Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine are gentle yet highly effective treatment therapies. They can be used as the sole form of treatment, or easily integrated with treatment your pet already receives from your Veterinarian.
Dr Rowena Barrett is a Perth based Veterinarian who has also trained in the practise of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Registered with the Western Australia Veterinary Surgeon’s Board, Rowena possesses over 20 years experience working in all aspects of veterinary practice throughout Australia and overseas.
Passionate about animals and offering your pets the best of healthcare options, Rowena’s training in Traditional Chinese Medicine includes Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, Diet Therapy and Massage. Traditional Chinese Medicine is an holistic approach to healthcare; all aspects of your pet’s lifestyle, health problems and environment are important and the treatment is tailored to the specific needs of your pet.
Dr Rowena Barrett is registered with the Western Australia Veterinary Surgeon’s Board and possesses over 20 years experience working in all aspects of veterinary practice.
Rowena first discovered her passion for Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) while working in the UK. After working in a variety of vet practices she became increasingly frustrated with the number of animals on drug cocktails which seemed to offer limited benefits and were also impinging on their quality of life.
Rowena discovered that TCVM, a sophisticated and well structured discipline that incorporates well into conventional veterinary practice, provided many of the solutions she was looking for. Recognising the value of both TCVM and conventional veterinary medicine, Rowena will always suggest the most appropriate treatment for your pet.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory and treatment differs considerably from conventional Western Medicine practices. While TCM concepts can appear strange to the western mind, it nevertheless provides a consistent and coherent framework within which to view the animal body in both healthy and disease states.
Rather than focussing on the cause of disease, TCM looks at the whole individual and their interaction with the environment - it is about maintaining balance, and through this, maintaining health.
The use of Acupuncture to treat and prevent disease has been used for thousands of years. In China, stone needles known as ‘bian-stones’ have been found dating back to around 3,000 years BC. The first comprehensive text on Acupuncture and Chinese Medical theories dates from around 200BC, more than 2,000 years before the same discoveries were made in Western Medicine in 1628.
Veterinary Acupuncture has probably existed almost as long as human Acupuncture, with the earliest recognised Veterinary Acupuncture text written around 650BC. Many other texts have been written over the centuries and the use of Veterinary Acupuncture to treat companion animals such as dogs and cats is now widespread.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system of healthcare has been evolving for over 3,000 years. Based on Taoist philosophy, it sees the universe and everything in it as an integrated whole - everything is interdependent and mutually interactive.
TCM promotes a holistic approach to the health of an individual - it is not just about reacting to disease but rather with maintaining health. Disease in TCM stems from imbalance, whether a disharmony within the individual or between the individual and the environment. By analysing all aspects of the individual and their environment a TCM practitioner can identify the patterns of disharmony that have lead to disease in an individual. Treating the underlying pattern of disharmony with Chinese Herbal Medicine or Acupuncture can restore balance to the system and may result in an improvement or cure in the disease condition.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Disease
When presented with an individual with disease TCM practitioners will look for underlying patterns of disharmony. Although the same name may be given to two animals experiencing the same pattern of disharmony, the cause of their disease may be entirely different. Only by identifying the cause will the root of the disease be discovered and long-term results assured.
TCM stresses the key to health is balance - balance between the individual organs, between the organs and the tissues of the body, between Yin and Yang, balance in the flow of Qi in the body, and balance between the animal and their environment. Disease occurs when the balance is upset, leading to a disturbance in the balance between AntiPathogenic Qi (the body’s defensive Qi) and Pathogenic Qi (external disease causing factors).
The causes of disease according to TCM can be broken down into the following categories:
• Constitution - an animal’s constitution is determined at conception and can be changed only with great difficulty
Yin and Yang
• Exogenous Pathogenic factors - Heat, Cold, Wind, Damp, Fire, Dryness and Summer Heat
• The Seven Emotions - Joy, Anger, Sadness, Grief, Worry, Fear and Fright. Like people, animals can experience severe emotions and this can be a powerful cause of disease
• Internally generated Pathogenic factors - Internal Heat, Cold Wind and Damp and Phlegm; these originate mainly due to the dysfunction of the Zang Fu (organs) or imbalance between Yin and Yang
• Lifestyle Factors - including diet, stress and exercise
• Miscellaneous Events - such as trauma, exposure to parasites or poisons, and incorrect medical treatment.
