EQUUS ‘Farm Calls’ episode 12: Equine acupuncture

According to Dr. Ann-Marie Aumann, acupuncture has many uses for the prevention and treatment of acute and chronic conditions in horses.

Dr. Ann-Marie Aumann said that in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds and thousands of years, every month the “doctor” would come to your home and make recommendations for each person based on his or her individual issues and needs. Then, if someone got sick, that person didn’t pay the doctor for treatments or time because the doctor’s job was to keep you well.

“That is the best analogy for acupuncture,” said Aumann. “We can use a physical exam, including acupuncture, to find subtleties to work on to keep the horse healthy.

“You invest in preventive medicine to decrease the cost of having to address illness,” she said.

Aumann is a veterinarian who established Del Dios Veterinary Acupuncture in California to focus on healing patients through Traditional Chinse Veterinary Medicine by providing acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to equine and canine patients. During veterinary school, she attended the Chi Institute near Ocala, Florida, where she studied Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine and became a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Dr. Aumann then became a Certified Veterinary Chinese Herbalist through the Chi Institute, and she continues to advance her education in this specialty. She also serves on the board of the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncturists.

Use of acupuncture in horses

Where is acupuncture best used for horses? “For everyday aches and pains,” said Aumann. Athletic horses have muscle issues just like human athletes simply due to use and overuse.

She said an acupuncture “diagnostic scan” can help pinpoint areas of pain in the body—even internally—that allows the attending vet to perform diagnostics and get a diagnosis.

“The powerhouse of acupuncture is internal medicine,” said Aumann. “Especially stomach concerns. We can help the horse owner ‘see’ when the horse is uncomfortable in its digestive tract. Then you get a diagnosis from Western medicine.”

She said after that treatment is started, acupuncture can help the gut be “more balanced.”

Auman noted that a mare might show something on an acupuncture exam that points to her reproductive tract. Then the attending veterinarian can do a reproductive ultrasound to see what is going on.

She also noted that acupuncture is great for addressing pain in a horse. “There is a lot of literature on acupuncture use with laminitis,” she said.

While Aumann believes there are many uses for ultrasound in horse care, she stressed that horse owners should work with their treating veterinarians before calling in an alternative medicine practitioner. “Sometimes people say a horse has been lame for six months and hasn’t had an orthopedic exam yet,” stressed Aumann.

She noted that with a chronic condition—such as chronic laminitis—expect that a veterinary acupuncturist to work on the horse repeatedly over time. As the animal’s pain comes under control, the treatments can taper off.

Aumann said each horse is an individual, so acupuncture must be used on that specific animal as needed. “A hot Thoroughbred that you ‘think’ canter and he takes off versus a draft cross that it takes a lot of aides and effort to get him going are different,” she said. “For some horses, four needles are plenty, Other horses need more needles, or bigger/thicker needles.”

She also noted that anything that is frustrating to you about your horse, you should talk to your veterinarian. She said the horse could have a behavioral, emotional or physical issue.

Finding a veterinary acupuncturist

She also noted that even a skilled human acupuncturist might not understand diseases of the horse and equine anatomy.

Horse owners should first talk to their attending veterinarians to see if there is a veterinary acupuncturist they have experience working with in the area.

“If I’m working on a neurologic horse, for example, I want to talk to the primary vet before I start,” said Aumann.

You can find a search engine on the following websites if you want to contact a certified veterinary acupuncturist.

This episode was brought to you by Farnam. Visit farnam.com to learn more about vitamin and mineral supplements for your horse. Farnam, Your Partner in Horse Care.