What is medical acupuncture, and can it help my pet?

What is medical acupuncture, and can it help my pet?

Acupuncture is a form of therapy that involves the insertion of sterile needles into the skin and muscle tissue. It is an ancient medical practice, and there are many approaches to learning and performing it. I chose to pursue certification in “medical acupuncture.” This approach understands the benefits of acupuncture not as the movement of energy, but as stimulation of the nervous system to release chemicals that reduce pain and inflammation. It is similar to traditional Chinese medicine in that the same acupuncture points are used. Medical acupuncture is different, however, in that it does not incorporate concepts such as “Chi” or use traditional diagnostic methods like pulse diagnosis.

During initial evaluation on a patient for medical acupuncture treatment, I perform a myofascial palpation exam, a neurologic exam, and a gait evaluation. Based on these observations, acupuncture points are selected to: release taut bands in muscle, stimulate nerves, and/or modulate the immune and autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. Very thin needles are used for this process, and dogs and cats generally tolerate it very well. Some patients become relaxed and even doze off!

Acupuncture is  used in veterinary medicine to treat a wide variety of issues:

Musculoskeletal problems: muscle strain, osteoarthritis

Gastrointestinal:inflammatory bowel disease, constipation

Respiratory: feline asthma, chronic bronchitis

Neurologic: nerve trauma, intervertebral disc disease

Urogenital: feline lower urinary tract disease, chronic renal disease

Cancer-related illness: pain, nausea, decreased appetite

Does it work?

A large number of studies have been conducted over the years to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture; many studies have shown benefit, and others have not. As more and more data points have accumulated, “meta-analyses” have been conducted and have provided strong support for the effectiveness of acupuncture. This page has an extensive list of recent publications on the subject:

Like any treatment, acupuncture is not 100% effective on every patient. Although most pets will experience relief of symptoms, some will not. Typically, a minimum of four acupuncture sessions are recommended to see if pets will respond.

I highly recommend trying acupuncture for many of my beloved patients. It is very low risk, has no side effects, and can provide safe and effective relief for a variety of conditions.  Please contact us if you are interested in acupuncture for your pet!

Anna Reading DVM, cVMA

Certified Veterinary Medical Acupuncturist



Book an Appointment