acupuncture needles

Interview with Animal Acupuncturist, Dr. Patricia Baley

If you’ve never experienced acupuncture for yourself, I would encourage you to give it a try.  Acupuncture can be very beneficial for a variety of conditions (I’ve had it performed for neck and shoulder pain, lower back pain, and hormonal imbalances), but make sure you find a highly-trained acupuncturist who knows what they’re doing.  I use a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor who specializes in acupuncture and herbal therapy.

But isn’t acupuncture where they stick needles all over your body?  This is a common question I hear.  Why, yes, it is!  And if performed correctly, it doesn’t hurt at all–and this is coming from someone who’s had needle phobia for most of her life!

I’m certified in equine acupressure, which employs the same underlying principles as acupuncture, only with finger pressure instead of needles.  (See this post for more information on the difference between acupressure and acupuncture.)  In the United States, only veterinarians can perform acupuncture on horses (or any any animal).

The following is my Q&A with Dr. Patricia Baley, a veterinarian who specializes in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, including acupuncture.


Dr. Patricia Baley, DVM, PhD, CVA, CVH, FAAVA, graduated from Texas A&M University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 1999 and then became certified in animal acupuncture through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society in 2001.  She also studied Chinese Herbalism, Tui-Na, and Traditional Chinese Medicine Food Therapy through the Chi Institute, based in Florida.  Dr. Baley currently practices Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine on dogs, cats, birds, exotic animals, and horses at her mobile practice based in Hockley, Texas.  For more information about Dr. Baley and her practice, see her website


What led you to study Traditional Chinese Medicine and animal acupuncture?

Before and while I was in vet school, I worked with an equine veterinarian who did integrative medicine.  I started vet school thinking that this was how everybody did medicine.  Boy was I disappointed when I discovered that acupuncture wasn’t a standard part of the curriculum.


How and when do you incorporate acupuncture with your equine patients?

I just do traditional Chinese veterinary medicine and acupuncture.  So my patients who need conventional medicine see their regular veterinarians.  We treat each patient with acupuncture and often with a prescription herbal therapy and food therapy based on their Chinese medical diagnosis.


In your experience, which equine conditions respond best to acupuncture?

I treat things that are slow to respond or difficult to treat with conventional medicine.  So my patients have anhidrosis, head shaking, metabolic diseases, difficult to treat lameness, non healing wounds or tendon injuries.  I do some supportive pain control for geriatrics as well.


Can you give us a specific equine case study in which acupuncture was successful?

I’m currently treating a patient who went to TAMU CVM for a salmonella infection. While the patient was there, they stopped sweating.  After 3 days after acupuncture and starting herbal therapy, I just heard from the owner that this horse has started sweating again.

I treated a 29 year old horse with chronic colic, stemming from stones in her bile ducts.  After initiating treatment of acupuncture and herbs, this horse also got better, she didn’t colic for the rest of her life.  She died at 30+ when she developed breakdown of her hoof walls.

Anna’s horse had Cushing’s disease.  We maintained him without pergolide and in good body condition without other symptoms of Cushings, for years on some acupuncture and mostly herbal therapy.


Which other treatment modalities do you believe work best in conjunction with acupuncture?

I’m primarily trained in Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine.  So I do acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, food therapy, and prescribe some medical massage.  I occasionally use some simple homeopathic or homotoxicology (Heel) remedies.  We can use TCVM either by itself or with conventional western medical therapy.


To learn more about Dr. Baley and the services she offers, see her website.

Acupressure and Acupuncture for Horses: What’s the Difference?


The following post is copied, with permission, from Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Blog and written by Nancy Zidonis and Amy Snow, co-founders of Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute and authors of several animal acupressure books, including Equine Acupressure: A Working Manual.

A horsefly is mid-air, within inches of landing on the horse’s flank. The surface of his flank twitches just before the fly has a chance to land, warding it off in advance of being stung. This is how sensitive a horse is! He can feel everything within inches of his body. Whether this is a voluntary or involuntary response to the fly’s approach, it doesn’t matter, since it is purely information about how conscious and connected the horse is to the surface of his body and his immediate environment. It is because of the extraordinary awareness of his body and surrounding “personal space,” the horse is highly responsive to the powerful, yet seemingly gentle, ancient eastern healing modalities.

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Acupuncture and Acupressure are based on the same principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).   The Chinese have found stone needles (Bian Shi) in tombs that are considered to be 5000 years old.  Historians have noted that acupressure began at about the same time or before acupuncture.