Yin and Yang represent a way of thinking about the world, a perspective that is fluid, based on the dynamic processes of life and the universe rather than physical structure which dominates western thought and western medicine
In the simplest of terms, Yang relates to properties of light, heat and activity, and Yin to darkness, coolness and serenity. They represent two diametrically opposed phenomena such as fire and water or night and day – opposites, but at the same time complementary and mutually dependent. One cannot exist without the other, just as light cannot exist without dark, hot without cold, or male without female.
The human or animal body can be divided into Yin and Yang aspects both in terms of structure and function. Health is preserved by maintaining the balance or equilibrium between these opposing but integrated factors. If the equilibrium is disturbed and an imbalance between Yin and Yang arises that the body cannot compensate for, illness or disease may arise.
In simple terms, Qi represents energy and as a dominating TCM concept it is integral to thoughts, emotions, tissue and blood.
The Chinese say ‘When Qi gathers, so the physical body is formed; when Qi disperses so the body dies’. If Qi is the basis of life it follows then that manipulation of Qi within the body has an effect in terms of health or illness. The use of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can have an effect on Qi, helping to restore balance to the body, relieve pain and reverse disease.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese Herbal Medicine was developed over 3,000 years ago as an effective means of strengthening and regulating the flow of energy (Qi) throughout the body, treating any disharmony of the internal organs and eliminating Pathogenic Factors from the body.
It is vastly different from western herbalism in that it uses a combination of carefully selected herbs working together as a formula to treat disease. These formulas may contain between two and twenty herbal substances obtained from plant, animal or mineral sources. (Note: No animal products are used in formulations produced by Acupaws).
Most herbs originate from plants, with different parts of the same plant prompting different reactions in the body. Herbs may also be processed in different manners (such as cooked or raw) to change their actions on the body. Certain herbs will also target specific organs and channels in the body.
Once a TCM diagnosis is made herbs may be selected to target the affected area. Herbal selection is quite complex and a full work-up of the patient is required to formulate an individualized prescription.
Frequently asked questions
Why should I consider Acupuncture for my pet?
Acupuncture offers the opportunity to maintain a state of balance and health even in seemingly healthy pets. It can also help prevent future health issues. It is a natural alternative to conventional medicine that can be used:
• when conventional medicine has no effective treatment, especially for pets suffering from chronic conditions such as arthritis, chronic skin and ear disease and chronic gastrointestinal problems.
How can I access acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments for my pet?
• when a pet cannot take medications due to the side effects or cannot undergo surgery due to age or other debility
• to maximise outcomes and diminish the side effects of conventional therapeutics
• as an aid to post surgery recuperation, especially to promote healing and reduce inflammation and pain after major orthopaedic surgery.
Acupaws is a mobile service that offers your pet treatment in its home environment. It aims to work in conjunction with any treatment your pet is receiving from your Veterinarian. Never stop current medication or treatment protocols without first discussing it with your Vet. Rowena is happy to be contacted by phone or email to discuss if Acupaws’ services are suitable for your pet.
What does treatment involve?
The first appointment usually takes at least 60 - 90 minutes at which time a thorough clinical history is taken and your pet examined. Acupuncture needles will then be inserted and left in place for at least 10 - 20 minutes. Although there may be momentary discomfort when the needles first go in this soon passes and some pets may even go to sleep.
Subsequent treatments generally take less time (45 - 60 min) and involves owner feedback, pet examination and Acupuncture treatment. The Acupuncture points used may vary depending on how the pet has responded, just as the number of treatments required varies from case to case.
Will it hurt my pet? Are there any side effects?
Unlike hypodermic needles that are hollow, acupuncture needles are very fine and have solid centres, so cause very little trauma as they are inserted. Some animals react to the needles going in and others to brief sensations such as a dull ache, a feeling of warmth, or tingling. Pets may react by looking in the vicinity of the needle or moving or shuffling their feet. Once the needles are inserted most animals relax and some even go to sleep.
The side effects associated with Acupuncture are very limited. The needles are sterile and single use only so the risk of infection is negligible. Due to the nature of the needles and the Rowena’s expertise the risk of tissue damage is minimal. It is not unusual for animals to sleep more than usual after treatment.
Occasionally an animal’s symptoms may worsen after a treatment before improving - this is actually a sign that the Acupuncture treatment is working well and a positive outcome will result.
