LAMINITIS CAN BE CHALLENGING TO TREAT, BUT USING ACUPUNCTURE IN CONJUNCTION WITH TRADITIONAL THERAPIES MIGHT IMPROVE RESULTS, ONE STUDY FOUND. HERE’S HOW.
Posted by Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor | May 8, 2019 | AAEP Convention, AAEP Convention 2018, Acupuncture, Alternative Therapies, Hoof Care, Hoof Problems, Horse Care, Laminitis (Founder), Older Horse Care Concerns
Laminitis is an incredibly painful hoof disease that is challenging to treat using traditional Western medicine. One veterinarian recently confirmed that performing acupuncture in conjunction with these therapies, however, might improve results.
Kevin May, DVM, CVA, of El Cajon Valley Veterinary Hospital, in California, evaluated how effective acupuncture is in improving pain and lameness in chronic laminitis cases and presented his results at the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California.
“Thirteen percent of barns and/or owners deal with laminitis each year, with 50% of those referred to hospitals eventually euthanized,” he said. “There is circumstantial evidence that acupuncture reduces the patient’s lameness and suffering; however, evidence-based scientific research is scarce.”
So May conducted a study of 12 chronically laminitic horses of varying ages, breeds, and degrees of lameness. He ensured caretakers made no supplement, medication, shoeing, or management changes during the study, so he could clearly evaluate acupuncture’s effects.
May said he performed a diagnostic acupuncture palpation examination (DAPE) on each horse to help guide his acupuncture treatment. The various acupuncture techniques he then applied included dry needling (the traditional technique of using only a needle), hemo-acupuncture (“bleeding” an acupuncture point with a hypodermic needle), and aqua-acupuncture (injecting a small amount of fluid—vitamin B12—into the acupuncture point).
For consistency’s sake, said May, he treated a basic set of points with dry needling and hemo-acupuncture on all horses, then added other points and treatments as indicated by the DAPE results. He treated each horse twice, one week apart, and had two other veterinarians perform lameness exams before and after each treatment. Each horse underwent both subjective and objective (e.g., using a Lameness Locator) exams.
May said horses had significantly lower lameness levels after the second treatment than the first. Further, lameness was even more significantly reduced when he compared baseline evaluations to final evaluations.
“You always think they look better after treatment, so it was nice that the visual exam and objective exam done by other vets concurred,” said May.
He said the results of this study support the anecdotal evidence that acupuncture can significantly reduce lameness in horses with chronic laminitis. Its limitations, however, include the fact that there were no controls and that each case was different and was being treated differently (medication-, shoeing-, and management-wise).
May said veterinarians can use acupuncture in laminitis cases not responding to current therapies (e.g., therapeutic shoeing, medication, diet restrictions) without interfering with the treatment course. He said these horses benefit from more than one acupuncture treatment, but more studies are needed to determine the optimum number and frequency of treatments and how long their effects last.