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Acupuncture for ER and Critical Care 3

Welcome to acu in practice! This is week 3 of featuring ER or critical care situations where acupuncture can really help the patient to feel better and contribute to a positive outcome. Acute back pain or injury, often causing hind end paralysis, is definitely one of these situations. This commonly occurs in dogs and I see it in cats and rabbits too. In dogs, the typical underlying cause is underlying Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) where one of the intervertebral discs swells markedly or ruptures. This happens in older dogs who have had long standing spinal arthritis and in younger dogs where a high impact move such as jumping off the couch can result in the rupture. The same is true for rabbits and acute back injury from “bucking” is also common. As far as cats go, they are more prone to chronic low back pain as they age rather than acute injury,. However, they are more prone to “saddle thrombus” which is where a block clot lodges in the base of the aorta where it splits into the 2 branches that supply the hind limbs. In more rare instances, dogs will present with an embolism that lodges in the spinal cord causing similar symptoms. All of these situations are painful (different levels based on the severity and cause) and have the potential to cause long term paralysis. In each of these situations, as an integrative vet, I would use Western pharmaceuticals, perform diagnostics and recommend surgery depending on the cause. And, in each of these situations I most definitely use acupuncture and associated alternative modalities to relieve the pain, improve circulation of Blood and Qi, and restore nervous function.

A typical point prescription may include:

Lumbar Ba Hui - calming, relieves pain, tonifies the Kidney

Local points - ideally you can localize the lesion, then treat points directly above and below to relieve pain and to move Blood and Qi. For example, if the lesion is at the thoracolumbar junction, I would treat BL 19 or 20 along with BL 21 and BL 23. I typically don’t needle the points if they are super sensitive to palpation.

SP 6 with ST 36 - powerful combination to move and tonify Blood and Qi.

SP 10 - move and nourish the Blood

BL 17 - local or for nourishing Blood

BL 60 - to draw pain from the channel, reduce inflammation

GV 14 - opens up the cervical and thoracic spine

Four Gates combination - LIV 3 with LI 4 - relieves pain, moves Stagnation.

Laser therapy:

Multiradiance activet pro for points too sensitive to needle

Companion Class 4 on the most affected region to reduce inflammation and pain.

Electro acupuncture:

I will use this in dogs with acute back pain/paralysis. I typically in rabbits and cats when the condition is more chronic. In my practice, it has been too intense for them in the emergency situation.


Chosen on case by case basis. Blood movers are critical in FCE and saddle thrombus.

Frequency of treatment: This really depends on the case, how the animal responds, and whether or not I refer them for advanced imaging and surgery. If the patient is not going for advanced imaging or surgery, they may need to be seen daily to weekly for acupuncture. In some cases, limb function may be permanently impaired or not return. I have found using the combination of Western medicine along with Acupuncture and herbs, gives the patients faced with these traumatic incidents the best chance at achieving a healthy, happy quality of life - either helping them get back to normal or reaching a new, acceptable normal for them.

This post is created by Nell Ostermeier, DVM, CVA, FAAVA and is intended for informational use, not to replace medical advice. Please visit on FB or IG for more fascinating tidbits on integrative medicine for pets.


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