Acupuncture for anhidrosis (non-sweating) in horses
Acupuncture as a health care treatment began thousands of years ago in China, and is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) as a “valid modality” for treating horses.
The procedure must be administered by a licensed veterinarian as it is considered surgery by the above associations and requires a thorough knowledge of veterinary anatomy and physiology.
In 2012, the University of Florida conducted a clinical trial of 44 anhidrotic horses. Those treated with acupuncture and herbal medication showed increased sweating responses to QITST compared to baseline.
Chinese medicine believes that anhidrosis is associated with an energy blockage in the spleen and lungs. Using acupuncture points to treat anhidrosis may encourage the nervous system to cause the sweat glands to increase in size and production.
The acupuncture points that are treated are used to release heat, increase Qi (energy), regulate sweating, help with dehydration of the skin as well as heal the blocked organs.
It is important to assess the overall health of the horse at the first appointment. An acupuncture treatment for an ancillary syndrome (like Endocrine) may be necessary before moving on to anhidrosis. A few studies have linked anhidrosis to low thyroid function. Starting with treating that issue first will allow for greater success with some horses.
Both dry needle and aquapuncture techniques are used to treat anhidrosis. Dry needles are inserted into non-muscular areas like the legs and between the vertebrae. They are typically inserted first as they take 20-30 minutes to achieve the desired effect.
Aquapuncture points in the chest, hind leg and back will be injected intramuscularly with Vitamin B12 to help with the immune system, pain relief, regenerate damaged nerves and promote healthy functioning of the entire body.
Each acupuncturist will have their ‘favorite’ 15-20 points to treat. While there are many points along multiple meridians that could be used for treatment, it is not necessary to turn your horse into a pin cushion. In fact, inserting too many needles may actually dilute the therapeutic effect.
Some horses may only need acupuncture 2-3 times to resume normal sweat functioning. Other horses may need weekly appointments through the hottest time of year to stay on track. To learn about the symptoms of anhidrosis, please see our other blog article on the subject.