Last Saturday’s Stribe (Star Tribune) included an article called “On Paws and Needles“, which described the growing practice of pet acupuncture in the Twin Cities. I have very little faith in acupuncture for humans and about the same amount of faith in anecdotal evidence, but that’s what author Kristin Tillotson asks us to accept when she writes
“Whether or not you’re ready to embrace the concept of chi flowing through your body, it’s tough to argue with pet owners who have seen their beloveds go from listless and limping to perky and playful.”
Tillotson does let us know that there is some controversy surrounding pet acupuncture with her section entitled “Not enough proof?” (here, I fixed it for you: “Not enough proof?.), but the quote from Dr. Craig Smith is brief, and I get the impression that the author included it so she could argue that she has presented a fair and balanced look at the issue. She quotes Dr. Smith:
Most studies that have shown benefits have been for muscular-skeletal pain. But for seizures and asthma, we do not have the evidence at this time that it’s as beneficial as drugs can be.
However, she follows this logical assertion with a description of ONE CASE that begs to differ. And she also lists an extensive group of local veterinary practices where one can find pet acupuncture.
Dr. Smith reasons that there probably isn’t a push by Big (Vet?) Pharma to incorporate acupuncture sessions into mainstream veterinary practice, as needles are inexpensive. However, at $75 a session and an ability to prescribe as many sessions as an owner will let you get away with, I can see where there might be other financial incentives that could help select for an increase in the occurence of pet acupuncture.
One statement in the article that interests me is a quote by Dr. Keum Hwa Choi, a practitioner of veterinary CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) who started a Vet CAM service at the University of Minnesota eight years ago:
“Dogs don’t experience any placebo effect like humans can. Their brains don’t tell them, ‘Gee, I got these needles stuck in me so I must be better.’ They either feel better or they don’t.”
Hmmm…placebo effects in animals…??? Interesting thought exercise. Although, if not placebo effect, perhaps another variable? I imagine that an acupuncture session is fairly relaxing for the pet – the article indicates that the animal is the center of attention during these exercises – they are petted, nuzzled, spoken to in calming adult-cooing baby language, placed on warm blankets with candle light and soft music, perhaps? One woman reported that her cat’s bp dropped from 220 to 169 by the end of a 10-minute HEAT LASER treatment (apparently, cranky 17 year-old Annie isn’t having any of that sharp sh*t poked in her head, so the vet uses heat lasers rather than “dry needles” to complete the treatment. But don’t worry, I have a very strong suspicion that the two treatments do exactly the same thing…that is…nothing). Apparently, giving your pet attention – petting it, being nice to it, keeping it warm – encourages a calm and happy demeanor. Do needles or frickin’ lasers really add anything to that experience?
And just for fun, here’s a picture of a puppy with pins in his head. Poor little PinHead.