Canine Acupuncture

Western veterinary medicine has seen the benefits of canine acupuncture, especially its ability to help pets suffering from pain, disease, or imbalance.


Did you know that acupuncture for dogs is a thing

Acupuncture is considered an alternative healing method in most of the Western world, but it has gained significant popularity over the last 10 years in both human and veterinary medicine. In fact, it is becoming quite common to integrate acupuncture into conventional treatment plans, which has led to the current term for this combination - Integrative Medicine. In the pet world, we call it “Integrative Veterinary Medicine.”

However, it’s not how we refer to this trending style of medicine that makes it so important; it’s the fact that more pets are living happier, healthier, and comfortable lives since they started receiving acupuncture treatment.

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupunctureis a technology that was developed over 3000 years ago and is part of the Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) model. TCM and conventional medicine work well together to achieve the best results for pets who are suffering from pain, disease, or imbalance. What TCM brings to the table is a different way of looking at problems within the body so that they can be approached from multiple perspectives, giving your pet a better chance at returning to balanced health and well-being. Acupuncture also gives veterinarians an additional option for relieving pain, improving mobility, and treating chronic medical problems.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Some mechanisms of acupuncture are clearly understood and have been proven through Western research, while some are still unknown. What is clear is that many pets FEEL better after receiving acupuncture for various conditions, especially those that cause pain. It is common for a dog’s energy, stamina, and comfort to improve with acupuncture. In some cases, positive results are seen right away and in others, it may take 3 treatments or more. 

When using acupuncture to help a dog in pain, points are chosen that are known to relieve pain, reduce tension, and improve circulation to that area or the body in general. These points can be chosen based on TCM theory or medical acupuncture theory (based on neurophysiology), depending on the veterinarian’s training. Once the points are selected, they can be treated or “stimulated” in a number of ways, with the most common treatment being traditional needling.

Traditional needling entails placing a needle in a point, resulting in both local and distant effects. The process increases the ability of these specific points to convey messages or signals that balance the body. Some of these points have been shown to achieve results at the internal or organ level, which is why pain is not the only canine condition that can respond positively to acupuncture.

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What Canine Conditions Can Be Helped with Acupuncture?

Virtually any external or internal medical problem can be treated with acupuncture. Typically, it is applied as a healing tool along with conventional medical treatments.

Here is a list of some of the most common canine conditions that can improve with acupuncture:

  • **Pain:**Acute, chronic, related to arthritis

  • **Hip dysplasia:**Ideally along with surgery, but in cases where that is not an option, it can help to reduce pain, slow the condition's progress, and maintain function.

  • **Allergies:**Various types of dermatitis and respiratory problems

  • **Digestive and Gastrointestinal Disorders:**Such as acute/chronic vomiting and diarrhea

  • **Cardiac Conditions:**Like arrhythmias and congestive heart failure

  • Liver Diseases

  • Renal Insufficiency (Kidney Disease)

  • Cancer

  • Anxiety and Behavioral Disturbances

This is not a comprehensive list, but it is meant to pique your interest, so that you will remember to ask your veterinarian about acupuncture if your pet suffers from one of these conditions.

How Can I Find a Veterinarian Who Provides Acupuncture for Pets?

The first thing to do is ask your primary care veterinarian. In some hospitals, they will have a certified veterinary acupuncturist (CVA) on their team or they will refer you to an outside CVA. 

Another option is to perform a Google search. I recommend searching “veterinarian + acupuncture + your location.” Organizations that provide search engines for certified veterinary acupuncturists include the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS), American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncturists (AAVA), and the College for Integrative Veterinary Therapies (CIVT). You can plug in your city and state and the site will pull up a list of certified veterinarians.  

What Does Canine Acupuncture Cost?

There is no standard cost for an acupuncture session for dogs. It can depend on your region, the level of complexity and chronicity of your pet’s problems, and how much time the veterinarian spends with the patient.

Typically, an initial acupuncture visit for your dog, especially one that employs the integrative model of medicine (TCM and Conventional together), will last one hour or more. These appointments are more detailed than a regular veterinary visit and require that the veterinarian has special knowledge and extra training to effectively help your pet.

Because acupuncture has no significant negative side effects, and is a natural healing option, the benefits typically heavily outweigh the cost. And it also helps to prevent problems from getting worse, so it can actually save money in the long run.

One way to offset the initial cost of acupuncture visits is to obtain a pet insurance plan that covers integrative or complementary medicine options. AKC Pet Insurance’s Accident & Illness coverage (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) offers reimbursement for alternative treatments like acupuncture if related to an eligible and vet-diagnosed condition.

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Nell Ostermeier DVM, CVA, FAAVA

Nell Ostermeier is an Integrative Veterinarian, Motivator, Lecturer, and Consultant.


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