for homebound seniors and terminally ill individuals).
When not flying around (she is a licensed pilot) or embarking on her outdoor adventures, Dr. Hirschfeld can be found in Hollywood, FL where she lives with her rock star crew: dogs Brady and Teddy, a resident ocicat, Luke and sweet orange tabby Romeo.