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Acupuncture In Dogs
December 1, 2022

Does your canine pal seem stiff and sore lately? Is Fido struggling with health issues? One thing that may help your furry friend is acupuncture. Acupuncture is relatively new in the world of veterinary medicine, but this ancient practice has certainly stood the test of time in human wellness care. Here, a Potomac, MD vet discusses the use of acupuncture in dogs.


As you may know, acupuncture originated in China. It is one of the basic pillars of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The practice is based on the use of thin needles, which are inserted into the body at specific points. In Eastern medicine, these spots have traditionally been believed to control the flow of energy (Qi) through the body, much the way that circuits and wires move electricity through your home. Western medicine takes a more scientific approach, noting that these spots are actually nerve clusters. Either way, the needle insertions trigger the release of natural hormones, including painkillers. In turn, that helps promote good healing, relieve pain and stiffness, improve circulation, and increase oxygenation to cells.


Acupuncture sessions are quite short, usually lasting between 20 minutes and an hour. There is no standard for how many sessions a pooch will need. It really just depends on Fido’s condition and results. Some of our patients only need a few sessions: others need ongoing treatment.


Acupuncture can be used to treat a variety of issues in pets. Some of these include skin conditions; hormonal and metabolic conditions, such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, and kidney disease; gastrointestinal issues, including nausea and diarrhea; nerve pain; arthritis; degenerative joint disease; and intervertebral disc disease. It is also helpful in simply promoting good healing from trauma or injury, such as broken bones, bites, or other issues.

Benefits Of Acupuncture

Acupuncture has some truly wonderful benefits. One of the biggest ones—and this is a huge plus for many of our clients—is the fact that it is extremely safe. There are no known side effects. It’s also painless. While having needles inserted into you may not sound pleasant, these needles are too small to hurt. In fact, many pets visibly relax during their sessions. Acupuncture also works very well in conjunction with modern veterinary treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy. Ask your vet for more information.

Our Advice on Acupuncture In Dogs in 2024

What specific training or certifications should a veterinarian have before performing acupuncture on dogs?

Before performing acupuncture on dogs, a veterinarian should obtain specific training and certifications to ensure safe and effective treatment. Veterinarians typically need to complete a certified course in veterinary acupuncture, offered by organizations like the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) or the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (AAVA). These programs cover both the theoretical underpinnings and practical application of acupuncture, including anatomy, acupoint location, and needling techniques. After completing the coursework, veterinarians must pass an examination to become certified practitioners in veterinary acupuncture.

Are there any breeds or sizes of dogs that are not suitable candidates for acupuncture, and what factors determine a dog’s eligibility for this treatment?

Acupuncture is generally suitable for most breeds and sizes of dogs; however, eligibility for acupuncture treatment primarily depends on the dog’s specific health conditions and temperament. Factors such as the dog’s medical history, current health status, and the presence of certain conditions, like skin infections, at proposed needle sites can influence suitability. Dogs that are extremely anxious or uncooperative may also pose challenges for effective acupuncture. A thorough veterinary assessment is essential to determine if acupuncture is a safe and suitable option for an individual dog.

How do veterinarians determine the appropriate placement of acupuncture needles on a dog’s body?

Veterinarians determine the appropriate placement of acupuncture needles on a dog’s body by using a combination of traditional Chinese veterinary medicine principles and anatomical knowledge. They identify specific acupoints related to the dog’s health issues, which are points believed to be energetically connected to various bodily functions and areas. These points are typically located at nerve clusters or areas where vessels and muscles converge. The selection of points is tailored to each dog’s specific ailments, guided by diagnostic findings and the desired therapeutic outcomes.

What are the potential risks or complications associated with acupuncture in dogs, and how can these be minimized or managed?

While acupuncture is generally safe for dogs, potential risks or complications include minor bleeding, bruising, or infection at needle sites. Rarely, a dog might experience transient pain or discomfort during needle insertion. To minimize these risks, it is crucial to ensure that acupuncture is performed by a certified veterinary acupuncturist who uses sterile techniques and needles. Proper assessment of the dog’s health and skin condition before each session is crucial. Additionally, monitoring the dog’s response during and after treatment helps manage any adverse reactions effectively.

How long does it typically take for dogs to show improvement in their symptoms after starting acupuncture treatment?

The timeframe for dogs to show improvement in symptoms after starting acupuncture treatment can vary widely based on the individual dog and the specific condition being treated. Generally, some dogs may exhibit signs of improvement immediately after the first few sessions, while others might require several sessions to notice significant changes. Chronic conditions often take longer to respond, potentially needing multiple treatments over several weeks or months. A veterinarian will typically evaluate progress after a few sessions to adjust the treatment plan as needed for optimal results.

Do you have questions about acupuncture for dogs? Contact us, your local Germantown, MD animal clinic, today!