One of the most common questions asked by both vets and owners is whether there is any merit in treating degenerative myelopathies with acupuncture.
These are distressing conditions not least because the patient usually appears healthy, bright and active but gradually loses control over its hindlegs and is eventually unable to walk and sometimes incontinent.
From what we understand about these diseases and about acupuncture it is unlikely that acupuncture will have a direct positive effect on these conditions, but there are other aspects to consider.
These diseases are often complicated by concurrent problems such as chronic disc prolapse and degenerative joint disease, both of which are also common in the breeds affected. Additionally, dogs affected with CDRM and related conditions commonly have pain in the caudal back muscles because these are the ones trying to stabilize the hindquarters as the animal gets up and moves about.
Therefore, it is not surprising that there are reports of improvements when these patients are treated with acupuncture.
It is also recognized that these conditions may “plateau” for long periods and if this period coincides with when acupuncture is started it will appear that the treatment has arrested the progress of the disease.
In conclusion, it is worth examining these patients for sources of pain and treating these. It is not unusual to see improvements after acupuncture, but it is vital to keep emphasizing to owners that, as far as is understood, the disease will progress regardless of our intervention and the best we can do is keep the patient comfortable as it does so and perhaps maintain its mobility for longer if we can remove or reduce sources of pain.