5 Health Benefits of Acupuncture for Dogs Why So Many Pet Parents Are Turning to This Way of Treating Pain

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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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does acupuncture actually work for dogs?

Acupuncture can be beneficial for dogs at all stages of life, from puppies and kittens to adult and senior pets. It can also be helpful in treating a range of conditions, including chronic pain, arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory problems, neurological disorders, and more. Acupuncture is generally considered to be a safe and effective therapy for dogs and can provide long-lasting relief from pain and discomfort associated with injury and illness. However, as with any medical treatment, there are some risks and potential side effects to consider. Before considering acupuncture for your dog, it is important to consult with a qualified veterinarian who is trained in acupuncture and can help determine if it is an appropriate treatment option for your pet's specific needs and condition. Your veterinarian can also discuss any potential risks and benefits of acupuncture and help you make an informed decision about whether it is the right choice for your pet.

What does acupuncture treat in dogs?

Acupuncture is a type of alternative medicine that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points of the body to stimulate healing. In veterinary medicine, acupuncture is commonly used to treat a variety of conditions in dogs, such as chronic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory problems, neurological disorders, skin problems, and certain behavioral issues like anxiety or aggression. For example, acupuncture can be beneficial in managing chronic pain caused by conditions like arthritis or back problems. It can also help treat gastrointestinal disorders such as vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. Acupuncture may also help manage respiratory problems like asthma or chronic coughing, as well as neurological disorders like seizures or spinal cord injuries. Additionally, acupuncture may be used to treat certain skin problems in dogs, such as allergies or hot spots.

How long does it take for acupuncture to work on dogs?

The length of time it takes for acupuncture to work on dogs can vary depending on the individual dog, the condition being treated, and the severity of the condition. In some cases, dogs may experience immediate relief from their symptoms after the first acupuncture treatment, while in other cases, it may take several treatments before improvements are seen. Generally, veterinarians who perform acupuncture recommend an initial series of 3 to 6 treatments, spaced about a week apart, to see if the therapy is effective for the dog. During this time, the veterinarian will monitor the dog's progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed. If the dog responds well to acupuncture, maintenance treatments may be recommended every 4 to 8 weeks to help manage chronic conditions or prevent the recurrence of symptoms. However, if the dog does not respond to acupuncture after a few treatments, it may not be an effective treatment option for that particular dog or condition.

What are the side effects of canine acupuncture?

Acupuncture is generally considered a safe therapy for dogs when performed by a qualified veterinarian who is trained in acupuncture. However, as with any medical treatment, there is a risk of side effects. Common side effects of acupuncture in dogs may include mild discomfort or pain during the insertion of the needles, temporary lethargy or fatigue after the treatment, and mild bruising or bleeding at the needle insertion sites. Less common side effects may include agitation, vocalization, or aggression during the treatment, allergic reactions to the needles, and worsening of symptoms in dogs with certain conditions. Serious side effects from acupuncture in dogs are rare but can occur, especially if the treatment is not performed properly. These may include infection, nerve damage, or organ puncture.

Are dogs awake for acupuncture?

Yes, dogs are typically awake and conscious during acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate healing, and the needles are left in place for a period of time ranging from a few minutes to 30 minutes or more. While some dogs may experience mild discomfort or pain during the insertion of the needles, they are generally able to tolerate the treatment without sedation or anesthesia. In some cases, dogs may become relaxed or even fall asleep during acupuncture treatments, as the therapy can promote feelings of relaxation and well-being. However, the dog will still be aware of its surroundings and responsive to its handler or the veterinarian performing the treatment.

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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