Acupuncture treatment in mares and stallions seems to provide benefit as a therapy to treat reproductive disorders dependent
on the condition and the duration of treatment. In addition to study and use in horses, there is considerable use and study
in several species, including its use in women, especially as an analgesic for obstetric and gynecological procedures (see
story). For those animals that do not respond well to conventional medicine, traditional Chinese medicine affords a viable
alternative that has shown results for horses during the past several millennia.
Dr. Shen Xie administers acupuncture to Moly, an 18-year-old Thoroughbred mare, who had a normal foal after three sessions
of acupuncture. She had suffered from infertility for four years before the treatment.
William H. McCormick, VMD, Middleburg, Va., asks: "What is different about this ancient medical approach that is not provided
by our spectacularly successful Western medicine? Does traditional Chinese medicine, the style of modern Chinese medicine
that is taught at the official medical universities in China today, have some advantages over our conventional Western veterinary
The ancient art is especially helpful for reproductive stimulation in animals that otherwise are unresponsive to Western medicine,
according to Rhonda Rathgeber, DVM, Hagyard-Davidson-McGee.
"Reproductive disorders in both stallions and mares respond well to acupuncture therapy, which will improve the overall health
of the horse and thereby improve reproductive function," Rathgeber says.
Acupuncture regimens exist for reproductive problems, including those for irregular estrus cycles, anestrus, excessive behavioral
estrus, retained corpus luteum, urine pooling, uterine infection and/or uterine fluid, uterine inertia including lack of uterine
tone or contractions, endometritis, vaginitis, prevention of abortion, dystocia, pyometra, retained placenta, uterine and
post-partum hemorrhage, prolapsed uterus and insufficient lactation. Acupuncture analgesia combined with lower amounts of
conventional anesthesia compounds can be beneficially used for cesarean section in debilitated mares, she says. Acupuncture
can be used in colts and stallions for cryptorchidism (abdominal or undescended testis); orchitis (inflammation of the testis);
paraphimosis (penile paralysis or inability to retract the penis in the sheath); libido problems; sore backs; and behavioral
In China and the United States, many successful outcomes have been documented using acupuncture and Chinese herbal medications
in tandem to benefit the reproductive process of both mares and stallions. Aquapuncture — the hypodermic injection of points
with small amounts of sterile liquids, such as vitamin B12 or hormones, for a more prolonged stimulation — also has been shown
to be effective to treat infertility in mares. Prostaglandin injected into the Bai Wei point (located at the lumbosacral junction
on the dorsal midline) has been used to stimulate luteolysis or disruption of the corpus luteum, triggering the mare to come
back in heat. Hormones injected into acupoints have also been shown to stimulate mares to cycle more regularly.
Case in point
Acupuncture was shown to reduce the amount of uterine fluid in Thoroughbred mares 24 hours post treatment, measured by rectal
ultrasonography, Rathgeber reports. Treated before and after breeding, these mares subsequently had a conception rate of 86
percent. Previously, these mares needed to be bred repeatedly, and most were barren due to infertility an average of 2.8 years
prior to acupuncture treatment. In addition to the acupuncture treatment, all mares were treated with oxytocin, intrauterine
antibiotics and occasionally systemic antibiotics. The mares in the study were kept on Western therapies because they had
been treated with those therapies for all the previous matings. The only difference was the acupuncture.
"Since then, I have treated thousands of mares, and I feel comfortable with the viscerosomatic response that it achieves,"
Rathgeber says. "The veterinarian that palpates the mares will notice a difference in uterine tone the day after the acupuncture
is done. That is the best selling point that I have."
Bob Hillman, DVM, Cornell University, says though he uses Western medicine fairly exclusively, he will try acupuncture if
the patient doesn't respond.