Vet Acupuncture History in the United States
by pauladiasferreira | September 28, 2008
As early as 1970, before President Richard Nixon’s diplomatic trip to China, a small group of acupuncturists in California were beginning to explore the efficacy of using acupuncture to treat small animals. Initially dogs were the subjects of these studies. These acupuncturists were the founders of the Institute for Taoist Studies in Los Angeles (1969) and the National Acupuncture Association (NAA) in Westwood. They also helped establish the Acupuncture Pain Clinic at UCLA medical school. The current national organization is the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Following the notoriety that acupuncture received after Reston’s article about his successful surgery in China using acupuncture as an analgesic, demands for information on acupuncture increased dramatically across the United States. There was also an increasing interest in acupuncture for animals. At the time, acupuncture treatment for animals was unknown in the US, and not really practiced in China or Europe. Because of the increased interest by animal owners who called the NAA offices requesting referrals for acupuncturists to treat their animals, the NAA formed a research team to begin this work in the US. The NAA’s veterinary team was initially made up of two acupuncturists, John Ottaviano and Gene Bruno. The earlier work provided a good basis for treating certain arthritic complaints in dogs. Their research discovered only a scarce amount of material from China and Europe, and it proved to be inadequate in helping with their projects. From the beginning, this research team had to construct the acupuncture charts for small animals (dogs and cats) and large animals (primarily horses).
A local veterinarian, Richard Glassberg, made contact with the NAA’s research team requesting training to treat animals with acupuncture. Through Dr. Glassberg, contact was made with a large animal veterinarian, Dr. Alice DeGroot. This eventually led to contacts with additional small animal clinics throughout the Los Angeles county area. By early 1973, the California state veterinary board had granted Gene Bruno and John Ottaviano permission to treat animals with acupuncture even though they did not possess a veterinary license.
In the earlier work with horses, acupuncture was found to be over 90% successful in treating founder (laminitis), which was a major improvement over traditional western treatment. Other conditions that responded favorably in horses were navicular disease, tying-up syndrome, epistaxsis, arthritis, tendinitis, hepatic dysfunction, back pain, general neuralgia and facial paralysis. In dogs, acupuncture showed dramatic success in treating hip dysplasia and certain arthritic problems, in addition to allergic and neuro-dermatitis, intervertebral disc syndrome, arthritis, spondylitis, and paralysis. Today, veterinary acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of conditions in both small and large animals.
From 1972 until 1974, these acupuncturists from the National Acupuncture Association trained a number of veterinarians in the practice of acupuncture for small and large animals. This led to the establishment of the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) that was chartered in 1974.
In March 1974, a symposium on veterinary acupuncture was presented at the University of California at Los Angeles in co-operation with the National Acupuncture Association and the California Veterianry Medical Association. This was the first major symposium of its kind in the Western world.
In 1973 and 1974, a few initial studies were begun to try and understand more about how acupuncture worked. Dr. Fred Lynd, DVM, worked with the induction of acupuncture analgesia forsurgical procedures in the canine at the University of Texas. Gene Bruno,LAc, and Werner Nobel, MD, did the first controlled studies of the effect of acupuncture analgesia on small animals at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting excellence in the practice of veterinary acupuncture, as an integral part of the total veterinary health care delivery system. The Society endeavors to establish uniformly high standards of veterinary acupuncture through its educational programs and accreditation examination. IVAS seeks to integrate veterinary acupuncture and the practice of western veterinary science. The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture is an affiliate of the IVAS. 
Veterinary acupuncture is used to stimulate and strengthen the animal’s own healing/homeostatic mechanisms. Acupuncture can affect all major physiological systems and has good therapeutic value in a wide variety of human and animal diseases. The application of acupuncture is appropriate in all functional and some structural disorders.