What to Know About Acupuncture for Dogs

Acupuncture for Dogs - Dog on a beach

Did you know that acupuncture doesn't just boost your well-being, but could improve the quality of life for your dog as well? In most states only properly trained veterinarians can perform acupuncture on animals - not every vet may have this skill set or feel comfortable practicing acupuncture - but some allow Licensed Acupuncturists to treat both humans and pets. It can be beneficial for a variety of species, but the vet needs to have in-depth knowledge of the anatomy of the animal. Dogs and cats are among the animals that receive acupuncture most often.


Just like in humans, acupuncture on animals involves inserting fine needles into specific points on the body and/or stimulating acupoints through techniques such as acupressure. When done correctly, acupuncture may help relieve the animal's pain and inflammation. More specifically, it can:

  • Make pets comfortable: There are certain illnesses and diseases pets suffer from that can't be relieved through medication. For example, dogs that are being treated for cancer experience side effects from chemotherapy. Chemo paired with acupuncture can help make the dog comfortable, not only by reducing pain but also increasing blood flow and normalizing the digestive system. It can also benefit dogs that are struggling with skin allergies. Many dogs scratch and dig into their skin when suffering from allergies. Acupuncture can help relieve the itchiness and inflammation associated with these allergies, allowing the skin to heal properly.
  • Ease pain for elderly pets: Elderly pets often struggle with arthritis or other musculoskeletal diseases. It can be hard to find a way to completely relieve their pain, but acupuncture can ease their discomfort. While there are medications that can treat arthritis, some pet owners prefer acupuncture because it comes with fewer side effects. Acupuncture can also help elderly pets that are too weak to go through surgery. While a young, healthy dog might be able to undergo spinal surgery to treat intervertebral disc disease, an elderly dog cannot. Acupuncture, however, can provide the elderly dog with relief without the risks associated with an operation.
  • Allow pets to move more freely: Many dogs, no matter what disease or illness they're fighting, can move freely after having acupuncture. Acupuncture helps inflammation in joints and reduces pain, which allows the dog to move around as it normally would. Dogs will be able to easily get up and down off the floor, use steps, and may even want to play! However, owners need to remember that sometimes dogs manage to re-injure themselves after acupuncture. Without the feeling of pain, they might overexert themselves, so owners should be prepared to monitor their dogs closely after a treatment to prevent further injuries. 
Acupuncture for Dogs - paw prints on the beach
Does your pup need acupuncture?

Animal acupuncture will probably be a new experience for both you and your pet, so here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Acupuncture has minimal side effects: Most dogs show no side effects while receiving acupuncture. However, since some human patients report feeling tingling or numbness during treatment, it is thought that some dogs might also experience these feelings. However, just like humans, dogs appear extremely relaxed while receiving treatment. Afterward, some dogs might seem stiff for up to 48 hours. Other dogs might be sore at the insertion site and be protective over that area. Other dogs might appear more tired than normal and sleep more. Owners should talk to the vet about possible side effects before letting their dog undergo acupuncture. 
  • Vets may make house calls: Some owners might worry about how they’re going to get their sore dog to a vet’s office. Many dogs in pain might struggle to walk or might be too anxious to ride in a car. Most vets that specialize in acupuncture know this, which is why they offer house calls for an additional fee. There are also some added benefits of having the acupuncture take place in the dog’s home. Not only does it prevent the dog from having to travel, but it allows the dog to have familiar objects around them. They can receive the treatment while snuggling on their favorite blanket!
  • Certain behaviors are to be expected: Many owners worry about how their dog will behave the day of the treatment. It is normal for dogs to be nervous on the day of their first appointment. They might whine when the needle first goes in, but they typically calm down quickly. After the first visit, most dogs know what to expect and are calmer. Vets are used to anxious animals and will help dogs relax before the acupuncture. Most vets will want to make the process as comfortable as possible for the dog. If a dog doesn’t know basic commands, it can make an acupuncture appointment more difficult. Taking a dog through obedience training, such as this one recommended by officiallypets.com, can help. 

In summary, if your dog is showing signs of aches and pains and you’re worried medication or surgery isn’t a good option for them, ask your vet about acupuncture. Acupuncture can help your dog move more freely, is safe for animals, and can be done from the comfort of your home. 

Valerie Holyoak is the co-founder of OfficiallyPets and an absolute lover of every animal on the planet. She owns eight different types of pets and loves to write about them when she's not caring for them.