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Acu in Practice: Summer Heat

Welcome to acu in practice! As heat waves sweep across the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time for a reminder of the TCM Pathogen “Summer Heat.” Two of the most common presentations of Summer Heat in pets are unexplained (idiopathic) “hot spots” that develop on the skin and heat stroke. Hot spots are also known as moist exudative dermatitis. These can occur with allergies, but can also occur out suddenly during waves of Summer Heat. Summer Heat ONLY occurs during the summer season and typically brings with it an element of humidity or Damp in TCM. This Dampness is what accounts for the moist or sticky nature of the skin lesions. Heat stroke is obviously quite a different presentation and is considered to be an Interior pattern as the Summer Heat has made its way deeper into the body and is affecting it systemically while disrupting homeostasis. The Heat also attacks the body’s Yin, the cooling and hydrating aspect of healthy, resulting in dehydration and in some cases high fevers. The pulse will be forceful and rapid in these cases, unless the pattern has progressed to severe Yin deficiency which will cause the pulse to be rapid and weak.

In TCM, pathogens are anything that should not be in the body, so the primary goal of treatment is to clear the Summer Heat or Damp Heat in order to return the patient to balance. At the same time, strategies should include supporting Yin.

Common Acu Points for Clearing Heat and/or Damp Heat:

Wei Jian

Ting or Jing Well points – most distal points at the end of the limb/digits

GV 14

Helpful herbal formulas: *Herbs depend on severity and duration of signs

Damp Heat Derma Relief (by Kan Herb) – not to be used long term

Si Mao San (classical formula provided by most herbal companies)

APR nourishing (by Kan Herb) – supports Yin

Food Therapy:

Foods that are Cooling or Yin tonics. My favorite: Blueberries and melon. Just be judicious with the amount or diarrhea may occur secondarily.

Western treatments:

Topical or oral medications for skin infections

IV fluids with possible NSAIDS for improving hydration and reducing fever in pets with heat stroke/exhaustion

The best way to treat Summer Heat is to prevent it! Use caution and common sense when taking your pets into the outdoors, or cooping them up indoors, on hot days.

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


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