Part 1
Philip A.M. Rogers MRCVS
e-mail :
1980, 1982, 1984, updated 1990, 1993, 1995
Postgraduate Course in Veterinary AP, Dublin, 1996


Successful acupuncture (AP) depends on a good knowledge of the location and functions of the main AP points and Channel-Organ Systems (COSs). The Channels (which used to be called Meridians) are the main pathways for transmission and storage of vital energy (Qi).

One may study the AP points and Channels in animals in two main ways:

a. The traditional Vet method and

b. the transposition method (from human AP).

Traditional Vet AP relies on texts translated from Chinese sources and does not describe Channels in animals. Transposition AP relies on the study of human AP points/Channels and their transposition to anatomically comparable positions in animals. Both are used in Vet AP and will be discussed.

Advanced students use both systems but the transposition method has the following advantages for beginners:

a. It is integrated and relatively easy to learn, whereas the traditional system is not integrated and is more difficult to learn.

b. It is easily available through dozens of texts in European languages whereas the traditional system has few texts in European languages.

c. Western Vet experience with the transposition system indicates that it is effective.

Transposition has some disadvantages, especially where anatomical differences between species make some points difficult or impossible to locate. However, many of the disadvantages can be overcome by choosing alternative combinations of points.


More emphasis will be put on animal acupuncture (AP) by the transposition method (from human AP) because it is easier to learn and it can be applied to all common species treated in Vet practice. But first, we should discuss the characteristics of the AP) points.


One of the most bewildering aspects of AP for beginners is the vast number of points which are described in various human texts and the fact (which very quickly emerges from a comparative study of any 10-20 textbooks on the subject) that many different combinations of points can be used to treat any one condition. At first, this may suggest to the student (or the sceptic!) of AP that the system is "unscientific", unstructured and almost a random system. As we will see later, this is a very superficial view. We will also see why many different combinations of points can exert the same effects.

AP points occur on all parts of the human body: the limbs, back, belly, head, ears, face, scalp, nose, hands, foot zones etc. The Chinese name for the AP point is Hsueh which means "hole". They saw the skin as the interface between the internal and external environment and the AP points as entry and exit holes for external and internal energies and also as the means of bringing these energies into balance.

AP points may coincide with AHSHI, AnShih, Trigger, "Ouch" or "Ah yes!" points. Many AP points are over peripheral nerve. Needling should cause a sensation of paraesthesia, like an electric shock running away from the needle. Other points are rich in proprioceptors, such as near joints. These are mainly on the extremities. Others are rich in nerve endings. Needling strongly stimulates the cerebral cortex and results in powerful reflex action, for instance the response to GV26; LU11; A01 etc in shock, collapse).

Human and animal AP points have electrical properties which distinguish them from surrounding skin. The electrical characteristics of the points have been well established in human cadavers and in experimental animals. The bilateral symmetry of the points has been established also.

AP points have high direct-current (DC) potential and low impedance (high conductivity) relative to surrounding skin. Specially adapted voltmeters or resistance meters are used to detect the points. Accuracy of electronic point detection is influenced by:

a. Probe application pressure must be constant. Readings vary with the pressure applied. In practice, spring-loaded probes, applied at constant force, reduce this variation.

b. Skin lesions, sweat, serum etc can greatly alter the readings.

c. In animals the hair coat may interfere with readings.

The histological reality of the points has been shown in humans and laboratory animals. Tissue around the points has more free nerve endings, vascular spirals, thickening of the epidermis and more linear alignment of collagen fibres than tissue more distant from the points.

Many major points are directly over peripheral nerves running in the subcutaneous tissue or in the muscle. Needling of these points causes direct stimulation of the nerves. Other AP points correspond with places where a peripheral nerve enters or leaves a muscle, the "motor points" as known to physiotherapists. Still other points correspond with "trigger points (TPs)", zones of referred pain and the AHSHI or pressure-sensitive points (pain points).

The histological properties of the points and their location vis a vis the peripheral nerves explains the electrical characteristics of the points. The instruments used to locate the points are very similar to neurometers, used to locate peripheral nerves.

Provocation experiments have been done on animals by Kothbauer (cattle), Kvirshishvili (rabbits) and Schupbach (pigs). Irritant substances, such as Lugol's iodine or turpentine, were injected into different organs, body regions or joints. The animals were observed closely to see which points showed increased sensitivity after the challenge.

Kothbauer worked mainly on the reflex points of the abdominal viscera of cows (ovary, uterus, kidney, cervix etc). He found that precise (and usually ipsilateral) points reacted when the organ was irritated. Most of the points were in the lumbosacral area and coincided closely with AP points (as transposed from the human BL Channel) known to be effective on these organs. In later clinical use, he confirmed the therapeutic value of these reflex points (the "pain points") in cows.

