I am an associate veterinarian with McKee-Pownall Equine and I work at our Campbellville location. While I enjoy all aspects of equine practice, my special love is for lameness diagnosis and treatment and the medicine of treating equine athletes. I have been interested in pursuing equine acupuncture as an adjunctive therapy for my patients for quite some time, and I was recently given the opportunity to enrol in the Chi Institute’s Equine Acupuncture course in Florida.

Stone needles, early veterinary medicine, and other interesting facts

Veterinary acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, dating back some 2000 years. There are reports of the use of stone needles as early as the Neolithic period. All I can say about that is “ouch!” During the Neolithic period, early acupuncturists used the 4cm long needles to lance boils, and target specific pain “loci” or points on the body.

Early “textbooks” were inscribed on turtle shells, and describe work on horses. The first acupuncture textbook was written 2,700 years ago, documenting his thoughts on the heart and the way circulation worked (4,000 years before Western medicine). Despite the fact that dog and cat medicine is often first in the veterinary field these days, equine veterinary care was of paramount importance to ancient Chinese, as horses were essential in protection of the kingdoms, as cavalry mounts. Early acupuncture works were commissioned by the emperor to advance care and treatment for his horses, and thus, the defence system of his empire.

Even though acupuncture has been around for ages in the eastern world, it was really only during the 1970’s that acupuncture came to North America. Some attribute it to Richard Nixon’s visit to China, where, the story goes, a member of his entourage fell ill, and was not responding to Western medicine. Before flying the critically ill man back across the many miles to the US, Chinese doctors used acupuncture to help speed healing and treat the disease. Reportedly, the man responded very quickly and was able to continue on the tour. After the visit with China, Richard Nixon returned, touting acupuncture as a reputable method of healing/care. North American acupuncture was born!

Currently, acupuncturists, both veterinary and human, attend training sessions, tests to assure quality graduates, accredited by the China National Society for TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine). There are only two certified programs for veterinary acupuncture in North America at present time.

Melanie Barham DVM

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