4 Signs Your Dog Could Benefit from Veterinary Acupuncture

As a pet parent, it is only natural to obsess over your dog's health and seek out the most effective and appropriate care for it. Sometimes during the search for exceptional care, you may come across treatments, procedures, or styles of veterinary care that you aren't familiar with—and veterinary acupuncture is likely one of them.

While the practice of acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, only more recently have scientific studiesmanaging diabetic dogs been conducted to outline the specific biological effects and measurable clinical benefits of acupuncture. This has led to the practices of acupuncture being more commonly translated to commercial veterinary service offerings, like what we do at Evendale-Blue Ash Pet Hospital.

As an experienced veterinarian certified in veterinary acupuncture by the Chi Institute, I'm here to guide you through understanding what veterinary acupuncture is, the benefits it offers, and a few signs that can help you determine if acupuncture may be right for your dog. Let's get started.

What Is Veterinary Acupuncture? And How Does It Help?

Understanding what veterinary acupuncture is and isn't is crucial to developing the foundational knowledge of the practice that will help you determine whether or not it's something you should talk to your veterinarian about as a potential treatment option or regular addition to your dog's wellness plan.

Veterinary acupuncture is essentially a form of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TVCM) that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on an animal's body known as acupuncture points, which are located along meridians, or energy channels, that are believed to correspond to different organs and systems within the body. When an experienced veterinarian stimulates these points through acupuncture, they are working to restore balance and amplify the function of the body's natural healing processes and mechanisms. If the thought of your dog being pricked with needles has you feeling worried, rest assured that acupuncture is in no way painful for animals. The precision of acupuncture leaves it virtually painless and feeling more akin to a small mosquito or bug bite.

Golden retriever getting acupuncture in leg at veterinary office.

There are a few different types of acupuncture that can be performed, including manual acupuncture or "dry needling" (DN), aquapuncture, moxibustion, and electroacupuncture (EA), among others, so it's always best to thoroughly discuss any type of acupuncture procedure with your veterinarian beforehand so you know exactly what to expect for your dog.

Acupuncture helps in a number of ways that center around the promotion of natural healing within an animal's body. A few benefits or outcomes of veterinary acupuncture include:

  • Pain Relief: Acupuncture is a great option for providing pain relief to animals after surgical procedures or for those who suffer from chronic conditions. Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins and other natural pain-relieving substances, providing relief from chronic pain and discomfort.
  • Improved Circulation: Because of the strategic stimulation of certain points throughout the body, acupuncture promotes better blood circulation, which aids in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs, facilitating healing and reducing inflammation.
  • Regulation of the Nervous System: Acupuncture regulates the body's nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety. A study on acupuncture in humans reports that "acupuncture can control autonomic nerve system (ANS) functions including blood pressure, pupil size, skin conductance, skin temperature, muscle sympathetic nerve activities, heart rate and/or pulse rate, and heart rate variability."
  • Enhanced Healing: By supporting the body's own natural healing processes, acupuncture for animals can accelerate recovery from injuries, surgeries, and assorted chronic health conditions.

Now that we've established what acupuncture is and what you and your pet can expect from acupuncture treatment let's get into the specific signs that it might be time to talk to your veterinarian about acupuncture for your canine companion.

4 Signs Acupuncture May Be Right for Your Dog

1. Your Dog Has Chronic Pain or Suffers from Chronic Health Conditions

Chronic pain or other chronic health conditions are typically some of the most common reasons that pet owners will seek out acupuncture treatment for their dogs. In addition to providing relief for the general discomfort of chronic pain, acupuncture can help dogs by making the effects of chronic diseases more tolerable. For example, acupuncture has been shown to reduce nausea and increase appetite in dogs with Addison's disease.

Traditional treatments like medication may provide relief for affected dogs, but they often come with side effects or limited effectiveness over time. Acupuncture has proven to be a successful clinical option that, over time, can even help eliminate the need for some medications, depending on your dog's condition and other factors.

2. Your Dog Is Experiencing Mobility Issues

As dogs age, mobility issues can hinder their daily activities and can contribute to further declines in health and quality of life. Whether it's difficulty climbing stairs, reluctance to go for walks, or hesitance to jump onto furniture, diminished mobility can significantly impact dogs and lead to adverse mental and physical effects, like depression or obesity, respectively. Veterinary acupuncture has been shown to improve blood circulation, reduce inflammation, and aid in the effective healing of injuries, like ACL tears, that may hinder a dog's mobility. By targeting specific acupuncture points associated with mobility and joint health, your dog's overall range of motion and flexibility can be increased, leading to better movement outcomes in most cases.

Cavalier spaniel acupuncture on head.

3. Behavioral Issues Are Becoming Problematic

Anxiety, fear, depression, or discomfort can be the root causes of behavioral issues in some dogs. While professional training and behavior modification techniques are valuable tools for addressing most common behavioral issues, sometimes a more holistic approach like acupuncture can complement these traditional methods and lead to better, and sometimes faster, resolution of undesired behaviors or stimulation responses.

The calming and stress-reducing effects of veterinary acupuncture have been especially valuable in addressing and curbing behavioral issues in dogs. This means that with acupuncture, you may have a better success rate of dealing with behaviors that stem from anxiety, such as excessive barking, destructive chewing, or aggression.

4. Your Dog Needs Better Pain Management

A final crucial sign that your dog could benefit from veterinary acupuncture is if they require better or more comprehensive pain management, especially after surgery or other veterinary procedures. Surgery can be a stressful experience for dogs, and post-operative pain management is essential for their recovery and comfort, making acupuncture an ideal option for promoting better healing and surgical recovery outcomes.

Acupuncture is often desirable as a drug-free approach to pain management or as complementary care for dogs who need additional support beyond medication in order to make a full recovery.

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This information was first seen on Evendale-Blue Ash Pet Hospital.

Contributing DVM