Dog Acupuncture: Can Your Dog Benefit?

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / April 9, 2018
Dog Acupuncture

Namaste, centering the Qi, cupping. It is 2018 and you probably hear these terms casually thrown around. From yoga memberships to tai chi retreats, thousands of years later, we are continuing to use traditional Chinese medicine in our daily lives. With more than enough research on the benefits of Chinese medicine for people, why not share the wealth with our pets? Today we will be discussing dog acupuncture, not for pet owners, but for their furry friends.

dog getting acupuncture

What is Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of complementary, holistic medicine that involves stimulating certain parts of the body by pricking the skin or tissues with needles in order to alleviate pain or treat health conditions.

Acupuncture originated in ancient China but is now widely popular all over the world either alone or in conjunction with Western medicine.

The traditional Chinese medicine practice has been known to enhance the body’s functions as well as promote the body’s natural, self-healing abilities.

Dog Acupuncture

dog acupuncture

Remarkably, acupuncture can also be used as a treatment method for dogs. Studies show that the benefits of acupuncture can reach far beyond benefits for pet owners, but also for their beloved companions.

Dog acupuncture is still gaining popularity, but a quick google search will show you the number of veterinarian clinics in your area offering the technique. You may be surprised at just how regularly dog acupuncture is practiced.

Every day, more and more pet owners are choosing acupuncture as a better alternative for managing their dog’s ailments.

What Does Acupuncture Do

Acupuncture has existed for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. It is used to generate a healing response in the body by affecting certain physiological changes. Dog acupuncture is no different.

Acupuncture is most commonly used for pain management. It is often used in combination with more traditional treatments. Many treatment plans, such as chemotherapy, can leave your dog in a lot of pain. Acupuncture is added to their treatment for pain relief while they are fighting the disease.

While widely regarded for its pain relieving qualities, dog acupuncture does much more for the body.

Dog Acupuncture Benefits

Veterinary acupuncture is known to:

  • Release the dog’s pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory hormones
  • Relax the muscles
  • Aid in pain management
  • Relieve symptoms of musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, and nerve injuries
  • Stimulate tissue blood flow
  • Cause the release of endorphins
  • Improve oxygenation
  • Remove metabolic wastes and toxins
  • Treat skin conditions such as allergic dermatitis, granulomas, and hot spots
  • Aid in gastrointestinal issues such as nausea and diarrhea
  • Release cortisol (a natural steroid)
  • Relieve symptoms of asthma and allergies
  • Strengthen the immune system

Additionally, dog acupuncture has virtually no side effects on your pup’s internal organs. Conversely, prescriptions and over the counter medications not only have potential adverse side effects, but also flood your pet’s body with toxins.

Dog acupuncture will not adversely react to any medications your pet may already be on.

How Does Dog Acupuncture Work?

How does acupuncture work

Veterinary acupuncture promotes the body to heal itself by correcting energy imbalances naturally.

Most commonly, dry needles are inserted into body tissue where nerve bundles and blood vessels meet. The meeting points of nerve bundles and blood vessels are referred to as acupuncture points or acupoints.

Is Acupuncture Painful?

Despite the reputation of needles hurting, the acupuncture process should be virtually painless. In large animals, larger needles are required which may cause a slight discomfort as they pass through the skin. However, once the needles are in place, the dog should not even realize they are there.

While this is the most common practice of acupuncture, it is not the only method.


Acupressure involves administering pressure to the acupuncture points. This pressure is meant to mimic the effect of needle insertion. It works well for pets with behavioral issues and in situations where the traditional needle practice is not available.


In aquapuncture, the acupuncture needles contain medicinal herbs or vitamins that are ejected into the tissues. The herbal medicine creates an energetic change by moving tissue in different directions.


Moxibustion adds heat for healing purposes. The method combines warm Chinese herbs with the acupuncture needles.

Electrostimulation (Estim)

This technique involves coursing an electric current into the acupoints in order to help stimulate nerves. Electrostimulation is often used to treat paralysis and when nerve damage or spinal cord damage has occurred.


Instead of needles, laser energy stimulates the acupuncture points. Lasers work well as “laser-less” treatments.