How many treatments will be required? How long does it take to see a response?
The number of treatments required varies according to the condition being treated, the pet and how long the condition has been present. More chronic conditions usually require a greater numbers of treatments - allow at least three to four treatments before making a decision as it will be apparent by this stage if the Acupuncture is working. Chronic conditions generally require more treatments while acute conditions require more intensive treatments. Initial treatments should be scheduled weekly and as the pet responds the interval between treatments may lengthen. Many conditions may resolve completely and even chronic conditions may only require one or two treatments per year.
Which conditions can be treated by acupuncture?
Acupuncture can be used to treat virtually any injury or illness, including:
• gastrointestinal problems (constipation, colitis, chronic idiopathic diarrhea/ vomiting)
Which conditions can’t Traditional Chinese Medicine treat?
• musculoskeletal disorders (arthritis, hip dysplasia, tendonitis, sprains, limping of unknown origin, intervertebral disc disease, post surgery recuperation)
• skin conditions (lick granuloma, allergic dermatitis)
• urinary conditions (incontinence, cystitis)
• respiratory tract disorders (feline asthma, persistent idiopathic coughing)
• neurological disorders (nerve injury, paralysis, stroke, vestibular syndrome, epilepsy)
• behavioural problems (anxiety problems, obsessive compulsive disorders)
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a very flexible and extensive method to treat all kinds of disease conditions both acute and chronic. Like western medicine, it is not a “cure-all”. What it does offer is an alternative diagnosis and treatment options, many of which are superior to conventional medicine. This is especially true for chronic disease conditions.
Some severe acute conditions may require conventional medical or surgical therapy. As a Veterinarian Rowena’s primary concern is the welfare of your pets and will suggest if conventional therapy or tests are required
How does Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine work?
Traditional Chinese Medicine works by having an effect on the body’s Qi. Qi is a substance that is essential for life and flows throughout the body in an interconnecting network of channels.
We can compare this network of channels to a city’s underground railway network, for the most part unseen and only really accessible at stations (Acupuncture points). When the system is functioning well the trains (Qi) move efficiently and on time. When part of this system breaks down (as during disease) there are consequences locally for the movement of trains (Qi) and eventually the whole system (body) may be affected. The use of Acupuncture or Chinese Herbal Medicine helps the balance to be restored and the system flows efficiently once more.
Are animal products used in Acupaws Chinese Herbal Medicines?
Rowena has an intrinsic respect and love for animals. She believes there is enough depth in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine that the use of animal parts in treatment is an unnecessary practice.
How does Traditional Chinese Medicine differ from Western Medicine?
Western Medicine devotes much energy to treating the symptoms of a disease. In comparison, Traditional Chinese Medicine aims to treat the cause, and in doing so the pet’s signs and symptoms are alleviated and a more lasting recovery follows.
As an example, while Western Medicine tends to treat arthritis with medications such as NSAIDS (anti-inflammatories) to reduce the pain and swelling associated with the condition, the underlying problem remains. The medication may also cause undesirable side effects. In comparison, Chinese Medicine will identify the cause, which is often due to Exogenous Pathogenic Factors obstructing the channel, work to expel the Pathogenic Factor and alleviate pain through promoting the flow of Qi and Blood in and around the affected area.
Western Medicine emphasises anatomy or structure, breaking the human or animal body into parts, organ systems, tissue, blood cells and smaller components such antibodies and hormones. Traditional Chinese Medicine, however, doesn’t see the human or animal body as a collection of small parts, but as a small world of interdependent systems, cycles and patterns interacting with and part of the outside world. In Traditional Chinese Medicine mental, physical and emotional factors all play their part in maintaining health.
Initial consultation and treatment
Please note that while these fees include consultations and acupuncture treatment, travel charges may apply depending on client location.
The first appointment
usually takes at least 90 minutes at which time a thorough clinical history is taken and your pet examined. Acupuncture needles will then be inserted and left in place for at least 10 - 20 minutes. Although there may be momentary discomfort when the needles first go in this soon passes and some pets may even go to sleep.
generally take less time (45 - 60 min) and involves owner feedback, pet examination and Acupuncture treatment. The Acupuncture points used may vary depending on how the pet has responded, just as the number of treatments required varies from case to case.
Dr Rowena Barrett
BSc BVMS (Murdoch)
Certificate in Chinese Acupuncture (UK)
Dip TCM (UK)