AFP, published on Sunday, August 14, 2022 at 11:14 am
Tightly strapped, a poodle watches with concern as a veterinarian sticks fine needles in his back and paws: acupuncture for dogs and cats is attracting a growing number of masters in China.
Even rabbits are welcome in this practice of traditional Chinese medicine in Beijing, which sees furry animals of different sizes parade from morning to evening.
Main motivation of the masters: to offer their animal a treatment that is less invasive and with fewer side effects than conventional medicine.
“The advantage of traditional Chinese medicine is that there is no surgery. So the animal’s suffering and convalescence are reduced,” Zhai Chunyu, 38, told AFP. , came with Duniu, his toy poodle.
Three years old, he suffers from Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, which affects the head and neck of the femur and leads to their collapse with osteoarthritis, pain and claudication.
“He was in so much pain that he could no longer put his paw on the ground” and “had no appetite”, explains Mr. Zhai, who works in finance.
“A doctor had advised me to have this head of the femur removed. But I didn’t want to because I have another poodle who has been there and he suffered a lot from the operation and the after-effects.”
– Bamboo flute –
A friend then advised him to try acupuncture in this practice, opened in 2016 by veterinarian Li Wen, 68.
“After five-six sessions, we saw the results. Duniu manages to walk and even run a little now”, welcomes his master.
To establish his diagnosis, the veterinarian examines the corpulence of the animal, his eyes, the color of his tongue, takes his pulse and asks questions to the master.
He then plants his needles at acupuncture points specific to dogs and cats.
“Out of 10 animals that I receive on average every day, there are always one or two who rebel,” explains Li Wen, 46 years old in the business.
“You have to communicate with them, treat them gently, reassure them that you’re not here to hurt them.”
To contribute to their relaxation, it diffuses a soft music of bamboo flute and chirping of birds.
– “Paralyzed” –
As with humans, once the needles have been inserted, the veterinarian stimulates the points with a heating lamp in which disks of mugwort – a plant have been placed. This is called “moxibustion”.
It is supposed to allow, in addition to acupuncture, to reduce rheumatism as well as muscle and joint pain.
The veterinarian deals mainly with cases of paralysis, limb weakness, epilepsy, pain and urinary retention.
Acupuncture can also be used when no other treatment is available.
As for Xiaomei, a 12-year-old male Labrador with nerve compression in the lower back and a single-bone parrot beak.
“Last September, after swimming, he was unable to get back on his feet. A veterinarian then told us that it was impossible to treat and that he would become paralyzed”, explains to AFP his mistress Ma Li, 41 years old.
“Thanks to acupuncture, he still has difficulties but can walk normally and even run,” she says.
Average price of the session: from 360 to 390 yuan (from 52 to 57 euros) depending on the package, which remains acceptable for most Beijing masters.
– Cows and hens –
“The first time, he was scared and just put up with it for five minutes,” said Yang Lihua, a 65-year-old retiree who came with Niannian, her Pekingese with a herniated disc.
“Now he loves it! After the session he is so relaxed that he sleeps in the car on the way home.”
Animal acupuncture is about six centuries old in China, according to Professor Li.
It was first used for cows, sheep, horses, rabbits or even chickens. Its application for dogs and cats is more recent.
“Traditional Chinese medicine is not intended to replace conventional medicine” because “both have their strengths” and are “complementary”, emphasizes Professor Li.
The animal acupuncture market remains limited at the moment.
“But since 2016, it has been gaining popularity,” says Professor Li.
“As education levels, living conditions and incomes rise, more and more people are realizing the benefits of this medicine.”
Next to it, Mrs. Ma’s imposing Labrador jumped into the back seat of her mistress’s car after her session, looking delighted and with her tongue hanging out: “He doesn’t look happy?”, she smiles .