Written by a Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians Course Graduate. Author’s name available upon request. Signed release obtained from client/author/4958.
Due to an unfortunate event of overheating at 5-6 weeks of age, Haymitch, the 4 year, 5 month old buck Himalayan rabbit, has had a left head tilt and left ear droop his entire life. Haymitch was treated with acupuncture and massage once a week for 3 weeks. The acupuncture points used weekly were GV14, TH17 and TH21. Various other points were used at each treatment. After treatment, Haymitch no longer has a head tilt, has straight ears and is hopping, walking and jumping like a normal rabbit.
Haymitch is a Lilac buck, Himalayan rabbit, born June 7, 2012. At 5-6 weeks of age, Haymitch was living in a shed and the cooling fans broke and he overheated. Haymitch was brought inside upon discovery and was cooled. He has had a left head tilt, left ear droop and yellow eye discharge ever since. The owner suspects heat stroke. Haymitch has received no veterinary care regarding the head tilt. Haymitch is otherwise normal, eating and drinking normal, no diarrhea.
Physical Examination and Clinical Assessments
Haymitch presented with a left head tilt and left ear droop. He had mild to moderate yellow eye discharge from both eyes. Palpebral reflex and menace response were normal. Haymitch was quiet, and hopped with a left head tilt. Myofascial palpation revealed tense right cervical muscles with a trigger point, and tight left gluteal muscles.
Medical Decision Making
GV14 – Chosen for stimulation of the parasympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system and to see how Haymitch would respond to dry needling. Due to the tension in Haymitch’s neck from a constant left head tilt, there could also be neck tension release.
TH17 – Main point for stimulation of the facial nerve, which has both motor and sensory control of the face.
TH21 – Stimulates the facial and trigeminal nerves, as well as affects the rostral auricular nerve used for ear motion, which I hoped to stimulate for Haymitch to be able to hold his ear upright.
Ying tang – Calming point, stimulates both the facial and trigeminal nerves. I used this point to help calm Haymitch to try to keep the needles in place as long as possible.
Right cervical trigger point – Chosen to release the trigger point in the neck from a constant head tilt. Dry needling relaxed the muscle.
GB30 – This point is in the gluteal muscle, which was a point of tension for Haymitch. Dry needling caused the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters for pain relief., as well as muscle relaxation.
First session 10/31/16: Dry needling was used with Sierin 0.16 gauge needles. Points selected were GV14 to encourage a parasympathetic state, TH17 to stimulate the facial nerve and TH21 to stimulate the trigeminal and facial nerves. Needles were kept in place as long as possible, which was only 2 minutes this session. Massage of the cervical muscles followed for approximately 10 minutes.
Second session 11/7/16: Dry needling was used with Sierin 0.16 gauge needles. Points selected were: GV14 and Ying tang to encourage a parasympathetic state, TH17 to stimulate the facial nerve, TH21 to stimulate the trigeminal and facial nerves and the trigger point in the right cervical muscles for relaxation and pain relief. Needles were kept in place between 5 and 18 minutes depending on needle (TH17 kept in longest). Massage of the cervical and gluteal muscles followed for approximately 10 minutes.
Third session 11/14/16: Dry needling was used with Sierin 0.16 gauge needles. Points selected were GV14 and Ying tang to encourage a parasympathetic state, TH 17 to stimulate the facial nerve, TH 21 to stimulate the trigeminal and facial nerves, the right cervical muscles to address tension, and GB30 bilaterally to address the tension in the left gluteal muscles. Needles were kept in place for 9 minutes. Massage of the cervical and gluteal muscles followed for approximately 10 minutes.
Outcomes, Discussions and References
Haymitch responded very well to acupuncture. The first visit was mainly to assess Haymitch physically and see how he would respond to dry needling. The needles were only in place for about 2 minutes and his cervical muscles were massaged gently for about 10 minutes. The owner noticed an immediate response from Haymitch when he began hopping about with a straight head. Haymitch’s ear was still droopng and when he stopped hopping his head tilted again. The trigger point in the right cervical muscle was released after the second session of dry needling and massage. Haymitch’s ears were both straight and he was hopping with his head straight. Haymitch was also hopping with more enthusiasm. The owner stated after this session that Haymitch ‘looks like a different rabbit!’ After the third session, Haymitch’s ears and head were completely straight! There were no adverse events in this case.
I feel that the most important thing I learned from this case was how easy it was to acupuncture rabbits! Few needles really do have a tremendous effect, and I did not want to confuse the nervous system with too much stimulation. Haymitch loved his acupuncture sessions and even though the needles were not always in place for very long, I saw a quick response. Haymitch was very enthusiastic after his sessions and would actually actively seek cervical massage. I also learned how important it is to treat the whole animal. I could easily have focused solely on the face and ears, but almost noticed more of a response when the cervical and gluteal muscles were treated.
Margolin, Tiffany. J Am Holistic Vet Med Assoc. Resolution of vestibular disease in a lagomorgh through acupuncture and herbs: a case report. Fall 2013.
Schoen, Allen M. Veterinary Acupuncture, Ancient Art to Modern Medicine. Second edition. 2001.