When I write about junk medicine and pseudoscience, I generally stick to human medicine. Recently, I wrote about the asinine people who refuse canine vaccinations, which led me to search for other alternative veterinary medicine that mirrored those for humans. That’s when I ran into veterinary acupuncture.
I’ll explain the evidence in more detail later in this article, but it needs to be stated right up front – acupuncture is a pseudoscience unsupported by any real scientific evidence. Acupuncture is generally supported by anecdotes, which are not data, and terrible clinical studies that, at best, show acupuncture to be nothing more than a placebo.
Given the lack of evidence supporting the efficacy of veterinary acupuncture, there’s only one way to describe the insertion of needles into your pets – it’s animal cruelty. It’s animal torture. It is not veterinary medicine.
If you want to believe that acupuncture works because you buy into the pseudoscience, go for it. Pay the charlatans pushing this nonsense because you trust in your beliefs rather than in science. It’s your choice.
But subjecting your pets to this travesty, who have no choice? Back to what I said before, it’s animal cruelty. Why would you do that to your favorite pet?
I know, people will get all upset. They’ll throw out anecdotes, like people do with chiropractic, or cherry pick poorly designed studies to “prove” that acupuncture works. They’ll try to convince everyone who will listen that it’s some sort of racism of Western based “mainstream” medicine that dismisses acupuncture. Because if it worked for your cousin’s daughter’s hairdresser’s uncle, it must be real medicine.
There are now thousands of acupuncture studies looking at every indication you can imagine (which stretches credulity that there is any common underlying mechanism). We are well past the time for preliminary studies. Despite thousands of studies, there isn’t a single indication for which real acupuncture has been shown to work to a high degree of confidence. At this point I would say that acupuncture should be abandoned as a scientific concept. It is a failed hypothesis that has added no real knowledge to our understanding of health and disease.
If, however, you are going to spend the resources to do an acupuncture study, make sure it is rigorous enough to add new information, and isn’t just another preliminary study to throw on the pile and get another round of misleading headlines about how “acupuncture” works. Of course a cynical person might suspect that this is the real goal of these studies.