Eastern medicine has slowly but surely been making its way into mainstream medicine within the human medical system for the past few years. As could be expected, that has prompted significant interest from pet owners about the uses of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in pets.
As our clients are aware, Westway Animal Clinic takes pride in being a well-rounded, scientific based, patient-first, fear-free, AAHA-accredited veterinary establishment who listens to pet owners and works with them to ensure a customized approach for every patient we have the privilege of taking care of.
That said, we could not ignore some of the studies and evidence supporting the use of acupuncture in animals of all kinds. Dr. Korol decided that he wanted to investigate further to see if this type of treatment could be utilized in conjunction with our other modalities to benefit our patients as part of a non-pharmaceutical approach.
Acupuncture has been practiced in both humans and animals in China for thousands of years. The most common methodology involves creating a therapeutic effect in the body by inserting very thin, sterile needles into specific points on the body, known as acupoints (or “Shu-xue”). The ancient Chinese discovered 361 acupoints in humans, and 173 in animals.
While relatively new to us in North America, the first veterinary acupuncture book is believed to have been written sometime between 659 BCE and 621 BCE! The protocols for acupuncture in horses were very well documented in this text and over time the protocols were refined for other animals, including dogs and cats. This methodology has been utilized as part of regular veterinary medicine practices in China ever since.
Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) has four main components: acupuncture, herbal medicine, food therapy and Tui-na (medical massage/manipulation). In humans there is a fifth component that involves meditation but, that isn’t really something we have figured out how to get our pets to do just yet!
We will be honest – before investigating this particular field of medicine we were just a little bit skeptical. That said, the more we looked into it, the more curious we became. Research and the use of modern equipment (like MRI) shows that the identified acupoints are found in areas of the body where there is a high density of nerve endings, mast cells, small arterioles and lymphatic vessels. What does that mean? Well, when you stimulate these points, studies have shown that you can cause a release of beta-endorphins, serotonin and other neurotransmitters. It seems as though we were not the only curious ones – as of February 2017, the US National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine held a total of 25,764 research papers regarding acupuncture; 404 were animal specific articles!
Dr. Korol made the decision that, in order to be the progressive and forward-thinking hospital we are committed to being, introducing acupuncture just made sense! We are very excited to announce that Dr. Korol went “back to school!” He has been attending the world-renowned Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, based in Florida. Since being founded in 1998, they have graduated over 6,000 veterinarians (from 71 countries and regions) as practitioners of TCVM. Their mix of theory and practical training allows for hands-on experience that just cannot be gained from reading books or watching videos. While he has already completed one round of training, he will be back-and-forth to further his education.
With the initial training under his belt, Dr. Korol has begun identifying patients who may be good candidates for acupuncture therapy. To start, we will be using it for patients with musculoskeletal pain. Acupuncture has been proven effective in pain management as well as treating gastrointestinal disorders, skin conditions, geriatric conditions and even for palliative care. Dr. Korol will be continuing to advance his skills and, as he becomes more proficient, will be offering more options for his patients. He is also hoping to expand the service with electro-acupuncture and eventually other TCVM elements. We are so proud to be able to bring new services and procedures to you and your pets through our hospital and promise to keep you updated on Dr. Korol’s endeavours!