Conditions that Acupuncture Treats

Veterinary acupuncture aids in the treatment of the following conditions:

  • Arthritis and joint issues
  • Slipped disks
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Additional kidney problems
  • Muscle spasms
  • Digestive issues
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Epilepsy
  • Paralysis
  • Metabolic disease

As we have discussed, acupuncture is widely used as a treatment for functional problems. However, there is a slight variance in the issues it treats in regards to the size of your dog.

In small dogs, acupuncture generally treats:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions – arthritis, intervertebral disk disease, or traumatic nerve injury
  • Respiratory problems – asthma
  • Skin conditions – allergic dermatitis and lick granulomas
  • Gastrointestinal issues – diarrhea
  • Selected reproductive conditions

In large dogs, acupuncture generally treats:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions – sore backs or downer cow syndrome
  • Neurological problems – facial paralysis
  • Skin conditions – allergic dermatitis
  • Respiratory problems – irregularities such as heaves and “bleeders”
  • Gastrointestinal issues – nonsurgical colic
  • Selected reproductive conditions

Where to Get Acupuncture

dog getting acupuncture at vet's office

Pet owners may have the option of deciding where to have the acupuncture administered.

Dog Acupuncture at Home

If you are able to have your dog receive acupuncture at home, this may be an option you want to consider. Having a certified veterinary acupuncturist come to your home may alleviate the stress of your dog having to get in the car and go to the vet’s office.

Dog Acupuncture at Your Vet Office

At-home pet acupuncture may not be available to everyone yet. Luckily, veterinarian clinics that offer acupuncture are constantly increasing. More than likely, you have a certified veterinary acupuncturist within your reach.

How Often and How Much Acupuncture is Needed

The number of acupuncture treatments, as well as the frequency of treatments, is determined by the severity of the ailment and how your dog responds to the treatment. The more long-standing the problem, the longer acupuncture may take to restore the body.

Chronic Pain Conditions

For most chronic pain conditions, such as osteoporosis, dog acupuncture is recommended once a week for four to six weeks. The periods between acupuncture treatments will gradually increase.

Once your pet reaches optimal effects, chronic maintenance therapy is generally needed once a month in order to maintain the results and the comfort of the animal.

Joint Diseases and Trauma

Generally, joint diseases such as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) and trauma which paralysis has occurred, acupuncture is recommended two to three times weekly until ambulation returns. The periods between acupuncture treatments will also gradually increase.

Maintenance therapy is often needed every three to four months in pets with intervertebral disc disease and joint diseases in order to maintain pain relief.

Most animals will receive ten to twenty needles per acupuncture session.

Is Dog Acupuncture Safe?

As far as medicine is concerned, acupuncture is one of the safest forms as long as it is administered by a trained veterinarian.

You’ll want to check if the individual administering the acupuncture is in the American Veterinary Medical Association and has been trained in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine.

Side Effects of Dog Acupuncture

Side effects, while rare, may pop up.

For the first 48 hours, your dog’s symptoms (joint pain, gastrointestinal issues, etc.) may seem to get worse.

Lethargy and tiredness in animals may also occur.

These side effects are a sign that physiological changes are occurring and are often followed by an improvement in the dog’s condition.

Dog Acupuncture – Worth it?

relaxed happy dog

One of the worst feelings is knowing your furry companion is in pain and not knowing how to fix them.

Medications may seem like the go-to response until you start looking into the potential side effects and potential for even further problems from the number of toxins they contain.

Additionally, some of the medications prescribed by your vet are relatively new. Even though they have gone through the necessary tests in order to be prescribed, how are pet owners supposed to know the long-term effects if the medication has only been on the market for a handful of years? It can be scary to consider.

Traditional Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years. We know the long-term effects, and they are beneficial and safe.

Canine acupuncture is absolutely an excellent alternative for your fur baby’s health and well-being and the effects of acupuncture can be life-changing.

A quick google search will be helpful in finding a certified veterinary acupuncturist. Plain and simple: pet acupuncture works.


How will acupuncture help my dog?

Are there any dog acupuncture side effects?

Is my dog a good candidate for acupuncture?


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About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for