Animal acupuncture can seem foreign, but in this article, we get to the point (pun intended) of this Chinese medicine method so that pet parents can easily decide whether or not it will be the right fit for their pup's care plan.

Chinese medicine revolves around the Daoist ideas that your body and your pet's body are an extension of the universe, and that any imbalance of energy causes disease.

Identifying disharmony in the body allows acupuncturists to correct a person's or animal's life-energy or "qi." In Chinese medicine, humans and animals have Meridian Energy Channels that are targeted during acupuncture treatment. The Meridian Channel is where the energy or "qi" flows.

What is Acupuncture for Dogs?

Acupuncture is a complementary and holistic treatment method of Chinese medicine in which thin, sterile needles are inserted into key points on the body to stimulate tissues, vessels, and nerves without the release of blood.

It is commonly practiced in humans but has also formed part of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine as an approach to neurological dysfunction or orthopedic pain and inflammation. 

While acupuncture may seem like a new treatment plan offered to your pet, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine has been used to treat animals for thousands of years.

An acupuncturist who has studied Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine will perform the treatment. The needles are inserted into defined acupuncture points to stimulate physiological processes through neural signaling.

Once the needles are inserted into these innervate locations, they're rotated gently. By rotating the needles, the connective tissue under the skin is stimulated, creating a signal for the nervous system to respond in numerous ways, depending on the need. Most of the time, it brings on anti-inflammatory action. 

There are approximately fourteen main energy channels on the body with 360 acupoints.

What Can Acupuncture Help With?

Acupuncture is helpful for many problems. It is often used to bring relief to certain areas and stimulate an appropriate response in the body by sending neurological signals to the brain.

It can also ease symptoms that are brought on as contraindications to medication. For pets that no longer respond to pain medication, acupuncture can step in and assist. 

The age-old healing practice of acupuncture can assist dogs with the following:

  • General pain management for chronic or acute pain.

  • Hormone regulation and effectiveness in reducing testosterone in dogs with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and other reproductive problems.

  • Improved insulin sensitivity, resulting in weight loss and assisting with insulin-related diseases such as Pancreatitis, Diabetes, and Hyperadrenocorticism.

  • Relief for metabolic diseases such as kidney and liver failure, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, hypothyroidism, etc.

  • Gastrointestinal disorders, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation.

  • Trauma requires the help of anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving treatment. Acupuncture can assist in these areas and treat pets with trauma caused by accidents, surgery, or injury. 

  • To make up part of cancer treatment to reduce tissue inflammation or enlargement of organ systems. Acupuncture can also help lessen chemotherapy side effects and bring relief to accompanying symptoms of the disease.

  • Skin condition relief and increased blood circulation, targeting allergic dermatitis, inflammation, hot spots, or granulomas.

  • Relief from asthma, allergies, or other respiratory problems.

  • Neurologic diseases such as spinal cord injury, epilepsy, seizures, intervertebral disk diseases, dementia, stroke, back pain, etc.

  • Musculoskeletal conditions such as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), canine arthritis, elbow, shoulder or hip dysplasia, tendon and ligament issues, degenerative joint disease, etc. 

  • Urinary Incontinence.

The Benefits of Acupuncture

Despite the use of needles, acupuncture is a non-invasive treatment. Dogs who receive acupuncture are usually calmed by the procedure. Some pet owners have had their dogs fall asleep while receiving their acupuncture treatment. 

One of the great benefits of acupuncture treatment is that the tools used (the needles) are easy to transport, allowing acupuncturists to do home visits. A home visit is perfect for large, immobile dogs who are difficult to transport or suitable for the pup who experiences anxiety in the car. Generally, a dog is calmer in a familiar space, and the acupuncturist can do their job with ease.

Dog Acupuncture vs. CBD for Dogs

If you're looking for a holistic option to help your dog with discomfort or stress, you may want to consider CBD as well.

CBD is more popular than ever in the holistic wellness space, and more and more pet parents are turning to CBD every day to help support their dog's health and happiness.

CBD works by interacting with a dog’s internal endocannabinoid system, helping to support normal cardiovascular, immune, and neurological function. But CBD can also help with promoting relaxation in dogs, helping with occasional discomfort, and even supporting mobility--just take a look at all the success stories of pet parents who've used CBD for these reasons and more.

The best part is that CBD for dogs comes in all forms, like CBD oil, delicious bites and chews, and even ! This makes it incredibly easy to administer CBD to your pup--in fact, most dogs look forward to their daily dose of CBD thanks to the delicious flavors CBD comes in.

Different Types of Veterinary Acupuncture

If you're ready to explore the world of acupuncture for dogs, here are some helpful things to know.

First of all, if needle insertion is not giving you the results you hoped for, you can choose other acupuncture methods.

Depending on your local acupuncturist, you can discuss the various treatments and figure out what will work best for your pet. All of these methods will work similarly to target the energy channels in your dog's body. 

Acupressure

Acupressure is practiced by applying pressure to acupuncture points on the body. The technique is similar to a massage, but it targets a specific location. It is preferable for pets who cannot remain calm during needle treatment or require attention for hard-to-reach spots on the energy channel. 

Aquapuncture

Aquapuncture involves the use of a hypodermic needle to inject fluid into acupuncture points. Fluids can be homeopathic liquids, diluted vitamin B12, or chondroprotective medications, used to delay progressive joint problems. The liquid targets the energy channel to initiate healing reactions. 

Moxibustion

Moxibustion makes use of mugwort, a flowering herb commonly used in Chinese medicine. For direct moxibustion, a small amount of the spongy herb is placed on the acupuncture point and then burnt. Indirect moxibustion makes use of a moxa stick held close to the acupuncture point until the location turns red. This treatment can be used in combination with needle insertion for favorable results. Moxibustion is an effective form of treatment for muscle or joint soreness and arthritis. 

