Beijing animal lovers turn to acupuncture to treat their furry friends

Peking: A trapped lying poodle watches the vet nervously as he gently drives fine needles through his back and paws, invoking the ancient art of acupuncture to treat the animal’s aches and pains.

Duniu is just one of many animals enrolled in traditional medicine in China – the care their owners say is less invasive and has fewer side effects than conventional treatments.

In a practice in Beijing, animals of all shapes and sizes come for treatment.

“The advantage of traditional Chinese medicine is that there is no surgery,” Zhai Chunyu, 38, told AFP, accompanied by Duniu, his poodle.

“Thus, the animal’s suffering is reduced.”

At just three years old, Duniu suffers from Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, which affects the thigh bone and can lead to painful osteoarthritis.

“He was in so much pain that he couldn’t put his paw on the ground” and “had no appetite,” said Zhai, who works in finance.

“A doctor advised me to have the head of my femur removed. But I didn’t want to because I have another poodle who went through it and he suffered a lot from the operation and the after-effects.”

But then a friend advised her to try acupuncture.

“After five to six sessions, we saw the results. Duniu manages to walk and even run a little now,” says Zhai.

“Treat Them With Kindness”

Animal acupuncture is centuries old in China, says veterinarian Li Wen, who founded his practice in 2016.

“Traditional Chinese medicine is not intended to replace conventional medicine” because “both have their strengths” and are complementary, he specifies.

Before starting treatment, the veterinarian first checks the animal’s body, examines its sight and the color of its tongue, takes its pulse and asks its owner questions.

He then sticks his needles into acupuncture points specific to dogs and cats.

“Of the 10 animals I receive on average every day, there are always one or two who rebel,” Li explains.

“You have to communicate with them, treat them gently, reassure them that you’re not here to hurt them.”

Recordings of soft bamboo flute music and birdsong are played at the clinic to help animals relax.

Li mainly treats cases of paralysis, limb weakness, epilepsy, pain and urinary retention.

But acupuncture can also be used for conditions where no other treatment is available.

This was the case of Xiaomei, a 12-year-old male Labrador suffering from nerve compression in his lower back.

“Last September, after swimming, he could not get back on his feet. A veterinarian then told us that it was impossible to treat and that he was going to become paralyzed,” his owner Ma told AFP. Li, 41 years old.

“Thanks to acupuncture, he still has difficulty but can walk normally and even run.”

‘He likes that!’

“The first time, he was scared,” says Yang Lihua, a 65-year-old retiree accompanied by her Pekingese Niannian, who suffers from a herniated disc.

“Now he loves it! After the session he is so relaxed that he sleeps in the car on his way home.”

The market for animal acupuncture remains limited at the moment, Li says.

“But since 2016, it has been gaining popularity,” he adds.

“As education levels, living conditions improve and incomes increase, more and more people are realizing the benefits of this drug.”

Ma’s Labrador hops into the back seat of his owner’s car after her session, looking pleased.

“Doesn’t he look happy?” she exclaims.

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