My interest in veterinary acupuncture began in the early 1970’s when I was a resident in veterinary neurology at the Ohio State University. Dr. Marvin Cain, a nearby innovative practitioner from Cincinnati Ohio, had recently been introduced to acupuncture and had become very enthusiastic about its positive effects on his veterinary patients. His enthusiasm was contagious and in 1974 I attended an introductory course that he and some fellow practitioners organized in Kansas City, Missouri.
The fact that there were points on the body that could be repeatedly detected with an ohmmeter was very exciting to me. Further it was so fascinating that these points could be stimulated with special needles and create physiological effects, not just locally, but at distant sites in the body. Dr. Cain and other colleagues formed the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS). I was busy studying for the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Neurology Board examinations, finishing my master’s degree classes and thesis and becoming a new faculty member at Ohio State, so had no time to attend the new IVAS acupuncture training program. In retrospect I see that the universe had a different life plan ahead for me with everything in perfect order and in due time.
I was given “an offer I couldn’t refuse” to create a neurology program from scratch at a brand new veterinary college at the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, FL. Shortly after arriving in Florida in 1977, I began attracting acupuncturists into my life. First I met Dr. John Haromy, an acupuncturist from Lake Wales, and began collaborating with him on tough neurological cases. He helped many of my patients with chronic seizures, paralysis and myasthenia gravis. In the early 1990’s another acupuncturist, Dr. Richard Panzer, came to UF to do acupuncture research for his Masters degree. He and I collaborated on several of my neurological patients and in 1994 we published an article in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine on the use of an ear acupoint to control epilepsy in dogs.
In 1999 Dr. Huisheng Xie joined the faculty of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and established a formal Acupuncture Service. I began referring patients to him and we began collaborating on many cases. In the early 2000’s, Dr. Xie asked for my help to create an Acupuncture Internship program at UF and I decided after all these years, it was now time to learn and practice acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine myself. Like the old saying goes “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”, I believe it was my destiny to learn TCVM, as taught in China, from Dr. Xie. I became certified in veterinary acupuncture and completed several courses in Chinese herbal medicine at the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine.
After acupuncture certification, I became part of the UF Acupuncture Service and began teaching at the Chi Institute. I was service Chief of Neurology and treated many neurological patients with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, but on my weeks off the Neurology Service, I performed acupuncture on many other types of cases on the Acupuncture Service. Dr. Xie and I both had a commitment to develop evidence-based traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM) and so a nonprofit organization, the American Association of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (AATCVM), was established in 2006.
The AATCVM was formed to promote research not only in acupuncture, but also in Chinese herbal medicine, Tui-na and Food Therapy and to provide continuing education and case support to veterinarians utilizing all TCVM kinds of treatments. We also created the American Journal of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (AJTCVM), a peer reviewed TCVM journal, in 2006 and I have been the Editor-in-Chief since its inception.
Over the years, I have had many successful outcomes using acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine on all types of disorders, but the most recent and greatest TCVM life lesson, nearest and dearest to my heart, has been with my own dog “Wings”. “Wings” is the beautiful Whippet pictured in Dr. Xie’s Veterinary Acupuncture book. She had developed an insidiously progressive malaise and had begun sleeping more, which I attributed to her being 12 years of age. She then developed polyuria, polydipsia and urinary incontinence at night. A CBC, serum biochemistry profile and urinalysis were all normal.
The incontinence improved with acupuncture and Wu Bi Shan Yao San. Several months later however, she developed a progressive reduction in appetite and her lethargy and cognitive decline worsened. All the blood work was normal, but an ultrasound revealed a large solitary mass in the liver and another mass in the right adrenal gland. Because of the possibility of hemangiosarcoma and the cranial location of the liver mass in a deep chested Whippet, a needle aspirate was too risky and would likely not result in a diagnostic specimen.
Consultation with others confirmed the mass was too large to completely remove surgically and since there was possible metastasis to the adrenal gland, her prognosis was poor. At that stage she was very sick and had poor life quality. I had previously witnessed the resolution of a large, non-resectable, biopsy-confirmed mass cell tumor on the foot of a canine patient, treated with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, so I knew TCVM might help my dog too. Weekly acupuncture and Tui-na, daily administration of the Chinese herbal medicines Stasis Breaker, Wei Qi Booster and Yunnan Bai Yao and Food Therapy were begun.
I also continued low dose Wu Bi Shan Yao San for a short time, because the urinary incontinence had been so hard to live with. Within 1 month after initiating TCVM treatment, all the clinical signs had resolved and her cognitive function was better than she had been in years. We have had to have 2 short courses of Eight Gentlemen because of transient anorexia, but it has now been 10 months since the diagnosis. She continues to have an excellent life quality and live in harmony with her liver cancer, thanks to TCVM, daily walks and lots of hugs.
I have retired from neurology at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine after 30 years, but continue to enjoy participation in the TCVM community- teaching, writing and publishing to promote the integration of TCVM into conventional veterinary practice. I know that with acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tui-na, Food Therapy and balanced exercise, more dogs like my beloved “Wings” can live a longer higher quality life, even though the conventional prognosis may be poor.