Reproductive stimulation, acupuncture helps troubled mares conceive and carry full term
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 procedures?"
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 problems.
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.