Acupuncture points combined with medication appear to reduce stress in horses during road transport.
Acupuncture has been shown to have the beneficial effect of reducing stress responses in animals and humans. Pharmacopuncture is the injection of subclinical doses of drugs into acupoints to give therapeutic results without side effects. This study, conducted by researchers in Brazil, compared the effects of injecting the usual dose of acepromazine (ACP; 0.1 mg/kg, intramuscularly [I.M.]) with those of pharmacopuncture (1/10 ACP dose at the governing vessel 1 [GV 1] acupoint) on the stress responses of healthy horses undergoing road transport for 2.5 hours.
Four different treatments were applied immediately before loading, with 8 animals/treatment: injection of saline or ACP (0.1 mg/kg, I.M.) at the base of the neck; and injection of saline or 1/10 ACP (0.01 mg/kg) at the GV 1 acupoint.
The road transport increased heart rate (HR), respiratory rate, body temperature, and serum cortisol of the untreated horses (injected with saline at the base of the neck). Pharmacopuncture at GV 1 reduced the average HR and transport-induced increase in HR at unloading, without changing the other variables. On the other hand, ACP (0.1 mg/kg) produced significant sedation and reduced the transport-induced increase in respiratory rate but without preventing the stress-induced increase of cortisol.
Other acupuncture points and drugs should be tested to verify the beneficial effect of this therapy to reduce stress in horses during road transport.
Summarized by: Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota