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Dog Acupuncture

What Is Veterinary Acupuncture For Dogs?

Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine that originated more than 2,000 years ago. In Eastern medicine, the practice of acupuncture is based on the theory that all living beings have an energy force called “chi" that circulates along invisible lines known as “meridians” in the body. Each meridian is said to be directly tied to a different organ system within the body. Wherever blockages develop that restrict the flow of energy, illness and disease begin to develop. By stimulating certain points on the meridians using thin needles, these energy blockages are cleared, the natural flow of energy is restored and in this way the body is able to heal itself.

From the perspective of western medicine, these same meridians trace points in the body with high concentrations of nerve endings that can trigger the release of naturally occurring substances to alleviate pain and induce healing.


Featured Quote:

"I've had some patients that actually have been able to come off medications, like Rimadyl and Tramadol, and be managed with acupuncture alone." -Dr. Keala Shotwell

Video Transcript:

Many people are familiar with acupuncture used in human medicine, but they don't realize that it has amazing applications in our animals too. Acupuncture is the art of science of placing small needles in specific areas to encourage the body's own healing and function. It's been around for 2,000 years. We like to use it coupled with either Chinese herbs or in conjunction with Western medications. Acupuncture can be a wonderful complementary therapy.

At an appointment, the pet is made comfortable on a mat on the exam room floor or table, and we use fine needles of varying lengths applied to specific points. Some pets show a little discomfort as the needles are inserted, but this feeling quickly dissipates, and most of our patients find the acupuncture treatments to be quite relaxing. Some pets even get really sleepy after their treatment. The usual visit runs about 30 minutes for the first appointment and then 10 minutes on subsequent appointments.

We use acupuncture specifically to help relieve pain and inflammation. The diseases I see it benefit amazingly are hip dysplasia and arthritis, knee arthritis, intervertebral disc disease, kidney disease in cats especially, and lumbosacral disease among others. There are pets with chronic disease. We generally like to use herbs with acupuncture, but these specific pain conditions, I've had some patients that actually have been able to come off medications, like Rimadyl and tramadol, and be managed with acupuncture alone.

You almost have to try it with your pet to really know if it's going to make a difference or not, but in those that it has success, it can be pretty remarkable. We generally will recommend a treatment a week for three weeks to assess the pet's response, and then decide on a maintenance plan from there.

If it's an acute condition, sometimes one treatment is needed. If it's a chronic condition, then it could be a dozen treatments that are needed. It really just depends on what that pet's being seen for, but a lot of the clients find it very relaxing and beneficial for their pets. Anything we can do to help reduce medication use long term is always a benefit.


Regardless of an individual's view of western or eastern medicine, perhaps the most important perspective is that of patients who have experienced improvements in quality of life after receiving acupuncture treatments.

How Can Acupuncture Help My Dog?

While acupuncture isn't appropriate for every dog or every situation, it can safely be used to treat dogs with a variety of health conditions, especially those suffering from pain or inflammation. Dogs with arthritis, digestive problems, kidney disease, hip dysplasia, epilepsy, asthma and certain neurological disorders can all benefit from acupuncture.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture works by stimulating certain areas of a dog’s body that contain large numbers of nerves. This can enhance blood circulation, decrease muscle spasms and cause the release of pain-relieving hormones (endorphins) in the brain.

What Will An Acupuncture Session Be Like For My Dog?

Canine acupuncture sessions generally last between 15 minutes and one hour, depending on the dog’s particular needs. Thin, flexible needles are inserted at certain points along the dog’s body and left there for several minutes before being removed. No anesthesia is required and the dog remains conscious during the entire process. Owners encouraged to be present during the sessions.

Where Are The Acupuncture Points On Dogs?

Dog acupuncture points are found on areas of the body where nerve bundles and
blood vessels come together. These can be found all along the musculoskeletal system. Refer to the following chart of acupuncture points on dogs:

Is Dog Acupuncture Painful?

When performed properly, acupuncture is typically a painless experience. A tiny prick may be felt when needles are inserted, and sometimes a duller, deeper sensation when the needles hit the acupuncture points. Most dogs relax and actually seem to enjoy this experience after the needles are in. In fact, many dogs are so relaxed during their sessions that they will drift off to sleep.

How Soon Will My Dog Experience Results?

Positive improvement is typically seen within a matter of days. Some dogs may appear to feel worse for a day or two after treatment. Others may become lethargic or sleepy. These effects are an indication that physiological changes are occurring, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the dog’s condition which differs depending on the condition being treated but commonly includes increased appetite and rejuvenated movement.

How Frequently Will My Dog Need A Veterinary Acupuncture Treatment?

The recommended veterinary acupuncture treatment frequency will depend on your dog’s condition. Typically, dogs start out receiving between one and three weekly sessions. Once the problem is under control, the number and frequency of sessions typically taper off to the minimum necessary to maintain quality of life.

Are there other types of Eastern medicine used to treat dogs?

In many cases, canine acupuncture is used in conjunction with traditional, Western medicine (i.e. medication, antibiotics and surgery) and other holistic approaches such as herbal supplements, massage and dietary changes.

Schedule A Veterinary Acupuncture Session For Your Dog

At The Drake Center,our veterinary staff is here to help ensure that you and your dog are able to enjoy a long, healthy and happy relationship and we believe that starts with compassionate health care. Make an appointment today to discuss how veterinary acupuncture may be able to improve the quality of life for your dog.

To learn more about acupuncture go here

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