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  • Writer's pictureMarika

Can Acupuncture Benefit your Pets? with Dr Taryn Rathbone

Updated: Jan 31

In this health and wellness episode, we have interviewed Dr. Taryn Rathbone, a veterinary acupuncturist and chiropractic specialist, to discuss the fascinating world of pet acupuncture for. Join us as we uncover the benefits, mysteries, and misconceptions surrounding this ancient practice.

1. Understanding Acupuncture: What it Does and How it Works

Acupuncture is an age-old practice that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. Dr. Rathbone, of Peak Performance Canine Care in western Washington, explains that there are two main perspectives on how acupuncture works. From a Western medicine standpoint, acupuncture is believed to modulate chemical messengers in the body, such as hormones and neurotransmitters. This modulation helps address various issues like increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation. From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, acupuncture aims to restore the free flow of Qi, or vital life energy, throughout the body.

2. Acupuncture in Veterinary Medicine: Combining Tradition and Science

Dr. Rathbone's unique background as a conventional veterinarian and a certified veterinary acupuncturist allows her to provide insights into the combination of Western and Eastern medical approaches. While Western medicine emphasizes scientific explanations, acupuncture incorporates traditional Chinese medicine principles. However, it is important to note that studying acupuncture from a Western medicine standpoint can be challenging due to the individuality of treatment approaches and the multitude of acupuncture points available.

3. The Effectiveness of Acupuncture: Evidence and Case Studies

The effectiveness of acupuncture is supported by a growing body of research. Studies have revealed positive results in treating conditions such as arthritic pain in humans and dogs with intervertebral disc disease. However, due to the individualized nature of acupuncture treatments, conducting double-blinded peer-reviewed research becomes complicated. Notwithstanding, the results Dr. Rathbone has observed in her practice indicate that acupuncture can provide concrete benefits for animals, particularly in managing orthopedic pain and aiding in recovery.

4. Why Don't More Vets Offer Acupuncture?

Dr. Rathbone believes that the limited number of veterinarians offering acupuncture stems from factors such as time constraints and the need for additional certification beyond veterinary school. However, as research continues to support the effectiveness of acupuncture, acceptance and demand for this treatment are increasing. More veterinary practices are either hiring certified associates or referring cases to veterinary acupuncturists. The National Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA) is also showing support for acupuncture, further contributing to its recognition in the field.

5. The Connection Between Animals and Acupuncture: Honest Feedback

Unlike humans, animals cannot experience a placebo effect. Dr. Rathbone explains that animals' genuine expressions and behaviors provide invaluable feedback in assessing the effectiveness of acupuncture. A positive response from an animal that has no prior knowledge or expectations of the treatment strongly suggests that acupuncture is genuinely beneficial. This sincerity in animal reactions highlights the efficacy of acupuncture and separates it from mere placebo effects.

6. Conditions and Species Treated with Acupuncture

Dr. Rathbone's practice primarily focuses on acupuncture and chiropractic services for dogs and horses. While dogs predominantly seek treatment for orthopedic pain, including arthritis and injuries, horses benefit from acupuncture for various conditions. Additionally, Dr. Rathbone emphasizes the importance of working in parallel with conventional veterinary care, ensuring the best outcomes for the animals in her practice.

7. Acupuncture for Wellness and Relaxation

While acupuncture is commonly associated with treating injuries and illnesses, it can also be used to enhance overall wellness in animals. Dr. Rathbone occasionally treats dogs for anxiety, utilizing acupuncture's calming effects. For puppies without underlying medical issues, chiropractic care is typically the modality of choice, aiding in well-being and addressing minor discomforts. This preventive approach ensures puppies grow up with balanced musculoskeletal systems.

8. Dr. Taryn Rathbone's Journey into Acupuncture and Animal Medicine

Dr. Rathbone's fascination with animals began at a young age. Growing up, her love for animals led her to pursue veterinary medicine. Her exposure to chiropractic and acupuncture treatments for horses sparked her interest in these alternative therapies. Witnessing the positive impact of acupuncture on animals, she decided to pursue certification in veterinary acupuncture and now offers specialized care for dogs and horses in the Greater Seattle area.


The world of acupuncture for animals is a fascinating one. With its blend of tradition, science, and results, acupuncture is proving to be a valuable tool in veterinary medicine. Dr. Taryn Rathbone's expertise and dedication to this field shed light on the benefits of acupuncture for animals and its growing acceptance among veterinary professionals. As research continues to reveal the effectiveness of acupuncture, more animals will experience the holistic benefits of this ancient practice.

Show Notes:

Episode 2 of Series 1: Health and Wellness

Guest: Dr. Rathbone grew up in New England and earned her DVM from Cornell University Veterinary College in 2012. Dr. Rathbone earned her certification in veterinary acupuncture (CVA) from the Chi Institute in Reddick, FL. Dr. Rathbone founded Balanced Horse Veterinary Service, PLLC with the vision of improving her patients' lives through a holistic approach to veterinary care. The practice quickly expanded to include dogs. Dr. Rathbone graduated from Options for Animals College of Animal Chiropractic,and earned her certification in veterinary chiropractic (CVC) through the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association (IVCA.) She enjoys helping animal athletes achieve their potential, as well as helping older pets age with grace.

Dr. Rathbone lives in Woodinville, WA with her husband, two sons and their standard poodles, Sherlock and Westley. When not with her patients, she enjoys woodworking, gardening and hiking.

(This blog post was based on an AI generated script and edited by me for accuracy and additional information)

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