Acupuncture is a therapeutic process during which a practitioner inserts fine needles into your pet’s body to help control pain and cure chronic ailments. It’s a very old practice in humans and in animals; something very much like acupuncture was practiced in India more than 7,000 years ago, and there is evidence that Stone Age humans in China used it 5,000 years in the past.

Acupuncture for animals is nearly as old a remedy as for humans (in fact, some say it was first discovered when horses hit in certain places by arrows exhibited “miraculous” healing). The “father of animal acupuncture,” Shun Yang, lived 500 years before the birth of Christ, and European medical journals mention its use as long ago as the 1600s.

The goal of acupuncture is to promote the body to heal itself. From a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) perspective, veterinary acupuncture encourages healing by correcting energy imbalances in the body. Acupuncture enhances blood circulation, nervous system stimulation, and the release of anti-inflammatory and pain relieving hormones.

Veterinary acupuncture can be used to treat a variety of conditions, particularly those that involve inflammation and pain.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into body tissue where nerve bundles and blood vessels come together. These collections of nervous and vascular tissue are termed acupuncture points, which course over all aspects of the body’s surface on meridians (energy channels). The meridians permit a cycle of energy to occur throughout the entire body over the course of the day’s 24 hours.

Besides needle insertion, other acupuncture treatments include:

  • Acupressure – Administration of pressure to acupuncture points to elect an effect comparable to needle insertion. This is great for hard to reach locations, behaviorally challenging pets, and for circumstances needle treatment may not be available.
  • Aquapuncture – Injection of liquids (homeopathics, diluted vitamin B12, chondroprotectant medications (Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycans or PSGAG), etc. The liquid exerts an energetic change by pushing tissue out of the way.
  • Moxibustion –  Application of a heated Chinese herbal compound to needles. Heat is very beneficial to pets that are older or suffering from conditions involving joint stiffness and/or muscular soreness.
  • Electrostimulation (Estim) – Coursing electric current into the body between needles inserted into acupuncture points. Estim relaxes spasms of muscles and can aid the body in reestablishing nervous impulses when nerve damage has occurred (nerve root or spinal cord damage from a ruptured intervertebral disc, etc).
  • Laser – Using laser energy to stimulate acupuncture points. This “hot” topic in veterinary physical rehabilitation is actually very “cool,” as most lasers don’t generate significant heat that burns hair or skin. Lasers are great for providing “needle-less” acupuncture treatments especially on patients that don’t readily tolerate needle insertion.

According to an article posted at, the practice has become widely accepted in the U.S. and around the world. It even has its own professional organization, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) which offers an extensive certification program for veterinarians. Today more than 150,000 vets and 700,000 paraveterinary assistants use acupuncture in their practices.

1. Pain management is one of the most common uses for acupuncture, often in conjunction with a more traditional treatment plan. Strong medical treatments, like chemo, which can cause discomfort, are often paired with acupuncture to help make a pet more comfortable and able to fight the illness.

2. Musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, or nerve injuries can respond to acupuncture. It is often employed during rehabilitation after an injury. Carefully monitoring a healing pet is important; without the feeling of pain, a dog can re-injure him or herself with over-activity.

3. Skin problems like allergic dermatitis, granulomas, or hot spots may respond well to acupuncture treatment because increased circulation can improve healing, while pain reduction will reduce a dog’s over grooming or itching responses.

4. Gastrointestinal problems like nausea and diarrhea can be aided by the increased blood flow from acupuncture. It may also help normalize digestive activity by stimulating digestive secretions.

5. Respiratory problems like asthma and allergies can benefit from the immune-calming, anti-inflammatory capabilities of acupuncture.

Always work closely with a veterinarian to develop the treatment plan that’s right for you and your dog. Alternative healing methods like acupuncture might have the potential to make your dog’s life more comfortable when used in conjunction with more traditional medicine.

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