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Animal Acupuncture for Dogs

Animal Acupuncture: A Pathway to Better Health for Your Dog

Have you ever wondered if there’s a non-invasive way to boost your furry friend’s health? Well, let’s dive into the world of animal acupuncture, a fascinating journey that might just be the answer you’re seeking for your dog’s wellbeing.


The Healing Touch: Exploring Acupuncture for Dogs

Acupuncture, the age-old practice of inserting fine needles into specific body points, isn’t just for humans. It’s a game-changer in the realm of animal health, especially for our canine companions.

Acupuncture for dogs involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the dog’s body to promote healing and pain relief. These points are strategically chosen based on Traditional Chinese Medicine principles and are known to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes.

When the needles are inserted, they stimulate nerve endings, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle tension, and trigger the release of endorphins and cortisol. This helps in reducing pain, inflammation, and can improve overall health issues like arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, and anxiety.

This method is all about stimulating healing, increasing blood flow, easing muscle spasms, and triggering the release of endorphins and cortisol—nature’s painkillers and stress-fighters.

It’s minimally invasive, generally well-tolerated by dogs, and is often used to treat dogs alongside conventional veterinary treatments. Win-win-win!

Acupuncture’s Journey from East to West

Originating from Traditional Chinese Medicine, this technique has been used on working animals for over 3,000 years across continents, and it’s seamlessly blending with modern Western medicine today.

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), an extension of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is a holistic approach to animal health care that dates back thousands of years. It encompasses various practices including acupuncture, herbal medicine, food therapy, and Tui-na (a therapeutic massage), aiming to restore balance and harmony in the animal’s body and treat a wide range of conditions by addressing the root cause rather than just symptoms.

Point of Reference: 15 Key Acupuncture Points

In the intricate practice of animal acupuncture, there are numerous points, with at least 15 key ones often highlighted due to their effectiveness in treating various ailments. These points are strategically located across an animal’s body, each serving a unique purpose in promoting healing and well-being.

For example, a point on the back might be targeted for spinal issues or back pain, while another near the leg can address joint pain or mobility issues.

As mentioned above, the selection of these points is based on a deep understanding of animal anatomy and Traditional Chinese Medicine principles. Stimulating these points can lead to increased blood circulation, muscle relaxation, and pain relief. Effectively utilized, these acupuncture points can significantly improve a range of health conditions, offering a holistic approach to animal health care.

Safety First: Risks and Rewards of Animal Acupuncture

But what can acupuncture do for specifically for your dog? Acupuncture is a versatile solution for a range of issues, from arthritis and paralysis to skin problems, respiratory issues, and even gastrointestinal woes.

It’s not just for the aged or the ailing, either. Acupuncture is a boon for athletic dogs, helping with sports injuries and keeping those agile pups in top form.

Acupuncture in Action: Real-Life Success Story

Let’s hear from the experts. Rachael Feigenbaum, VMD, of Lotus Veterinary House Calls in San Francisco, shares some heartwarming success stories. Picture this: a dog, once in agonizing pain from a disc disease, now relaxed and pain-free after just one acupuncture session.

“The most dramatic results I see are related to controlling pain,” says Feigenbaum. “The classic example is a dog with an acute flare-up of intervertebral disk disease which causes severe pain and muscle-tensing. It is typical that after a single treatment of acupuncture using electro-stimulation (where a small current is applied between acupuncture needles), the pain has completely or almost completely resolved, and the dog is happy and relaxed. A Western vet may have prescribed steroids and pain medications, and even discussed surgery, but I typically have a great deal of success with acupuncture alone.”

And it’s not just dogs! Cats benefit from acupuncture treatment as well as it’s one of the safest medical treatments for animals, with minimal side effects. It’s a gentle, non-invasive way to help your pet thrive.

