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5 Health Benefits of Acupuncture for Dogs

Why So Many Pet Parents Are Turning to This Way of Treating Pain

By Jesse Feldman. January 05, 2014 | See Comments

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A Dog Laying On A Massage Table

Acupuncture has been around for centuries and some pet parents think that this may be a better alternative to managing their dogs' pain. Learn the many benefits acupuncture may have in store for your furry friend.

Acupuncture has been used in China for thousands of years to produce a healing response in the body. Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into certain points of the body where nerve bundles and blood vessels intersect. Through placement in these energy channels, the needles enhance blood circulation and stimulate the release of hormones with the goal of encouraging the body to correct imbalances. More and more pet parents are trying acupuncture for dogs and cats.

Are There Side Effects of Acupuncture for Dogs?

Acupuncture is virtually painless for small animals, and many owners find their pets become relaxed or even sleepy when the needles are in place. But feelings like tingling or numbness have been noted in human acupuncture patients, so some animals may show small amounts of discomfort from the new sensations. A new development in animal acupuncture is the use of lasers instead of needles for a completely painless experience.

Unlike some medical treatments, there is a very low risk of any side effects from properly performed acupuncture. Animal acupuncture should only be performed by a certified veterinary acupuncturist trained in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM). Often, vets practicing TCVM incorporate acupuncture and other holistic treatments with more traditional treatment plans.

Does Acupuncture Work on Dogs?

A study by the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine looking across all available clinical trials found not enough evidence to recommend or reject acupuncture for animals. Most of the evidence in support of acupuncture for animals is anecdotal, from pet owners themselves. But a paper by Narda G. Robinson, DO, DVM, MS states that, “Rigorous scientific research has shown that acupuncture can both safely and effectively reduce physical and psychological problems related to cancer and its treatment.”

There may not be a definitive answer to whether acupuncture is effective, but the number of vets and pet owners integrating it into a wellness routine is absolutely growing. A recent article in the Baltimore Sun noted that The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture gained almost 300 members in 2012.

And acupuncture is also gaining more acceptance in traditional veterinary spheres: the American Animal Hospital Organization’s Pain Management guidelines include acupuncture as the complementary procedure used for pain management most supported by evidence. Pragmatically, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) acknowledges that “acupuncture will not cure every condition, but it can work very well when it is indicated.”

How Can Acupuncture Benefit My Dog?

1. Pain management is one of the most common uses for acupuncture, often in conjunction with a more traditional treatment plan. Strong medical treatments like chemo, which can cause discomfort, are often paired with acupuncture to help make a pet more comfortable and able to fight the illness.

2. Musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, or nerve injuries can respond to acupuncture. It is often employed during rehabilitation after an injury. Carefully monitoring a healing pet is important; without the feeling of pain, a dog can re-injure him or herself with over-activity.

3. Skin problems like allergic dermatitis, granulomas, or hot spots may respond well to acupuncture treatment because increased circulation can improve healing, while pain reduction will reduce a dog’s overgrooming or itching responses.

4. Gastrointestinal problems like nausea and diarrhea can be aided by the increased blood flow from acupuncture. It may also help normalize digestive activity by stimulating digestive secretions.

5. Respiratory problems like asthma and allergies can benefit from the immune-calming, anti-inflammatory capabilities of acupuncture.

Always work closely with a veterinarian to develop the treatment plan that’s right for you and your dog. Alternative healing methods like acupuncture might have the potential to make your dog’s life more comfortable when used in conjunction with more traditional medicine.

More on Dog Health

Caring for a Sick Dog: The Dos (And the Don'ts)
4 Reasons You Need Nutri-Cal for Dogs
Warning Signs of a Sick Cat

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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