Acupuncture for Dogs: What you need to know

Acupuncture for Dogs: What you need to know

Many people seek alternative methods for their pets and acupuncture tends to be a sought out therapy now more than ever.

Acupuncture has been used in China for thousands of years to treat a number of conditions as well as to maintain overall health. Veterinary acupuncture started with treating horses over a thousand years ago and as time went on other animals also started to be treated with acupuncture.

The goal of acupuncture is to promote the body to balance and heal itself by inserting very small needles into specific points along the body. These acu-points are tiny areas on the skin that contain concentrated nerve endings, blood vessels and lymphatics. The acupoints course along the body in specific energy paths called meridians and when stimulated release the body’s natural anti-inflammatory hormones as well as pain relief hormones, such as endorphins.

During a treatment, multiple points will be stimulated in order to take advantage of synergism between the points or to treat multiple issues at the same time.


There are many techniques that you may find your acupuncturist doing, such as aquapuncture, which is when a substance, such as Vitamin B12, is injected into certain acupuncture points to enhance the effects of both the substance and the point itself.

Another common technique is electroacupunture, this is when we use a gentle electrical current attached to certain needles to stimulate certain points more, this technique is great for neurological conditions such as disc disease. If your pet does not tolerate needles then acupressure or laser acupuncture are other ways in which your pet can benefit from this therapy. Acupressure uses a gentle but firm pressure from your finger onto the points for a certain amount of time, laser acupuncture uses a special therapeutic laser with an acupuncture tip to stimulate the points.

Acupuncture is very safe and relaxing, in fact, many of my patients will fall asleep or be very relaxed during treatment. An acupuncture consultation is usually between 1 to 2 hours and the veterinarian will ask many questions regarding your pet’s overall health and medical history. But they will also ask numerous questions that you may not have been asked before, such as is your pet a dreamer, do they prefer a cooler or warmer environment and what is their personality like? These questions, along with examining your dog’s tongue and pulses are all part of what a traditional Chinese medicine exam looks like.


Acupuncture has very little side effects, if any, when performed by a trained veterinary acupuncturist. To find an acupuncturist near you ask your veterinarian for a referral or check the veterinary acupuncture school’s website. The cost of treatment varies by the area you live in and what the specific clinic charges but you may find that treatments can vary between $50 to over $150 and the appointments can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Again, this is variable so it is best to check with your local veterinary acupuncture clinic for prices, and remember that the consultation fee is usually higher than the acupuncture sessions.

Acupuncture is an ancient practice that takes time to see the effects, it is not an immediate result and multiple treatments are needed as they build on each other.

With acupuncture, you are asking the body to help heal and that process takes time. Many people do not notice a positive effect until the 3rd treatment, but some notice something right away. Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine has been around for many years and it includes other aspects besides just acupuncture such as Chinese herbs, tui-na (Chinese massage), and food therapy. It is a wonderful way to help find health and maintain a good quality of life for our beloved pets and ourselves.