HealthVet's Corner

An Introduction to Acupuncture for Dogs

Arthritis, muscle, and nerve pain can all be treated with this ancient Chinese medicine.

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture utilises the body’s nervous system to block pain signals and encourages the central nervous system to release natural painkillers.

What Conditions Can Be Treated with Acupuncture?

Arthritis, muscle pain and nerve pain

Neck and spinal pain, myofascial pain, and visceral pain

How Will My Pet Respond to Acupuncture?

Most of the time they accept the fine needles very well and often become relaxed and sleepy during the treatment. Often, they appear to look forward to the next treatment when they come back to the practice. Sometimes animals may react to the sensation as though they are expecting pain, but then relax because it does not occur. In non-painful conditions acupuncture can help to reset the body to normal functioning.

Will my pet need to be sedated for this treatment?

It is uncommon for animals to need to be sedated. Perhaps surprisingly, cats and rabbits often accept acupuncture treatment very well, curling up and becoming sleepy.

How often would my pet be treated?

The usual course is once a week for four weeks. After this initial course we will know whether acupuncture is working for your pet. Depending on the condition and how they have responded, we will work out a maintenance plan that involves tailoring the timing of treatments, so the effect is maintained for as long as possible.

Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is very safe, in the right hands. Legally it must be performed by a veterinary surgeon. There have been no official reports of problems in animals, but there are some in humans and these can usually be avoided with care and a good knowledge of anatomy. There are a very few cases in which we would have to be very cautious about using acupuncture, but your veterinary acupuncturist can advise you of these.

What can I expect during treatment?

After examination, needles will be put into various parts of the body and moved or stimulated a few times. There is no set “dose” of acupuncture as there is for medication, so your vet will judge how much to do based on your pet’s response both at the time and after the treatment. They may become sleepy and relaxed during the treatment. And after the treatment? It is not uncommon for pets to go home and sleep very soundly for a long time. This is a good sign and shows that your pet will probably respond well to acupuncture. There is no need to worry, however, if they are not sleepy – this does not mean that they will not respond. Sometimes your pet may seem a little more euphoric than usual – this is also a good sign. However, it is advisable to keep them quiet for the rest of the day or they may overdo things. Otherwise treat your pet normally after acupuncture. Do not change exercise, diet, or medication unless it has been discussed with your vet.

What about response?

Responses to treatments vary between animals:

• They may seem a little stiffer or more uncomfortable. This shows they should respond to treatment and after a day or two they will improve again and should be better than before. However, you must tell your vet so that they can adjust the treatment next time.

• You may see no response. It may just be that they will take a little longer or that their improvement after the first treatment was too brief or small for you to see. Not all animals or humans are acupuncture “responders”, but about 80% will be.

• You may see an improvement. This may occur anytime in the three days after treatment. The signs that we are trying to treat may then return before the next treatment, but this is fine. After each subsequent treatment the effects should last for longer, so that your pet’s maintenance treatments may be quite far apart.

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