Acupuncture for Laminitis in Horses

Bob Judd, DVM, DABVP (Equine Medicine), DABVP (Canine and Feline Practice)
Courtesy of Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network

Date Published: 12/21/2009
Date Reviewed/Revised: 02/25/2020

Laminitis is one of the most common conditions in horses and also one of the most difficult to treat. It is extremely painful and the uncontrollable pain causes many horses to be euthanized. Hundreds of treatments have been used in these cases and still no one really knows the most effective treatment as most horses receive multiple therapies at the same time. If the horse does respond to treatment, it is difficult to know which therapy was the most helpful.

Recently, Dr. Kevin May from California evaluated the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating laminitis in conjunction with other therapies. He indicated 13% of horse barns or owners deal with laminitis every year and 50% of those are referred to hospitals and are eventually euthanized.

He indicated there is circumstantial evidence that acupuncture could be helpful in laminitis and wanted to be more scientific. Dr. May performed a diagnostic acupuncture palpation exam on each horse to help guide his treatment and then applied various acupuncture treatments including dry needling, bleeding an acupuncture site with a needle and injection vitamin B12 at an acupuncture site. Horses were treated twice 1 week apart and two other vets visually examined the horses for lameness and with an electronic lameness locater. Treated horses had a significant lower lameness level after the second treatment and this provides at least anecdotal evidence that acupuncture can help with pain from laminitis. However, there were no control horses in the study and each case was different as each horse received multiple medications at the same time as acupuncture. Until more evidence is collected, Dr. May recommends considering acupuncture in horses that have not responded to typical laminitis therapy.