When East meets West
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 2:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 2:32 p.m.
Many dogs actually wag their tails when they visit Huisheng Xie — not the reaction you’d necessarily expect for a veterinarian armed with a tray full of needles.
For 30 years, Xie (pronounced “shay”) has successfully treated small and large animals with acupuncture. The strategic insertion of needles on cats and dogs helps control pain, combat nerve damage, increase circulation and increase an elderly pet’s quality of life. When used with horses, acupuncture soothes muscular aches, inflammation and lameness.
“Animals are smart,” Xie says. “They’re able to figure out what’s making them feel better. Clients always tell us stories of when they take their pets into other exam rooms, they don’t want to go. They want to come to my room.”
For small animals, the process is nearly painless. Once the needles are in place, most animals become relaxed.
“We use a lot of love,” he says.
In addition to love, research shows that the needle pricks trigger the body to release beta-endorphins, a neurotransmitter similar to morphine that dulls or numbs pain. Compared to external morphine injections, the beta-endorphin is released internally and has no addictions, Xie says.
Acupuncture also stimulates circulation, according to Xie. Improved blood flow brings more nutrients to injured or strained muscles or tissues.
Xie received his degree in veterinary medicine in 1983 in China, followed by a master’s in veterinary acupuncture five years later. He came to Gainesville as a University of Florida doctoral student in 1994.
After receiving his Ph.D. in 1998, Xie founded the Chi Institute in Reddick to present traditional Chinese veterinary medicine in a more user-friendly way. He aims to showcase acupuncture, herbal medicine and other methods as a complementary medical treatment plan that can be useful for conventionally trained veterinarians.
“The best medicine is to integrate the East and the West,” he says. “Western, or conventional, medicine is great for emergencies, it’s good for ICU or something like a fracture. Acupuncture is more for chronic conditions or for life quality. It’s more natural and doesn’t have side effects, but it takes time.”
In 1999, Xie became the first clinician of complementary or alternative veterinary medicine to be hired by a United States university when he joined the UF College of Veterinary Medicine as a clinical associate professor.
While acupuncture doesn’t cure an animal’s arthritis or nerve damage, it inspires noticeable change in the older pets Xie treats.
“With conventional medicine, there’s not much you can do anymore,” he said. “Some owners want to put them to sleep, but some want them to keep fighting. That’s where I come in.”
By increasing an animal’s mobility, appetite, and subsequently quality of life, acupuncture could add one to five years to the pet’s life, he says. “It’s very rewarding to hear that an ailing dog who used to be forced to go outside now pushes its owner outside to run and play.”