Horses have been receiving acupuncture for almost as long as people have—since the practice began in China some 2,500 years ago. As beasts of burden, horses were of tremendous value to the Chinese, and their health was almost as important as that of their owners. Today veterinary acupuncturists can treat nearly any animal, from a bear to a porcupine to a dog. Training courses, such as those from the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, teach licensed veterinarians how to incorporate acupuncture into their practice.
Acupuncture is thought to have arrived in the U.S. in the 1800s with the immigration of Chinese doctors. It wasn’t until the 1970s, however, that acupuncture’s popularity began to take hold. Though limited studiesqualify it as evidence-based medicine, those who practice acupuncture say that the effects can be explained in physiological terms.
Veterinary acupuncture has been performed on both domesticated pets and zoo animals. The latter must be sedated while the needles are inserted, but most pets are accepting or unfazed.