Kvirshishvili observed the ears of rabbits which had been injected with a blue dye. The ears were shaved to make it easy to see vasodilation. Then he injected irritants into specific joints. He confirmed that specific ipsilateral ear points reacted (vasodilated) to pain signals from specific body regions. This reflex vasodilation is controlled by the hypothalamus.

AP points have other energetic characteristics, related to reflex vasodilation (hot-spots, YANG, hyperactivity) or vasoconstriction (cold-spots, YIN, hypoactivity). Reactive AP points can be detected by infra-red thermography.

For instance, Schupbach (Vet School, Zurich, 1985) injected irritant solution into the body or horn of the uterus of minipigs. Using computer-controlled infra-red thermography, he located specific zones on the skin of the lumbosacral area which became "Hot Spots" within 10-40 minutes (average 25 minutes) after irritation of the body or horn of the uterus. These "Hot Spots" related well with classical AP points known to be related to the uterus and cervix (points over the iliac wing, lumbosacral space, sacral foramina and anterior coccygeal area (BL26.3, 27-34, PAIHUI, WEIKEN etc). In his experiments, Schupbach attempted to correlate "Hot Spots" with points of low electrical resistance. The correlation was NOT significant. Many low resistance points were found but infrared thermography was more accurate at locating the reflex zones. In further experiments, he used electrodes implanted in the uterus of minipigs to monitor myometrial activity following needling of the main "Hot Spot" (BL26.3, over the iliac wing). AP stimulation caused definite increase in uterine contraction.

Provocation experiments and stimulation of the reactive points suggest that the AP points are terminals in a bi-directional reflex: viscerocutaneous and cutaneovisceral i.e. (IN = OUT). They confirm the claim of TCM that AP has diagnostic and therapeutic uses.


There is some evidence (yet not complete) that the electrical properties of AP points which are related to specific organs, regions or functions are changed when the organ, region or function is diseased. In disease, the points are more sensitive to heat (Akabane test) and to probing or palpation. In these cases, electrical conductivity and the DC potential of the points usually increase. In deficiency of energy in a Channel, the measurement points may be hyposensitive (decreased conductance).

Point sensitivity in disease may be unilateral (especially when the lesion is unilateral) or bilateral. The location of the sensitive points is used by some acupuncturists to assist in diagnosing the location of the disease. For instance, in vague abdominal pains, if the points on the ST Channel and the Earpoint "stomach" were more sensitive than other points, this would indicate that the lesion or problem was with the stomach or its functions.

In humans, Japanese (Nakatani, Motoyama), American and German (Voll) workers have developed electronic diagnostic instruments which use this principle. These instruments are very expensive and their value is not yet adequately proven. Many skilled acupuncturists can locate the points and diagnose the energy imbalance without using these instruments.

In animals, Kothbauer's "Painpoint Detector" is of value in locating the sensitive points. It delivers a small electrical current through a search-probe. (A reference electrode is placed on a standard position). When the search probe reaches a sensitive point, more current passes (because of greater conductivity) and the animal reacts by a pain-avoidance response. However, it requires considerable time, patience and experience to use these instruments. Some acupuncturists claim that they can locate the sensitive points faster by standard methods of palpation or probing the skin with a blunt scissors or round-ended plastic test-tube.

Sensitive points can also be located quickly by psychic methods, such as by the reaction of a pendulum (dowsing). Another method is to pass the hand slowly over the animal's body at a distance of a few centimetres and to note the subjective sensations of prickling or tremor in the hand as it passes over the sensitive points. A third method is to (mentally) visualise the animal and to scan the body looking for the best points to treat, having programmed the mind, in advance, to be drawn to these points.

These sensitive points are important not only to aid diagnosis, but also in therapy. Their use in therapy will be discussed elsewhere.

The selective sensitivity which appears at certain points in disease is partly:

a. a reflex phenomenon associated with autonomic changes and

b. a "primitive nervous system" phenomenon, such as occurs in plants and lower animals when tissues are damaged. As the disease process is controlled and/or eliminated by the body, the point sensitivity returns to its normal baseline levels.

In the treatment of soft-tissue injuries or other disorders in which pain-points, AHSHI points etc have been located on initial examination, disappearance of point sensitivity in the first few treatment sessions is a good prognostic sign. This indicates that the condition is improving.

However, certain drugs (such as alcohol, mescaline, marijuana) and mental states (excitement, fear, depression etc) may cause general alterations in all major AP points, probably by reflex autonomic effects.