Acupuncture for people is still considered outside the mainstream, even after over a dozen years of widespread use to treat pain in people in the US.*
So what about acupuncture for pets? Is it useful and helpful for pets’ wellbeing? A harmless waste of energy that just makes a pet’s owner feel better? Downright silly?
One thing seems to be clear — veterinary acupuncturists are cropping up in cities everywhere. The New York Times reported that the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture had 8 members in 1998, and 800 by 2012.
What Is Animal Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a centuries old practice from China that uses the insertion of needles into certain points of the body. These needles stimulate the release of the body’s natural painkillers and anti-inflammatories, and can be used to treat pain from arthritis. Some even claim that it can help treat various diseases.
Dr. Barrack, Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist of Animal Acupuncture, describes the procedure: “Most acupuncture points are located along 14 major channels, which form a network that carries blood and energy throughout the entire body. Acupuncture produces a physiological response. It can provide pain relief, stimulate the immune and nervous systems, increase microcirculation, and decrease inflammation.”
The Yea Vote
Anecdotes of dogs who were near death’s door and who regained a high quality of life are perhaps the most pervasive argument for veterinary acupuncture. Whether it’s a Border Collie with kidney dialysis or a Lab with leukemia, stories of pets living longer than their traditionally-practicing veterinarians predicted can become the only evidence a pet parent needs to decide to look into this alternative treatment.
The American Animal Hospital Association mentions acupuncture as a method of pain relief in their Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, saying that “of all the complementary [alternative] procedures used for pain management, acupuncture is most supported by evidence.”
Finally, unlike some medications and invasive treatments, acupuncture comes with no negative side effects, as long as it’s performed by a responsible and licensed professional and with clean needles (as the FDA requires).
The Nay Vote
Plenty of people, including plenty of veterinarians, are skeptics. SkepVet.com claims that acupuncture isn’t widely used in it’s origin country of China today by anyone who can afford Western medicine and that “the practice underwent a resurgence in the 1950s and 1960s, as an effort by the Communist Party to provide cheap health care in places without modern facilities or trained doctors.”
Others point out that the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine conducted a review of acupuncture trials and found that “there is no compelling evidence to recommend or reject acupuncture for domestic animals.”
What Do You Think?
Would you pay about $75-$125 for a session of acupuncture for your pet? What would you expect to get out of the treatment? Have you used acupuncture for your pet? Tell us in the comments below!