There are three ways a veterinarian can receive certification for using acupuncture to treat dogs and other animals, and while there’s overlap, the approaches differ to some degree. Note that there is no board certification in acupuncture recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association. These certifications are considerably less rigorous than those for, say, anesthesia or internal medicine.
Only veterinarians or fourth-year veterinary students may take this course. In addition to passing written and practical exams, they must complete a 40-hour internship doing clinical cases with current Society members. They must also complete a peer-reviewed written case report. IVAS can be said to straddle a line, to some degree, between Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. For instance, while the veterinarians who receive certification use Western techniques to treat ailments and diseases on a routine basis, the Society also organizes a course in what it calls Chinese Veterinary Herbal Medicine. The use of herbs to treat ailments falls outside the larger umbrella of research looking at acupuncture’s effects.
Open only to veterinarians and fourth-year veterinary students, this course has 10 online modules, after each of which the student must pass a written exam. Upon completion of the written portions, veterinarians attend a clinical intensive with hands-on labs and also have to work through case reports. This approach differs from the one overseen by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society in that it’s based strictly on the tenets of Western medicine, using only those acupuncture techniques supported by evidence from Western scientific research. There is no discussion of herbs or concepts such as chi, which refers to the energy, or force, flowing through the body. “It doesn’t mean the Chinese” approach doesn’t work, says Michael Petty, DVM, who received his acupuncture training under the auspices of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association. It means the Association hews to a different type of standard for evidence of benefit.
Some say the course offered by this group most closely aligns with the thinking of Chinese acupuncturists as opposed to those who seek a Western view of the best ways to integrate (or not integrate) various acupuncture techniques. Still, says a spokesperson for the organization, the Chi Institute is very pro-integrative, using both Eastern and Western systems to accomplish goals and fill in gaps where one approach falls short. Those taking the acupuncture course must be either veterinarians or third- or fourth-year veterinary students. Course work consists of a mix of online learning and onsite practicums during which veterinarians insert needles into animals. Students must also sit for a final exam; intern for 30 hours with a certified veterinary acupuncturist; and submit a case report to document their understanding. Vets can register for the course in small animal acupuncture, equine acupuncture, or mixed veterinary practice acupuncture.