Caitlin UltimoHealth / Wellness

Veterinary Acupuncture for Dogs and Cats

What’s What With Veterinary Acupuncture

When your pet has a chronic condition like arthritis or allergic dermatitis, you may be willing to try anything to relieve their discomfort. Veterinary acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular as pet parents seek holistic treatments to work in addition to, or as an alternative to, conventional veterinary medicine.

Veterinary acupuncture for dogs and cats is similar to the practice that has been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. Long, thin needles are strategically inserted throughout the body to stimulate a healing response. The placement of the pins is based on acupuncture points located along meridians, or energy pathways throughout the body.

Benefits of Veterinary Acupuncture for Dogs and Cats

“By putting the needles in, it brings blood to the point where the needle is put in, which increases circulation. It also causes the natural release of endorphins in the body, which naturally causes pain relief,” says Dr. Beth Hampton Jones, who practices acupuncture at Asheville Animal Acupuncture & Wellness Clinic in Asheville, NC. “It can stimulate the nervous system to work better. For example, if a dog is having trouble moving his back legs and the nerves are having trouble sending messages to the brain, it can help fire them back up.”

“Most people look for acupuncture because their pet has a painful condition like arthritis, or if they recently had surgery and they want to help with pain and recovery. Sometimes it’s an ongoing painful condition; sometimes it’s an acute, traumatic cause of a pain,” says Dr. Jones.

Veterinary acupuncture for dogs and cats can also be used to alleviate skin irritation associated with allergies and hot spots. It’s also used for neurological and gastrointestinal conditions. The treatment has even been successfully used to reduce stress and anxiety. It can help with nausea and with dogs that have separation anxiety or aggression towards strangers, says Dr. Jones.

When Can Veterinary Acupuncture Be Most Useful?

Veterinary acupuncture can be used as an alternative to, or alongside, conventional medicine. For example, four-legged cancer patients going through radiation or chemotherapy can find relief from the side effects of their treatments.

If your pet has arthritis, they can be safely treated with veterinary acupuncture as well as holistic supplements like Holistic Blend Glucosamine HCL Complex For Dogs And Cats. Pets with digestive issues can take a pet-safe probiotic supplement like Holistic Blend Probiotic Digestive Aid for Dogs And Cats to populate their gut with beneficial bacteria while they are on an acupuncture treatment schedule.

Acupuncture needles are thinner than those used for vaccinations, so pets feel very little, if any, pain upon insertion. However, veterinary acupuncture might not be right for pets that become overly stressed by visiting the vet’s office, being handled or having to stay still. If the experience can potentially be too overwhelming for your pet, be sure to bring up these concerns with a holistic veterinarian before deciding to sign them up for treatments.

How Long Does It Take to See Results?

The benefits of acupuncture for dogs and cats are supported by both scientific and anecdotal evidence. Though no two animals are alike, positive results are typically evident within a short period of time.

“Sometimes I don’t see a patient until they’ve been suffering with a problem for a long time—say a dog that has really bad arthritis in his hips—and the other medication isn’t working. It might take five or six treatments, or it could take months to be sure that they’re doing better,” says Dr. Jones. “I tell people to commit to four treatments—one treatment per week for 4 weeks—to see if there will be a positive change.”

Types of Veterinary Acupuncture

Veterinary acupuncture has been adapted to create even more effective treatments. Your holistic veterinarian may suggest electroacupuncture, aqua-puncture or moxibustion depending on your pet’s needs.

  • Electroacupuncture can make the pain relief response more pronounced. Dr. Jones explains the process: “We place needles at two points on either side of the problem area, then you connect little hooks and electrodes. Then we send a very low current of electricity from one needle to the other.”
  • Aqua-puncture is often used with pet patients that are not able to sit still for a traditional acupuncture treatment. “This is when we inject something into the acupuncture point, like a liquid form of a medication or vitamin B. We used this with a male cat that kept urinating in the house. It’s usually because of anxiety, and they often stop behavioral problems once their anxiety has been relieved,” says Dr. Jones.
  • Moxibustion is yet another popular technique. “We use moxibustion particularly for old dogs with chronic pain. We put the needles in as usual, and then add heat by burning herbs over the needle. The heat penetrates through the needle, which is a very effective way to achieve pain relief,” says Dr. Jones.

Veterinary acupuncture can be used to treat animals of all ages and types, from puppies and kittens to rabbits and birds. If you would like to find out if veterinary acupuncture is right for your pet, make an appointment with a holistic veterinarian in your area. Your regular veterinarian may also be able to refer you to a specialist that offers the treatment.



Lindsay Pevny is on a mission to gather science-based information on pet care, training and products, and to use her writing to help other dog parents make informed decisions for their four-legged family members. As a pet copywriter, she works with passionate pet business owners to spread the word about their innovative pet products and services. Get to know her doggy muses, Matilda and Cow, on her personal blog, Little Dog Tips.

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