Assessing the efficacy of acupuncture as the sole analgesic for canine chronic pain



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PICO Question

In dogs with chronic pain, is acupuncture alone, compared to a placebo, more efficacious in alleviating pain and pain-related dysfunction?


Clinical bottom line

Category of research


Number and type of study designs reviewed

Four randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trials were critically appraised.

Strength of evidence


Outcomes reported

A single study evaluating the efficacy of gold bead implantation, a form of permanent acupuncture, on pain associated with canine hip dysplasia (CHD) endorsed acupuncture’s superior pain alleviation and locomotion improvement through owner and veterinarian subjective outcome evaluation.

Three studies concluded that, overall, acupuncture was not efficacious regarding pain reduction or dysfunction improvement compared with placebo treatment.


Based on the limited current evidence, acupuncture could have analgesic effects as perceived by owners, but acupuncture, as a sole analgesic, is unlikely to be effective in alleviating pain and pain-related dysfunction in canine chronic pain associated with musculoskeletal causes. Evidence is lacking on chronic pain due to neurological and oncological causes. Further studies need to focus on researching various acupuncture modalities’ effects on chronic pain with musculoskeletal, neuropathic and oncological causes when utilised as a component of multimodal therapy. Currently, for canine patients with chronic pain, there is insufficient evidence for a veterinarian to recommend that a client utilise acupuncture as the sole method for pain management.


How to apply this evidence in practice

The application of evidence into practice should take into account multiple factors, not limited to: individual clinical expertise, patient’s circumstances and owners’ values, country, location or clinic where you work, the individual case in front of you, the availability of therapies and resources.

Knowledge Summaries are a resource to help reinforce or inform decision making. They do not override the responsibility or judgement of the practitioner to do what is best for the animal in their care.


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Vol. 9 No. 1 (2024): The first issue of 2024

Section: Knowledge Summaries

Categories :  Small Animal  /  Dogs  /  Cats  /  Rabbits  /  Production Animal  /  Cattle  /  Sheep  /  Pig  /  Equine  /  Exotics  /