Traditional and Modern: A Holistic Approach to Pet Health

However, it’s not just about the needles. Dr. Feigenbaum emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach, combining her own veterinary medical expertise with acupuncture to tailor treatment protocol for the best care for each animal. She’s cautious, though, especially when it comes to serious conditions like cancer, always prioritizing accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Legal Landscape: Animal Acupuncture Practices Across States

The legal landscape for animal acupuncture varies across states. In places like Oregon, Washington, and California, laws range from requiring veterinary referrals to strict supervision by a certified veterinary acupuncturist.

In Oregon, the Veterinary Practice Act allows practitioners of alternative or complementary methods to work on animals with a referral from a veterinarian.

Washington laws state that only veterinarians may practice acupuncture on animals.

California laws are somewhere in-between, allowing acupuncturists to treat animals under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Although vets may choose to undergo rigorous training and certification in acupuncture and TCM, it’s not mandatory. All that’s required is that the practitioner is a veterinarian, or works under a vet’s supervision. That also applies to Licensed Acupuncturists, who, although able to treat humans in the role of primary care practitioner, are currently unable to obtain additional training or certification that would enable them to practice on animals independently.

Choosing the Right Practitioner: What You Need to Know

Choosing the right practitioner for your dog’s acupuncture is crucial for ensuring both the effectiveness and safety of the treatment. Start by seeking a licensed veterinarian who has additional training and certification in veterinary acupuncture.

This blend of traditional veterinary medicine with specialized acupuncture knowledge is vital. Check their credentials, experience, and reviews from other pet owners. It’s also important to consider the legal requirements in your state, as laws regarding who can practice acupuncture on animals vary.

A good practitioner will not only have the necessary skills but will also take the time to understand your dog’s specific health needs and history. They should offer a holistic approach, integrating their treatment plan with your dog’s overall health plan, and be willing to work in conjunction with your regular vet. Remember, clear communication and trust in your practitioner are key to a successful acupuncture experience for your furry friend.

In the end, as pet owners, it’s about making informed choices for our furry family members. Whether it’s acupuncture or another therapy, the goal is always their health and happiness. Remember, as the wise Martin H. Fischer once said, your pet doesn’t care about the science; they just want to feel better. And sometimes, the answer lies in the gentle touch of acupuncture needles.

“Ever since we started acupuncture treatments for Bella, our Golden Lab, it’s like she’s a whole new dog. She used to struggle with severe arthritis, limping and wincing in pain with every step. It’s truly heartwarming to see her so happy and active again,” shares Tracy, a Seattle dog owner, reflecting the transformative impact of acupuncture on her dog.

FAQs About Animal Acupuncture Treatments

Animal acupuncture involves inserting fine needles into specific points on an animal’s body to stimulate healing. It increases blood circulation, relieves muscle tension, and triggers immune response and the release of natural painkillers and anti-inflammatory substances. Its use can also include pain management such as chronic pain from hip dysplasia or a spinal cord injury.

Acupuncture can treat a variety of conditions in dogs, including arthritis, musculoskeletal and neurological problems, skin issues, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal issues, and even sports injuries.

Yes, acupuncture is generally safe for dogs. It is a non-invasive treatment with very few side effects. However, it should be performed by a qualified practitioner.

Look for a practitioner who is a licensed veterinarian with additional training and certification in acupuncture. The laws vary by state, so also check that they are compliant with local regulations.

Yes, acupuncture can be used on cancer patients alongside other treatments, including Western medicine and other Traditional Chinese Medicine methods like herbal therapy.

The response to acupuncture can vary. Some pets may show immediate improvement, while others may require several sessions to see noticeable changes.

Acupuncture might not be suitable for all conditions, such as certain types of cancer. It’s important to have a thorough veterinary examination and diagnosis before starting any acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture has been used on animals for over 3,000 years, particularly in countries like China, Korea, and India. It has a long history of helping various working animals including horses and elephants.

The Northwest School of Animal Massage (NWSAM) was founded in 2001 in response to the growing demand for approved training programs in canine massage and equine massage in the State of Washington. Today, students seek out our programs from every state in the country and across the globe. NWSAM was founded on three guiding principles: To foster compassion for the animal community, to support a higher standard of practice within our industry, and to nurture the continued growth of our student body. To learn more, visit

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