Does acupuncture work for dogs? You may want to try it.

Brown dog with acupuncture needles in his head

Have you considered alternative therapies for your dog? Have you thought about acupuncture? Does acupuncture work for dogs? Maybe you have a senior dog with joint problems. Read on to find out more.

What is Acupuncture?

The Chinese have used it for thousands of years to make the body heal. It works by inserting needles into points in the body (called “acupoints”) where nerve bundles and blood vessels meet. Acupoints are not random but run along “meridians” which connect the entire body. These are pathways through which the “Qi” (pronounced “chee”) or life force energy circulates. does acupuncture work for dogs?

The needles then enhance blood circulation and stimulate the release of hormones. As a result, the body is encouraged to correct imbalances. Pain fighters called enkephalins are released and inflammation is reduced.

People have asked if acupuncture will hurt their dog. Usually, it won’t. It’s possible she’ll feel pain if there’s a knot or spasm at the point of needle entry. However, It’s not uncommon for a dog to relax and fall asleep during treatment.

Acupuncture techniques

Your veterinarian may use one or more of the following techniques.

  • Manually inserting needles into dry skin is the most common treatment.
  • Veterinarians sometimes use needles with electricity. They hook electrodes to the needles and then they increase the amount of electricity to help stimulate the nerves. They often use this method to treat paralysis or traumatic injury.
  • Aquapuncture is used when needles that contain medicinal solutions are injected through the needle tips.
  • Moxabustion combines a warm Chinese herb with the needles to provide heat.
  • Laser acupuncture involves the use of lasers instead of needles. Veterinarians use this technique on dogs who are absolutely adverse to the needles

Does acupuncture work for dogs?

According to the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture, veterinary medicine uses this practice more and more. The American Animal Hospital Organization Pain Management Guidelines include acupuncture as the complementary procedure for pain management.

How well acupuncture works depends on what you are treating, how often you are treating it and the patient’s receptivity to treatment. For example, dogs who are excessively stressed may not be good candidates. However, most dogs will settle into the treatments very well. Also, keep in mind that acupuncture may not make a condition like arthritis go away. What it will do is help manage the associated pain and inflammation.

Veterinarian with stethoscope examining French BulldogHere’s what veterinarians say

Ihor Basko, a holistic veterinarian in Honolulu has trained other vets in acupuncture for nearly 30 years and is certified by the International Veterinary Acupunctue Society. Dr. Basko says “Most people think of acupuncture as a pain reliever but it’s more than that. As a matter of fact, acupuncture can boost the immune system, improve organ functions and has other benefits. It can complement conventional medicines and procedures without dangerous side effects.”

Dr. Karen Becker is a holistic veterinarian who uses acupuncture. She says about 25% of her patients have a very positive response to acupuncture and show major improvement to the point of full recovery. Another 50% experience dramatic improvement but with some symptoms remaining. About 25% have no response.

I would say a 75% chance of improvement is worth it!

Ellie Lak, Founder of the Gentle Barn animal rescue in Santa Clarita, California uses acupuncture. She says, “I have seen fantastic results with acupuncture! She goes on to say that they have had many animals with inflammation and pain in their joints who started walking again without pain after acupuncture.

Keep in mind that not all dogs will be amenable to acupuncture treatment. Dogs who are aggressive or overly stressed will likely not be good candidates unless there are ways to calm them.

What kinds of problems can acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture is an effective complimentary therapy to add to an ongoing treatment plan. Furthermore, it doesn’t interact with commonly prescribed medication. You can consider it an addition to traditional treatment and it can help you avoid overdoing pharmaceuticals. Here are some of its uses:

  • Musculoskeletal Problems such as osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, degenerative joint disease, disc disease, tendinitis, sprains and muscle spasms.
  • Neurological problems that include epilepsy, stroke, coma, deafness and paralysis from disc disease.
  • Urinary disorders like incontinence, cystitis and urine retention.
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as colitis, diarrhea, vomiting, gastroenteritis and rectal prolapse.
  • Respiratory disorders such as sinusitis, rhinitis, asthma, coughing and pneumonia.
  • Inflammatory conditions like allergies.

Are there side effects to acupuncture?

There is a very low risk of side effects from properly performed acupuncture. Only a veterinary acupuncturist trained in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine should perform it.


Does acupuncture work for dogs? The answer is yes. Sometimes veterinarians use acupuncture as a last resort when other treatments have failed. However, the reality is that they can use it in conjunction with traditional treatments. It’s also important that your veterinarian is trained in this discipline.

We love comments so be sure to leave yours below. Tell us about any experience you and your dog have had with acupuncture.2 dogs looking happy with tongues out and acupuncture needles


2 comments on “Does acupuncture work for dogs? You may want to try it.

  1. Helen

    I haven’t seen any animals that have had acupuncture but I do remember a publicised incident years ago, when a giraffe with leg arthritis (now that’s a really long problem) was given an acupuncture treatment. This had a terrific result with the giraffe walking quite well afterwards.

    I think all the issues mentioned would also work with people.

    I had it to get rid of sinus headaches. And there was one side effect. Four needles were in my face. I can’t stand anything on my face. So when the practitioner placed them I would sneeze and out they would shoot.

    He ended up in hysterical laughter on the floor!

    Hopefully loads of dog owners will see this.


    1. Christopher Mitchell

      Hi Helen:

      Thank you for your comments!

      That’s funny about needles in your face. I don’t think I would like them stuck in my face either!

      It’s good to hear the giraffe’s long problem was solved!


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