Written by a Medical Acupuncture Course for Veterinarians Graduate. Author’s name available upon request. Signed release obtained from client/author.
A gelding with a history of anhidrosis and poor performance during warm weather, which was unresponsive to oral supplement therapy, demonstrated increased sweating and improved performance following acupuncture therapy.
Gabe is a 12-year-old bay Warmblood gelding who is used as a hunter jumper. He stabled in central Indiana and has a several-year history of anhidrosis, lethargy, and poor performance during the summer. His respiratory rate and temperature remain elevated for an extended period (>30 minutes) following exercise, and he sweats very little compared to other horses in the barn doing similar work. He received one teaspoon of the supplement One AC by mouth twice a day the previous summer with no observable change in sweating or performance. He began showing signs of anhidrosis again in May 2016 as the seasonal temperature began increasing.
Physical Examination and Clinical Assessments
Gabe presented for evaluation and acupuncture treatment on 5/31/16. His physical exam at rest was within normal limits, and he was observed to be sound at a trot in a straight line and on the lunge in both directions.
Medical Decision Making
The pathophysiology of anhidrosis in the horse is complex and still not entirely understood. However, it is believed that excessive adrenaline secretion over time leads to desensitization and eventual failure of the glandular secretory process.1 Acupuncture points were selected to modulate the autonomic nervous system and attempt to restore the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to decrease adrenaline secretion and stimulation of beta-adrenergic receptors. This can be achieved through long-loop peripheral nerve reflexes to the nucleus tractus solitarius and stimulation of the parasympathetic cranial nerves.
Acupuncture treatment on 5/31/16 consisted of GB-21, LI-11, TH-17, PC-6, BL-13, BL-20, ST-36, LR-4, and BL-40 bilaterally, as well as GV-14 and Bai Hui. Forty mm Seirin J-type 0.25mm diameter dry needles were used on points except for TH-17, PC-6, and LR-4, where 20mm Seirin J-type 0.2mm diameter needles were used. The needles were left in place for 15 minutes. The same treatment protocol repeated on 7/5/16 and 8/22/16.
Outcomes, Discussions, and References
In the first week following acupuncture treatment, Gabe showed an observable increase in sweating, decreased respiratory rate during similar work, and quicker return to normal body temperature following exercise. Despite higher than normal average temperatures throughout the summer, the he was able to continue training and show during times of the year that he had not been able to perform in previously. The only variable that was changed in his management was acupuncture. Many studies in humans have evaluated the ability of acupuncture to influence the autonomic nervous system and measured outcomes, such as blood pressure, gastric motility, heart rate variability, and skin temperature2,3,4. This case suggests that anhidrosis in the horse may be another example of an autonomic nervous system dysfunction that responds favorably to treatment with acupuncture and warrants further research.
1. Jenkinson DM, Elder HY, Bovell DL. Equine sweating and anhidrosis Part 2: anhidrosis. Vet Dermatology. 2007 Feb;18(1):2-11
2. Haker E, Egekvist H, Bjerring P. Effect of sensory stimulation (acupuncture) on sympathetic and parasympathetic activities in healthy subjects. Journal of the Autonomic Nervous System. 2000;79(1):52–59.
3. Sakatani K, Kitagawa T, Aoyama N, Sasaki M. Effects of acupuncture on autonomic nervous function and prefrontal cortex activity. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 2010;662:455–460.
4. Li Q-Q, Shi G-X, Xu Q, Wang J, Liu C-Z, Wang L-P. Acupuncture Effect and Central Autonomic Regulation. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2013;2013:267959. doi:10.1155/2013/267959.