The use of electroacupuncture combined with standard Western medical treatment was compared with medical treatment alone for thoracolumbar intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) in dogs. Fifty dogs having signs of thoracolumbar IVDD with grades 1 to 5 dysfunction were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups. Group 1 dogs (n = 26) received standard Western medical treatment combined with electroacupuncture. Group 2 dogs (n = 24) received Western medical treatment only. All dogs were given prednisone at a progressively decreasing dose for 2 weeks. Ranitidine for adverse gastrointestinal effects and tramadol for pain control were administered if necessary. Group 1 dogs also received electroacupuncture treatment once weekly for at least 3 treatments. Dogs lacking deep pain perception (grade 5 dysfunction) received electroacupuncture twice weekly for 2 weeks, then once weekly for at least 2 weeks. A functional numeric scale (FNS) was used to evaluate the effects of treatment. In dogs with grade 3 and 4 dysfunction, group 1 dogs recovered ambulation significantly more quickly than group 2 dogs (mean 10.10 days vs 20.83 days, respectively), and a greater number of group 1 dogs regained the ability to walk without assistance (10/10 in group 1, 6/9 in group 2). FNS scores for dogs with grades 1 and 2 dysfunction did not differ between groups. In addition, group 1 dogs with grade 5 dysfunction had a greater rate of recovery of pain sensation than those in group 2, although the difference was not significant. Overall success for all dysfunction grades was significantly higher in group 1 (88.5%) than in group 2 (58.3%). The authors concluded that electroacupuncture combined with standard Western medical treatment was effective and resulted in shorter recovery times than Western medical treatment alone in dogs with thoracolumbar IVDD.

COMMENTARY: As acupuncture becomes increasingly more accepted within the Western medical community, more scientific studies are published that illustrate the effectiveness of this ancient healing modality. This article was interesting for its prospective data but also in its presentation of the technique that was performed, the way in which results were evaluated, and in the discussion of how acupuncture works in thoracolumbar IVDD. This is a useful read for both acupuncture neophytes and experienced practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. -- Jennifer L. Schori, VMD

Evaluation of electroacupuncture treatment for thoracolumbar intervertebral disk disease in dogs. Hayashi AM, Matera JM, Pinto A. JAVMA 231:913-918, 2007.