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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

The successful use of acupuncture as a treatment for canine thoracolumbar disk disease was reported in 1989, and there has been increasing interest in so-called "alternative therapies" ever since. However, as far as Provet is aware controlled studies have still not been published  - why not ?

In 1989 Janssens and Prins reported a series of 191 dogs with thoracolumbar disk disease that had been treated with acupuncture (Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (1989) 25, 169-174). In their report they compared two different methods of acupuncture and claimed that 162 (85%) dogs were completely cured and the mean treatment period was 3.6 weeks (giving one acupuncture treatment per week). The authors compared their results with those of authors reporting surgical and medical approaches to similar cases and were able to claim that their results were comparable with conventional surgical and medical treatments for all except the worst affected cases.

The authors acknowledged that surgery was the treatment of choice for patients presenting early with the most severe signs of disk disease ie paralysis, inability to stand or walk or bear weight , and an absence of  pain sensitivity.

In their study they treated the following with acupuncture :

  • 85 dogs with only back pain - 94% recovered
  • 37 dogs with back pain, lack of hindleg proprioception and paresis - 89% recovered
  • 59 dogs with paralysis, unable to stand or walk or bear weight, but pain response present - 79% recovered
  • 10 dogs with paralysis, unable to stand or walk or bear weight, and pain sensitivity absent - 20% recovered

One criticism voiced at the time this paper was published was that the study did not include "proper" controls. That is the design of the clinical study did not directly compare results obtained with the use of acupuncture to results obtained  with other treatments in randomly assigned patients from the same population of dogs. 

Over two decades later we are still waiting for publication of a "properly controlled" study to confirm the true value of acupuncture compared to other forms of treatment for these cases. Why ? The evidence from this study was that acupuncture should be at least as beneficial as other treatment modalities in the management of these cases. 

Feedback Request

If you are aware of a controlled study on the use of acupuncture in thoracolumbar disk disease please send details to Provet. If you are using acupuncture and conventional medical and surgical treatments for treating these cases in your practice and wish to submit your data Provet will collate the information and produce a multicentre report. If you wish to contribute to this study in any way please contact Provet at 

Last updated : January 2016