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Acu in Practice: Cardiac Disease, Heart Qi Deficiency

Welcome to Acu in Practice! The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that acupuncture can be helpful in over 40 medical conditions including some cardiovascular diseases and cardiac pain. In addition, several research studies have shown that acupuncture can have cardioprotective effects. This is great news for our veterinary patients who develop degenerative cardiac valve disease as they age. This condition is more common in dogs, but can occur in other companion pets, as well as large animals. Each patient will present with a unique set of TCM and Conventional symptoms, and today we are focusing on patients who present with Heart Qi Deficiency and reduced energy or capacity for exercise. These patients are not yet exhibiting any symptoms of heart failure. This is an important time to begin treatment with TCM as Western medicine has limited options in this early phase of cardiac disease.

Our first clue in these patient is usually that we detect a heart murmur during the physical exam. Often, they are late middle aged to senior patients and their guardian may report that they have reduced stamina and sleep more than they used to. Senior tiny and small breed dogs are predisposed, but valve insufficiency can occur in any size at any age, in virtually any animal.

The TCM signs indicating Qi deficiency can include a combination of the following:

Pale and/or flaccid tongue

Weak pulse (not enough Qi to generate a healthy pulse)

Reduced capacity for exercise or shortness of breath following exercise

Tires easily and/or sleeps more

On cardiac ultrasound, there may be mild chamber enlargement with a thinning of the cardiac wall and mildly reduced contractility. Arrhythmias may or may not be present in Heart Qi Deficient pets.

In these cases, the Heart is beginning to weaken (Qi Deficiency) and does not have the strength to pump the blood at ideal capacity (Qi deficiency). The patient’s energy is reduced (Qi deficiency). As the disease progresses, limbs may become cool to the touch (Yang deficiency), the pulse may become thin or thread (blood deficiency), the pet may experience insomnia (Blood deficiency) and eventually the tongue can become purple (Blood Stagnation) as the patient nears heart failure and is unable to move Blood reasonably throughout the body. Thus, when working with these patients, our TCM principles will be to Tonify Qi, Strengthen the Heart, and Nourish and Move Blood.

Acupuncture points useful for treating at the Heart Qi Deficiency stage:


HT 7 – Source point for the Heart, tonifies Deficiency

PC 6 – Master point for the Chest, has been shown through Western research to have a positive effect on cardiac rate and rhythm.

BL 14 – Association point for the Pericardium

BL 15 – Association point for the Heart

CV 14 – Alarm point for the Heart, assists in opening Chest

CV 17 – Opens the Chest, Gathering point for Qi that can tonify Qi in Heart and Lungs

ST 36 – tonifies and moves Qi

SP 6 – tonifies and moves Blood

*If signs of Yang deficiency or Blood stagnation are present, add points to directly balance these patterns.


This post is created by Nell Ostermeier, DVM, CVA and is intended for informational use, not to replace medical advice.