In China, acupuncture is… for dogs and cats

A dog undergoing acupuncture at a veterinary clinic in Beijing on April 12, 2022 (WANG Zhao/AFP)

Tightly tied, a poodle watches anxiously as a veterinarian inserts fine needles into its back and legs: acupuncture for dogs and cats is attracting more and more masters in China.

Even rabbits are welcome in this practice of traditional Chinese medicine in Beijing, which sees furry animals of various sizes parade from morning to night.

Main motivation of the masters: to offer their animals a treatment that is less invasive and with less side effects than conventional medicine.

“The advantage of traditional Chinese medicine is that there is no surgery, so the suffering and recovery of the animal is reduced,” Zhai Chunyu, 38, told AFP. , with Duniu, his toy poodle.

Three years old, he suffered from Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, which affects the head and neck of the femur and leads to their collapse with osteoarthritis, pain and claudication.

A dog is in the middle of an acupuncture session at a veterinary clinic in Beijing, April 12, 2022
A dog undergoing acupuncture at a veterinary clinic in Beijing on April 12, 2022 (WANG Zhao/AFP)

“He was so hurt that he couldn’t put his foot on the ground” and was “lethargic”, explained Mr. Zhai, who works in finance.

“A doctor advised me to remove this femur head. But I didn’t want to because I had another poodle that was there and he suffered from the operation and the side effects.”

bamboo flute

A friend advised her to try acupuncture at this practice, opened in 2016 by veterinarian Li Wen, 68.

“After five-six sessions, we saw the results. Duniu was able to walk and even run a little now”, welcomed his master.

Veterinarian Li Wen shows a diagram showing acupuncture points for dogs, at his office in Beijing on July 23, 2022.
Veterinarian Li Wen shows a diagram showing acupuncture points for dogs, at his office in Beijing on July 23, 2022 (WANG Zhao / AFP)

To establish his diagnosis, the veterinarian checked the animal’s temperament, his eyes, the color of his tongue, took his pulse and asked the master.

He then plants his needles in acupuncture points specific to dogs and cats.

“Of the 10 animals that I receive on average every day, there are always one or two that rebel,” explained Li Wen, 46 years old in the business.

“You have to talk to them, be gentle with them, reassure them that you are not here to hurt them.”

To contribute to their relaxation, it diffuses a soft music of the bamboo flute and chirping of birds.

“Paralyzed”

Like people, once the needles are inserted, the veterinarian encourages the points of a heating lamp where the disks of mugwort – a plant are placed. This is called “moxibustion”.

It is said to allow, in addition to acupuncture, to reduce rheumatism as well as muscle and joint pain.

The veterinarian mainly treats cases of paralysis, weakness of the legs, epilepsy, pain and urinary retention.

Acupuncture can also be used when no other treatment is available.

A rabbit receives infrared lamp treatment at a veterinary practice in Beijing on July 23, 2022.
A rabbit receives infrared lamp treatment at a veterinary practice in Beijing on July 23, 2022 (WANG Zhao/AFP)

As for Xiaomei, a 12-year-old male Labrador with nerve compression in the lower back and a bony parrot beak.

“In September, after swimming, he couldn’t get up. A veterinarian told us that it was impossible to treat him and he was paralyzed”, explained his owner Ma Li, 41 years old, to AFP.

“Thanks to the acupuncture, he still struggles but can walk normally and even run,” he said.

Average session price: from 360 to 390 yuan (from 52 to 57 euros) depending on the package, which remains acceptable for most Beijing masters.

Cows and chickens

“The first time, he was scared and only suffered for five minutes,” said Yang Lihua, a 65-year-old retiree who lives with Niannian, his Pekingese with a herniated disc.

“Now he loves it! After the session he is so relaxed that he falls asleep in the car on the way home.”

Animal acupuncture is about six centuries old in China, according to Professor Li.

It was first used for cows, sheep, horses, rabbits or even chickens. Its application for dogs and cats is more recent.

A woman holds her cat before an acupuncture session at a veterinary practice in Beijing on July 23, 2022.
A woman holds her cat before an acupuncture session at a veterinary practice in Beijing on July 23, 2022 (WANG Zhao/AFP) #

“Traditional Chinese medicine is not intended to replace conventional medicine” because “both have their strengths” and are “complementary”, emphasized Professor Li.

The animal acupuncture market remains limited at present.

“But since 2016, it has become popular,” said Professor Li.

“As the level of education, standard of living and income increases, more and more people are realizing the benefits of this medicine.”

Next to it, the adorable Labrador of Mrs. Ma jumped into the back seat of her mistress’s car after her session, looking happy and hanging out her tongue: “She’s not happy?”, she smiled.

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