Healthline: Acupuncture for pets

Healthline: Acupuncture for pets
Vieux Carré and Alley Cat both benefited from acupuncture treatments. (Source: WAFB)
Vieux Carré and Alley Cat both benefited from acupuncture treatments. (Source: WAFB)
Dr. Ronald Koh performs acupuncture on a Borzoi at LSU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. (Source: WAFB)
Dr. Ronald Koh performs acupuncture on a Borzoi at LSU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Most of us would do anything for our pets, especially when they're hurting. LSU's School of Veterinary Medicine now offers integrative therapies that could help when nothing else does.

"She was born into my hands," Dee Jones said as her 15-month-old Borzoi leaned up to lick her face.

Vieux Carré is not only a show dog, but a member of the Jones family – a family that was beside itself last November when Carré suddenly stopped walking.

"By 5 o'clock in the morning we realized she was in a seizure," Jones explained. "She was drawn up in the fetal position, she couldn't move her limbs, and you could roll her over, but she couldn't move herself."

Kelli Gueho has her own four-legged love, a rescue cat appropriately named Alley. Her story is strikingly similar.

"She couldn't even stand up and turn over. I kind of felt her paw and it was just limp," Gueho said.

Her vet referred Alley to the LSU Vet School to try and figure out what was causing the mystery paralysis. It was especially unusual because it affected the front and back legs.

Carré and Alley both underwent an MRI, spinal tap, x-rays and blood work. All results came back inconclusive.

"They're telling me that my beautiful puppy, they don't know what to do and suggested that we let Dr. Koh treat her," Jones recalled. "My vet said, ‘Yeah, I would do that,' and I think he worked a miracle."

Dr. Ronald Koh is a certified veterinary acupuncturist and instructor within the school's department of


Full-time animal acupuncture was first offered at LSU in 2014 thanks to a $100,000 grant from the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation. Growing demand keeps Koh and his two colleagues busier than ever.

Treatments take about an hour and consist of very fine needles placed on specific "acupoints" along the body. Koh explained how the needles stimulate sensory nerves, which then send signals to the brain to release hormones that promote healing and reduce pain. Low-current electrical stimulation can be applied to maximize the effect.

"For a lot of conditions such as chronic arthritis, chronic pain or neurological problems, most of the time one to three acupuncture treatments, we should be able to see some results," Koh said.

Carré was confined to the ICU before acupuncture, not able to stand, but after two acupuncture treatments, Koh said she was able to take a few steps while being supported. Four days and three more treatments later, Carré was running through the school's breezeways.

"She came in here on a stretcher, and a week later she walked out on all fours," Jones said. "I was just amazed at the difference in the dog. I thought she was going to die."

Alley Cat also spent time in the ICU. Her condition was eventually linked to spinal cord lesions. A combination of acupuncture and physical therapy got her up and walking, and Gueho said she noticed a difference after the first treatment.

"It just accelerated the healing process. We couldn't be more pleased," she said.

Acupuncture can be used on a wide variety of animals, including horses, livestock, and birds. Side effects are minimal.

"The most common side effect is after treatments the dog is going to be tired, and they will sleep for maybe 12 to 24 hours, and after that they'll have better energy," Koh said.

Though it's most often used to treat pain, Koh said acupuncture can be effective in a wide variety of conditions:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Neurological disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Endocrine diseases (Cushing's disease, thyroid problems)
  • Kidney and liver diseases
  • Allergies, Asthma
  • Anxiety, Depression
  • Cancer symptoms

The goal is to use integrative medicine alongside traditional treatment to improve quality of life.

"The philosophy and the theories behind it are different than Western medicine, but that doesn't mean it's not effective," Jones said.

The cost of acupuncture at LSU is $100 per inpatient treatment and $120 for outpatient. Most pets require at least three to five treatments.

LSU also offers a variety of other integrative therapies, including rehabilitation with an underwater treadmill and physical therapy, cold laser, therapeutic massage, and food therapy.

Jefferson Animal Hospital in Baton Rouge also offers acupuncture through Dr. Larry McCaskill, a certified veterinary acupuncturist. Click

for more information.

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