A dog attending a veterinary practice for an acupuncture session

Acupuncture for dogs: will my dog benefit from veterinary acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that’s been around for centuries. Supporters of the treatment believe it generates an effective healing response in the body – but did you know that acupuncture can also be used to treat various conditions in your dog? Like most complementary therapies, there’s some debate about whether acupuncture is effective – but with many dog owners convinced it’s helped to alleviate symptoms in their pet, it’s worth finding out more. And we’ve got you covered…

What is veterinary acupuncture?

Acupuncture has been performed on animals for thousands of years. While it’s historically been more commonly used in the Far East, it’s growing in popularity in the West. 

Veterinary acupuncture is often used to treat pain and relieve muscle spasms in dogs – particularly in conditions such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, or ligament injuries – and help rehabilitation and recovery after an injury.

There are two types of acupuncture for dogs: traditional Chinese medicine and Western scientific approach. Traditional Chinese acupuncture believes the needles release the energy that flows through the body, with the aim of restoring health and balance.

Western scientific acupuncture believes the needles stimulate the release of the body’s neurotransmitters, which cause the dog’s body to release its own pain-relieving substances and aid healing. 

What can veterinary acupuncture treat?

Response is generally favourable in these conditions:

  • Chronic pain or muscle spasms
  • Arthritic pain

More occasionally, improvements have been reported in some individual cases when treated for the following conditions:

  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Asthma

How does veterinary acupuncture work?

A trained veterinarian acupuncturist inserts fine, sterilised needles in areas of your dog’s body that are tight, sore or painful. Placing the needles at points where the blood vessels and nerve bundles intersect is believed to have a positive effect on nerve function, stimulate the release of hormones, and improve the circulation – all of which can help pain management and healing in your dog.  

Acupuncture needles can stay in the body for between five and 20 minutes, and the treatment is both safe and painless. Some animals feel a gentle tingling during the treatment, while others don’t feel anything at all, and may even find acupuncture relaxing. 

“Veterinary acupuncture is often used to treat pain and relieve muscle spasms in dogs, and to help rehabilitation and recovery after an injury.”

How do I find a veterinary acupuncturist?

Unlike human acupuncture, which can be carried out by untrained therapists, veterinary acupuncture can only be carried out by a registered veterinary acupuncturist. Your vet should be happy to refer you to a veterinary acupuncturist if he or she believes treatment could benefit your dog in conjunction with a more conventional treatment plan.

Want advice on veterinary acupuncture for your dog?

For expert advice on the benefits of veterinary acupuncture, get in touch with your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.

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