Electrostimulation

Electroacupuncture involves the insertion of fine acupuncture needles. Once the dry needles are placed in specific locations, electrodes are attached. The electrodes transmit a small pulse of electricity through the needle. The frequency and intensity of the electrical pulses can be controlled and tailored to the dog's condition.

The electric stimulation is especially useful for its pain-relieving effects. It is also a quicker method to calm spasming muscles. Electrostimulation awakens nerves to send messages to the brain more effectively than stationary acupuncture. For dogs with nerve damage, pain, or spinal cord injury, this can be a preferred treatment method. 

Laser

In laser veterinary acupuncture, cold lasers are used to target acupuncture points. It is non-invasive and doesn't break the skin, minimizing the chance for infection. Studies on humans have shown that low-level lasers can help regenerate cells, improve circulation, decrease pain, reduce inflammation, and more. It is completely painless and pets with high sensitivity to needles could benefit from laser treatment instead. 

Are There Side Effects to Canine Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a favorable form of treatment because it lacks potential side effects, unlike prescription and over the counter medicines. Acupuncture will not interfere with supplements or other medication that is prescribed by your vet and dogs can continue on any western treatment plans without concern. 

Favorable side effects that are noticed are drowsiness and calmness. Among humans, acupuncture can cause tingling or numbness, but since animals cannot verbalize these sensations, we can never know if they experience a similar effect.

It's also believed that typical side effects in many diseases, like nausea and vomiting, can sometimes be suppressed by acupuncture. 

How Does a Typical Acupuncture Session Work?

The needles used in acupuncture are small, but they do big work.

By targeting specific areas, the acupuncture needles trigger the immune system and increase blood flow.

It's difficult to say how long it will take for results to be seen, as each condition and response is unique. Often a number of sessions are needed before improvement of a specific symptom or condition will be seen.

How Long Are The Sessions?

Each session is different and dependent on the pet's condition and the severity of their disease. Sessions can range between twenty to forty minutes and begin with a number of sessions in a week, eventually tapering down to fewer treatments.

Upon observing favorable results, sessions can lessen for maintenance and eventually stop, although consistent treatment is recommended for chronic conditions. 

Does It Hurt?

It's surprising to realize that acupuncture can be extremely relaxing for pets. The needles that are used are tiny and generally painless. 

Slight discomfort can be felt upon insertion, but once the needle is in, your pet will not feel it. Laser acupuncture is a good alternative if the needle insertion seems to bother your furry friend. 

How Many Needles Will Be Inserted In My Dog?

An average of ten to twenty acupuncture needles is used per session. This is also largely dependent on your dog's condition and their particular need.

Getting Started with Acupuncture for Dogs

Once you've decided that you'd like to give alternative medicine a shot, you will need to find a qualified acupuncturist.

First, speak to your vet to see whether they believe acupuncture can be helpful for your pet's condition. 

Since a combination of treatments is best, your veterinarian will have to share their diagnosis with the acupuncturist so that the two treatments can work in harmony with one another. Medical results, lab tests, radiographs, and other treatments will need to be shared with the acupuncturist so that they are fully cognizant of your pet's wellness plan.

How To Find A Veterinary Acupuncturist

Treatment may be right under your nose, so find out if your veterinarian and their practice offers acupuncture treatment. If not, ask them to point you in the right direction.

An acupuncturist who is certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society can be trusted for their competency and expertise. By visiting the International Veterinary Acupuncture Societywebsite, you can also search for an acupuncturist by City, State, or Country. 

What Does Dog Acupuncture Cost?

Thervo results have shown that dog acupuncture can cost an average of $65 to $120 per session.

Your dog's size and health condition will affect the price, as well as your location and the qualifications of your canine acupuncturist.

Other costs can mount up if your dog's acupuncturist recommends supplements or complementary treatments. 

Acupuncture for Dogs: Final Thoughts

Veterinary acupuncture cannot be the only treatment for your pet's condition. It is a complementary treatment plan that works alongside Western Veterinary Medicine.

Chronic conditions are effectively managed with a combination of age-old techniques and modern medicine. Both health practices have their unique strengths, and when combined, your pet has the best of both worlds.

Given the amazing benefits of acupuncture for dogs, it's certainly well worth exploring as a possible healing modality for your pup and can very well be the missing link in their holistic wellness plan!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does acupuncture for dogs really work?

Acupuncture is helpful for many problems. It is often used to bring relief to certain areas and stimulate an appropriate response in the body by sending neurological signals to the brain. It can also ease symptoms that are brought on as contraindications to medication. For pets that no longer respond to pain medication, acupuncture can step in and assist. 

How long does it take for acupuncture to work in dogs?

It's difficult to say how long it will take for results to be seen, as each condition and response is unique. Often a number of sessions are needed before improvement of a specific symptom or condition will be seen.

How often do dogs get acupuncture?

Sessions can range between twenty to forty minutes and begin with a number of sessions in a week, eventually tapering down to fewer treatments. Upon observing favorable results, sessions can lessen for maintenance and eventually stop, although consistent treatment is recommended for chronic conditions. 

Does acupuncture help dogs with IVDD?

Electroacupuncture is especially useful for its pain-relieving effects. For dogs with nerve damage, pain, or spinal cord injury, this can be a preferred treatment method. 

How much does acupuncture cost?

Dog acupuncture can cost an average of $65 to $120 per session. Your dog's size and health condition will affect the price, as well as your location and the qualifications of your canine acupuncturist.

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