Typically, I would not choose acupuncture for a sick horse as my first line of defense. We have excellent drugs, like antibiotics and anti-inflammatories that have been known to save lives. During a course lecture for “Evidence Based Acupuncture” I am attending, research papers talking about the use of electro-acupuncture in respiratory disease were discussed. Various studies noted that stimulation of certain points caused increased clearance of mucus in the trachea (windpipe), reduction in inflammatory cells, and increase in circulating infection-fighting cells (neutrophils). When I was called in recently to use acupuncture as an adjunctive therapy on an ill patient, I was pleased to be able to put this information to use!
My patient was on antibiotics for a lung infection (pneumonia), and one of the required medications tasted particularly bad. The poor thing didn’t want to eat (as many horses on this medication don’t). Of course he had to stay on this excellent drug to help him get better, so we were in a catch 22-position. While he did not have a fever, he was quite dull and almost looked sleepy upon pulling him from his stall. We worked the points noted in the papers, as well as a couple for appetite stimulation. Afterwards, our boy was pretty relaxed, partly due to feeling poorly, in addition to the sedative effects of acupuncture. However, later that day, he began to feel better and started eating again. His attitude improved and he is on his way to a recovery. I obviously can’t and won’t take credit for healing the pneumonia; antibiotics were of course the right therapy to use! I think this is a perfect example of marrying Western and Eastern medicine to achieve a positive outcome for our patient.