Holistic Veterinary Techniques: Acupuncture & Chronic Pain in Canines

Although the assessment and management of acute pain in animals has advanced considerably, chronic pain is still underestimated and, therefore, under treated, because the diagnosis is complex and treatment is limited (1). Validated tools have been developed for evaluation of acute (2) and chronic pain (3-6), and although acute pain is well-evaluated by veterinarians (2), the owner is more apt to identify chronic pain based on changes in the pet’s attitude and behavior (7). Assessment of quality of life is important to measure treatment efficacy in chronic cases (3-7). Chronic pain and quality of life have been assessed by validated questionnaires in dogs with joint diseases (4,6,8) cancer (3), spinal cord injuries (9), and quality of life in general (7).

A  prospective study conducted by (Department of Veterinary Surgery and Anesthesiology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, UNESP (Univ Estadual Paulista), Botucatu, SP, Brazil.) and published in The Canadian Veterinary Journal investigated the effects of acupuncture alone or combined with analgesics in chronic pain and quality of life assessed by owners for up to 24 weeks in 181 dogs with neurological and musculoskeletal diseases. The scores before and after the onset of treatment were evaluated using the Wilcoxon test and the evolution of success was evaluated by Kaplan-Meier curves.

Differences were considered significant at P < 0.05. The success rates for Helsinki chronic pain index, quality of life assessment, and visual analog scales for pain and locomotion were 79%, 84%, 78%, and 78% of the animals, respectively, when both diseases and groups of treatment were combined. Dogs with musculoskeletal disorders had greater improvement in Helsinki Pain Index (P = 0.003) and Visual Analog Scale locomotion (P = 0.045) than those with neurological disorders.

The authors concluded that the use of acupuncture alone or in combination with analgesics reduced pain and improved quality of life in dogs with neurological and musculoskeletal diseases.

Dr. Sarah Kalivoda

Mountain View Animal Hospital & Holistic Pet Care

Reno, Nevada



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