Similarities between Acupressure and Acupuncture Historically, these modalities are identical in their approach to healing.  Understanding how to balance the many forms of vital energy that sustains and nourishes human or equine body is key to both disciplines.  In TCM, energy balance must remain or be regained for the body to be healthy or create an environment for healing. When there is an imbalance in the flow of energy, called Chi (pronounced “Chee” and also seen as Qi), the horse may have either acute or chronic signs of ill health.  Most experienced horse people know when their horse is “off.”  Sometimes we can tell by looking at his coat, a dull look in his eye, an unwillingness to change leads readily, or just something we can’t put our finger on.

Professional acupressure or acupuncture practitioners use a number of methods to identify the underlying pattern that is causing the horse’s imbalance.  With horses, we have to hone our observation skills, since they cannot tell us exactly how they feel, perform a comprehensive physical examination, while also gathering as much information about the horse from the current owner or trainer.  Once the practitioner has gathered enough information to discern a pattern, he or she will be able to develop a treatment plan involving specific acupoints to either tonify (add energy), or sedate (reducing energy).

For instance, if a horse is lethargic, his coat lacks luster and his eye appears dull, the TCM practitioner would perform a comprehensive examination.  The practitioner would determine the best points to help release a blockage or stagnation of Chi, thus clearing the flow of vital energy and body fluids to allow the horse’s body to heal and regain his natural harmony and strength.  Additionally, the treatment plan may include Chinese herbs, dietary recommendations, or exercise.

The TCM practitioner takes a holistic approach to attaining and retaining harmony and balance in the horse’s body. In acupressure and acupuncture acupoints, the specific points that are stimulated are the same points.  These acupoints are located along the energy pathways, known as meridians and extraordinary vessels, which are accessible to manipulation by either touch or needles.  Acupoints are categorized in relation to their functional effect on the body, again, the categorization and use of points is exactly the same in both healing arts.

The Distinction Between Acupressure and Acupuncture The most obvious difference between the two disciplines is acupressurists rely on the use of our hands, finger, and elbows to stimulate specific acupoints on the horse.  While acupuncturists use very thin needles that are quickly inserted into the skin at a particular acupoint, leaving the needle to perform the necessary clearing of an energy blockage or stagnation.

Both techniques can work effectively, but only a veterinarian trained in TCM and specifically in acupuncture can perform an acupuncture treatment. Acupressure can be performed by horse companions which offers the added benefit of an energetic exchange between horse and human. Acupressure is available and safe for all horse-people all the time. It does not require years of study in TCM to affect the health of your horse.  We have seen lots of people perform an acupressure treatment, having just a basic knowledge of acupressure and points, with good results.

Last summer a friend of ours took a weeklong adventure trip into the back- country of Colorado.  She and four of her friends had planned the trip down to the last meal and aspirin.  The trip was exhilarating; they had all the gear they needed to weather daily light summer rain, cold nights in higher elevations, and all the horses’ conditioning was paying off. On the fourth day out, mid-afternoon, the barometric pressure dropped drastically and a severe thunderstorm was moving in.  All of the horses became edgy and anxious, but one horse was starting to show signs of colic.  They were at least 35 miles from possible veterinary care.  Our friend, who had taken acupressure courses, knew the emergency points for colic and anxiety.  She immediately began to gently, yet firmly, apply pressure with her thumb on the specific points needed to resolve colic and anxiety conditions.

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After a few minutes, she felt the horse relax and began to hear sound from his abdomen – what a relief!  The storm passed and they went on with their adventure. Acupressure gives every horse owner or trainer an opportunity to participate in the health and overall well-being of the horse.  Performing acupressure treatments can significantly increase your familiarity with your horse’s body while also enhancing your bond and energy exchange with the animal.

Since acupressure in noninvasive there is no risk of creating infection or introducing any foreign material under the horse’s skin.  With the use of needles there is a remote possibility of infection and, periodically, the horse’s natural muscle twitch reflex can dislodge the needle or it can break-off under the skin. There are many good reasons to use both acupressure and acupuncture especially for chronic musculoskeletal conditions and diseases.  A holistic veterinarian with an in-depth background in Chinese Medicine is a valuable resource for you to start your horse on the right treatment plan.

You can perform acupressure treatments between visits from the holistic vet to support your horse’s ability to heal.  The goal for all of us involved with animals is to offer optimal health through the best care we can give them.

For more information on Animal Acupresssure,  click here.