Acupuncture is a perennially controversial topic in veterinary medicine. Some vets tout acupuncture as a cure for everything from depression to kidney failure. Others think that the entire practice of acupuncture is a sham.
Which side is right? Probably neither.
The acupuncture advocates generally have failed to do something very straightforward: prove that acupuncture is effective for the many ailments that it supposedly treats. This is a very glaring omission in my mind. As I have discussed in my other posts on evidence-based medicine, it is very simple to prove that a medical technique works.
For instance, a study to test the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of feline kidney failure would be very simple to run. Take two groups of cats with comparable kidney function. Have a trained veterinary acupuncturist perform acupuncture on members of one group for 30 minutes apiece twice weekly. Have a different person gently pet members of the other group for 30 minutes apiece twice weekly. Do not tell the cats’ owners which group their cats belong to. Compare outcomes.
It’s really that simple. But for some reason these studies are very rarely performed. This makes me wonder: does veterinary acupuncture work strictly by the placebo effect?
Maybe not. A few well-designed studies have shown that acupuncture can relieve pain in some instances. It also can lead to release of endorphins. Endorphins relax the body. So there is a chance that taking your dog to an acupuncturist will, in fact, help him to lead a relaxed and happy life.
Although the jury is still out on the debate over acupuncture, one thing is certain. There are a lot of scammers out there practicing veterinary acupuncture with little or no training. These people will waste your money in the best case. In the worst case, they may harm your dog.
In my opinion there is nothing wrong with taking your dog to an acupuncturist. But be careful to check the credentials of the person who will perform the procedure on your pet.