By Patrick Mahaney, VMD
Has your dog or cat shown an appreciative or relaxed response upon being gently stroked on his head or back? Has he seemed stimulated by or gotten upset when his paws or dewclaws are touched? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider the ancient practice of acupuncture for your pet.
In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), there are meridians (energy channels) and acupuncture points covering nearly every body surface — even on our pets! Acupuncture points are tiny clusters of blood vessels, nerves, and lymphatic vessels. Application of pressure (acupressure) or other stimulation (needle, laser, other) creates an energetic affect to enhance blood circulation, nervous system stimulation or relaxation, and the release of anti-inflammatory and pain relieving hormones. Here are just some of the more common pressure points on dogs and cats.
GV20 sits on top of the head behind the eyes, between the ears, and at the site of convergence of the skull’s bony ridges. Considered to be a calming point, gentle pressure or front to back stroking can sooth a pet’s apprehension caused by travel, thunderstorms, fireworks, or other anxieties.
The Governing Vessel (GV) runs down the midline of the body and traces the spinal cord to provide energetic flow from the head through the tail base. Multiple GV points exist at which application of pressure locally treats pain and releases excess heat and energy from the body. GV14 resides at base of the neck, GV 4 sits at the junction of the chest and low back, and GV 3 is found the intersection of the low back and pelvis.
GB 20 is located just behind the ears at the base of the skull and is a location commonly scratched by your pet’s hind limbs during episodes of pruritis (itching). Gentle application of pressure or a light scratch with your finger stimulates GB 21 and can quell inflammation associated with allergies.
For hip pain caused by dysplasia, arthritis, and other diseases, gentle pressure or massage applied to the inverted triangle formed by three acupuncture points is valuable to promote blood flow to the joint. GB 29 and 30 create the forward and backward portions of the triangle, while BL 54 forms the tip (pointing down towards the knee).
BL 23 is known as the Association (Shu) Point for the Kidney and is located just behind the junction of the chest and low back on the right and left sides of the spine (also on either side of GV 4). Gently massaging or applying pressure to BL 23 can improve discomfort associated with middle and low back pain.
Commonly known as the "aspirin point," the site is forward from the insertion of the calcanean (Achilles) tendon on the top of the calcaneus (anklebone). BL 60/KI 3 are respectively located on the outside/inside of the limb. Application of firm pressure to these points creates a general pain relieving effect.
LI 4 and LV 3 are respectively on the front and hind limbs just inside the dewclaw or where the dewclaw previously existed. Applying firm pressure to these points drives energy up the limb and benefits pets afflicted by generalized weakness associated with geriatric diseases and cancer. LI 4 is known as the Master Point for the Face and Mouth and helps eye, ear, and mouth ailments.
Used individually or together, LI 14 and TH 14 can dampen shoulder and neck pain. Located near each other in front of and behind the end of the scapula (shoulder blade) above the shoulder joint, these points can be stimulated by gentle massage or consistent pressure.
ST 36 is known as the Master Point of the Gastrointestinal Tract (GIT) and Abdomen. Pressure or massage applied to ST 36 benefit ailments and discomfort associated with abdominal organs. ST 36 sits on the outside of the hind limb, just below the knee, and in the muscle filling the groove created by the tibial crest (bony ridge on the front of the shin).