Tuesdays with Tony

Did you know that two of my Springhill docs are trained to use acupuncture to treat your horses? Acupuncture may seem mysterious to some of you. Not to me though. I’m a cat and I know everything, so let me explain.

Acupuncture is the insertion of needles into specific points in the body to cause a healing response. It’s been used to treat humans and animals in China for thousands of years, and now is used all around the world. Acupuncture is used to treat a wide variety of illnesses, and positive results have been shown in many clinical research studies. Each of those acupuncture points has a specific effect when it’s stimulated by the needle. Scientific studies have shown that most acupuncture points are located in regions where there is a nerve plexus and higher electrical conductivity than the surrounding tissue.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

In traditional Chinese medicine, the acupuncture points are connected by pathways in the body called meridians. These pathways create an energy flow throughout the body that maintains overall health. This energy is called Qi (pronounced chee). When the flow is disrupted, disease can occur. By stimulating certain acupuncture points, the energy flow can be restored.

In Western terms, acupuncture stimulates the nervous system, releasing chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These biochemical effects stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities. They can increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasm, and release pain-controlling endorphins. The National Institute of Health consensus statement concluded that there was compelling evidence of acupuncture’s ability to control multiple ailments in people, including osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal pain, asthma, nausea, and headaches.

So while Eastern and Western traditions may use their own terms for these concepts, they’re really not all that different. Not so mysterious after all, right?

The Exam

Acupuncture diagnosis and treatment is very individualized to the patient. In addition to their usual veterinary examination, my docs will employ a few additional diagnostic techniques. In Chinese medicine, personality type can predispose an animal to certain illnesses or injuries. When my doc comes out to see your horse, she will ask questions to determine which personality your horse leans towards, and this is taken into consideration when she is choosing a treatment.

The Personality Types:

Wood: Wood personalities are confident, they are competitive, can sometimes be aggressive, and are often dominant. Many of our best show horses are wood personalities since they thrive on competition.

Fire: Fire personalities want to be the center of attention; they are friendly and playful but often sensitive. These kinds of horses are the ones that are always getting into something, these are the mischievous ones who open stall doors and let all their friends out, too.

Earth: Earth personalities are mellow, easy going, friendly, slow moving, and tolerant.

Metal: Metal personalities are rather aloof, independent, and like rules and order.

Water: Water personalities are timid and shy. They may be nervous and tend to react based on their fear.

After my doc determines your horse’s personality type, she will assess his tongue.  Based on the color, texture, and moisture of the tongue, she can gain clues on what organ systems are affected and if there is a deficiency or stagnation in the energy flow. She will then feel your horse’s pulses, which will help her narrow down where the abnormality is coming from. Next comes the scan. My docs will apply pressure with an instrument to assess each meridian or channel where energy flows. She will watch your horse carefully for his reaction to certain acupuncture points or entire channels. For example, there are certain points that indicate hock pain or stomach ulcers. My doc will score each reaction then put all the pieces together to make a diagnosis.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic


Now that we have a diagnosis, treatment can begin. Based on your horse’s personality and diagnosis, my doc will perform the treatment that will best suit your horse on that day. You’re probably most familiar with the idea of thin needles placed in specific acupuncture points, but there are several other types of treatment that may also be used. Electro-acupuncture involves sending a light electric current through wires connected to the needles in your horse to increase the stimulation of the points. Moxibustion involves burning dried mugwort over specific points to encourage the movement of energy and relieve stagnation. Vitamin B12 can also be injected directly into acupuncture points for a long-term stimulation of the point that will last days after treatment.


After your horse’s initial examination and treatment, my doc will recommend follow up treatments. During these treatments, she will perform the same examination done at the initial visit to determine where your horse has improved, where there have been changes, and what needs to be addressed now. Usually, it takes 3-4 treatments 1-2 weeks apart to fully treat an ailment. In other words, acupuncture requires commitment.

How Can Acupuncture Help Your Horse?

My doc’s preferred way to practice is to incorporate both Western medicine and acupuncture together to achieve the best results for your horse. They use acupuncture to assist in the treatment of musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis, tendon/ligament injuries, and sore backs. Acupuncture can also be used to treat respiratory issues such as asthma or heaves, anhidrosis (non-sweaters), and anxiety problems. It can stimulate appetite, soothe some types of colic, and reduce diarrhea. Using acupuncture, my doc may be able to decrease the amount of medication necessary to treat your horse.

Acupuncture doesn’t cure every condition, but there are many applications where it can improve your horse’s quality of life and facilitate healing!

If you want to schedule an appointment for your horse’s initial acupuncture treatment, call my minions today. And make sure you tell them I deserve a treat for all my hard work around here.

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. Do you know how many videos I’ve got on my YouTube Channel? It’s a LOT! You can binge watch my videos and become a horse healthcare expert. Not on my level, of course, but on a high level for a human. Just click the link to check it out, and make sure you subscribe. I put up new content all the time, and you don’t want to miss out. You’re welcome.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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