How Veterinary Acupuncture May Benefit Your Dog
Dog acupuncture is a viable option to complement your dog’s pain management regimen, especially in older dogs that are experiencing chronic health issues such as arthritis. There are several different types of acupuncture that can provide relief, ranging from traditional needle-based acupuncture to laser acupuncture and moxibustion using hot herbs. If you’ve witnessed your precious dog experiencing pain that hasn’t been helped with traditional methods, perhaps you’ve turned to the internet for answers. At GeniusVets, we believe that pet care information should come from veterinarians and not from Dr. Google, especially with a topic as serious as pain management. That’s why we’ve taken dog acupuncture FAQs, sent these questions to renowned veterinarians across the U.S,. and compiled their replies to get you useful information that you can trust.
While we've sourced all of the dog acupuncture information and recommendations below directly from leading veterinarians across the country, please make sure to seek out the advice of your own veterinarian or find a trusted vet near you using the GeniusVets Directory.
Acupuncture is a type of medicine introduced in China that has been around for thousands of years. It is the process of placing needles in specific points on the body or along certain channels of the body to activate the body's natural healing abilities. The needles can stimulate the acupuncture point, cause some STEM cell release, increase in blood flow, and release anti-inflammatory mediators. Acupuncture allows the body to release its own endorphins for pain management, tissue relaxation, and helps with any underlying conditions.
There are multiple types of dog acupuncture, all with different modalities.
The different types of dog acupuncture are as follows:
- Acupuncture – Using tiny, dry needles on specific spots
- Acupressure – Pressure with just a finger or thumb
- Electrical acupuncture – Hooking a needle up to an electrical current to stimulate the area
- Aqua puncture – Placing a tiny amount of fluid, such as vitamin B12 or saline, at a pressure or acupuncture site
- Pneumo acupuncture – Using air in certain areas to help build up muscle tissue
- Moxibustion – Applying a hot herb to the needle to stimulate the point
- Laser acupuncture – Using a laser to do the same thing a needle would
Moxibustion is unique in Chinese medicine, using a herb called moxa which comes in a long stick that holds to a very high temperature. When this hot herb is tapped into the needles very gently, it stimulates and releases the moxa and conducts the heat into the acupuncture point. As an alternative, the stick can be held over the area without the needle, being careful not to burn the dog. Moxibustion is excellent for heating areas of the body that stay cold all the time and is especially helpful for arthritic dogs to help warm up their joints.
Acupuncture can be used for pain management, and also general wellness. It helps to move blood through the body, which the Chinese believe are channels that carry life's energy. Most acupuncture points used in small animals are tiny corpuscles or places where veins, arteries, and nerves meet. According to Western standards, this is a way to help with pain release. Using acupuncture treats the problem at hand, increases the quality of life, and helps the dog feel better overall. Acupuncture can be very rewarding in terms of buying dogs a little more time or helping them through chronic diseases. It also provides veterinarians with an alternative to use in their treatment regimens.
Any dog can receive acupuncture at any age. While we don’t use it very much on young puppies, it can be done at any age with an individualized plan. If younger dogs need it, we’re more likely to use acupressure versus needles. Acupuncture is most often used to treat older dogs with chronic conditions.
Acupuncture is of great benefit to dogs with musculoskeletal pain and intervertebral disc disease, either of the neck, mid-spine, or lumbosacral joint. It also benefits hip dysplasia, kidney disease, and ACL injuries. It can help dogs afflicted with any of those conditions get back up on their feet again. Acupuncture can also be used in other scenarios, such as coughing, gastrointestinal disease like diarrhea, and allergies. There are many different applications for acupuncture, depending upon what may be going on with your dog.
Acupuncture is good adjunctive therapy, helping many dogs that are on multiple pain medications and not experiencing complete relief. It’s an excellent complementary treatment to what you’re already using for pain management, and often helps decrease the number of medications your dog is taking.
Veterinarians often use acupuncture in conjunction with medications like Rimadyl or Tramadol, which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or narcotics. So they’re giving Western prescribed medication but using the Chinese perspective in addition. Your veterinarian looks at acupuncture as another tool in their toolbox—like pain medication, antibiotics, and x-rays for humans.
Taking your dog’s diagnosis into consideration, veterinarians have a good sense of what acupuncture can benefit and will steer you towards it depending on medications and other therapies you’ve tried, such as laser therapy or physical therapy. Your veterinarian might not be able to do the acupuncture themselves but will likely know a doctor or veterinary acupuncturist who can. Never hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian if you have questions or think acupuncture might be a good fit for your pet. The first thing they’ll do is assess your pet's condition and confirm they’re a candidate for acupuncture.
The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (AAVA) is another excellent resource on this topic. If you have further questions about dog acupuncture, reach out to your veterinarian. If you don't have one yet, we can help you find a local veterinarian!