Philip A.M. Rogers MRCVS
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19 August 1991

Conventional treatment of diarrhoea and gastric ulceration in foals was summarised in the August 1991 issue of the Irish Veterinary News (p 24). Readers may be interested in another modality to treat these conditions. Acupuncture-point injection may be combined with conventional therapy, or may be used alone if conventional methods fail to relieve the condition in a few days.

Acu-points used in digestive upsets include all paravertebral pressure-sensitive points. In foals, these points, usually 5-10 cm from the dorsal midline, are found by pressure-palpation, using a round-ended 10 ml plastic test-tube as a pressure-probe. To locate these points, the probe is slid systematically over the area. The probe is moved slowly in 2 or 3 long lines (say 5 and 10 cm, or 4, 8 and 12 cm) parallel to the dorsal midline. Firm constant probe pressure is maintained on the skin and underlying muscles. Then the probe is moved in a zig-zag cross-hatch over the path of the long lines. In this way, the entire paravertebral area from thoracic 13 to sacral 4 is searched. Point hypersensitivity is indicated by the foal yielding to pressure at the point(s), but not yielding to the same pressure at points nearby. One or more of the organ reflex points (BL20,21,25,27, see below) is usually sensitive in gastro-intestinal disorders.

In all cases, VG 3; ST36; HC 6 are added in addition to the paravertebral hypersensitive points. The locations of these classic points are:

VG 3 (Master point) : single point, in the lumbo-sacral space

ST36 (Master point) : bilateral point, lateral to tibial crest, about 7 cm below the patella

HC 6 (Master point) : bilateral point, on the medial face of the forearm, behind the radius, 7 cm above the carpus

Finally (depending on the organs involved), 1-2 of the following organ-reflex points are added: BL20 (Spleen reflex), BL21 (Stomach reflex), BL25 (Large intestine reflex) and BL27 (Small intestine reflex). Their locations are:

BL20 : bilateral point, in the last intercostal space, 7 cm from the midline

BL21: bilateral point, just behind the last rib, 7 cm from the midline

BL25: bilateral point, just behind the transverse process of lumbar 5, 7 cm from the midline

BL27: bilateral point, just behind the transverse process of lumbar 5, 7 cm from the midline

Acu-points can be stimulated in different ways. The most convenient is to inject each selected point with 1-2 ml of 0.5% lignocaine of xylocaine in sterile saline, using a 25 mm 21-23 gauge needle. One may treat 7-8 points bilaterally (14 to 16 points in all) in one session. Treatment is given 1-5 times (mean of 3), at intervals of 3-7 days. Good restraint is needed when injecting HC 6 and ST36.

The response in foals with gastric ulcer can be dramatic within 3 days but the response in diarrhoea can be disappointing, especially in older foals and adult horses.