WSU veterinary students isolate acupuncture points on a donkey with assistance
from instructor Dong Hong, right, of China Agriculture University in Beijing. 
(Photo courtesy of Mushtaq Memon, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine)
Owner Kim Strobel of Walla Walla
assists Lily, almost 19 years old,
during an acupuncture session
at WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
(Photo courtesy of Kim Strobel)
PULLMAN, Wash. – As China blasts into the 21st century with a soaring economy and sophisticated technologies, a group of veterinary students from Washington State University traveled there to practice an ancient therapy on a donkey and two dogs. When these students become licensed veterinarians, they hope to apply their East-meets-West knowledge to their own patients – furry and feathered alike.
The two-week trip in May evolved from WSU’s first semester-long course in Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine. Twelve of the class’s 34 students, along with Mushtaq Memon, a veterinarian and associate professor at WSU’s veterinary college, flew to Beijing to learn animal acupuncture from the experts.
Working under the direction of an instructor at China Agriculture University, students gently inserted needles at various points on the animals, all of whom appeared to “take it in stride,” said veterinary student Roxy Elliot, who paid more than $2,500 to travel to China to practice the age-old medicine.
“I used my credit card to pay for most of it,” said Elliot, who worked as a licensed massage therapist before entering veterinary school. “Was it worth it? Absolutely. I know acupuncture works. Someday I’ll offer it to my own clients.”
Acupuncture is the 2,000 year old method of inserting thin needles into specific points of the skin to clear blocked passages of energy and restore health. Once rejected by Western medical practitioners, it moved to the mainstream after the National Institutes of Health endorsed its use in 1997.  Since then, more than 3 million Americans undergo acupuncture each year, according to the Bethesda, Md., agency.
And in a nation chock-full of pets – more than 141 million dogs and cats alone – “people are saying, if acupuncture works for me, why can’t it work for my pet?” said Memon, who earned his certification in acupuncture in 2009 from the  Chi Institute in Florida, which trains licensed veterinarians.
“As pets become a more important part of American families, their owners want a wider array of treatment choices,” he said. “By teaching acupuncture and other techniques, such as chiropractic care and herbal medicines, to our students, they’ll be better able to meet the broadening requests of pet owners.”
This is increasingly clear to veterinary student Kate Stevens, who signed up for the class and then grabbed the chance to study in China.
“In my small hometown, four vets are offering acupuncture and other complementary services,” she said, referring to Poulsbo, Wash., with a population of just over 9,000. “Veterinary medicine is changing in response to what pet owners believe will improve the health of their pets.”
Those pets include Lily, an almost 19-year-old calico cat whose owners drive 2 ½ hours from Walla Walla to WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital to get acupuncture treatments from Memon – as students look on.
After Lily’s vet in Walla Walla said she couldn’t take the normally prescribed medications because of her compromised kidneys, “I did some research and found out about WSU offering other options,” said Kim Strobel. After four trips, Lily, who suffers from painful arthritis and kidney disease, has more spring to her step and better functioning kidneys, Strobel said.
“To see the improvement, it’s been worth the long drives,” she said. “There was no way I’d just give up on helping her feel better. She’s my little buddy.”

Mushtaq Memon, College of Veterinary Medicine, 509-335-0766,
Media contact:
Linda Weiford, WSU News, 509-335-3581,