Acupuncture for Dogs: What Is It and Can It Help Your Dog?

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a medicinal practice that traces back to ancient Chinese culture. It is performed by inserting a needle into specific points on the body to promote a desired healing effect.

Needles are inserted into tissue where the nerve endings and blood vessels come together. These areas are known as acupuncture points. Originally, 365 acupuncture points were established on the body to be connected to 14 major channel lines: one channel for each of the 12 inner organs, one along the spine and one along the midline of the abdomen.

How Could It Help?

The purpose of acupuncture is to accelerate the body’s natural healing processes.

The insertion of the needle into the flesh stimulates blood flow and the release of the endorphins enkephalin and dynorphin, the body’s natural pain killers. Therefore, inserting needles at different acupuncture points relaxes muscles and provides pain relief in different areas of the body.

Acupuncture has been reported to treat a host of issues, including chronic back pain caused by an injury, improper sleeping structure, arthritis, respiratory disorders, headaches, and even skin issues.

In dogs, acupuncture is often used to treat musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, or nerve injuries. Many times, acupuncture is used during rehabilitation from an injury. Additionally, increased blood flow promoted by acupuncture may aid in skin and gastrointestinal issues in pets.

The Five Acupuncture Methods in Dogs

Although needle insertion is the primary acupuncture treatment given, there are alternative methods used. Here is a brief summary of each:


Rather than needles, practitioners use their fingers, palms, elbows, feet, or special devices to apply pressure to acupoints along the body’s meridians. Acupressure achieves a comparable effect to needle insertion, but it tends to be a good option for hard-to-reach locations, behaviorally challenging pets, and for circumstances where needle treatment might not be available.


Aquapuncture is another form of acupuncture that some dog owners prefer. In this method, a hypodermic syringe is used to inject a homeopathic solution into acupuncture points. The solution either sedates or stimulates these acupuncture points. Your pup can reap the benefits of this treatment for days to come. Aquapuncture may be best for dogs that have severe back or hip pain caused from vertebral spondylosis, arthritis, or hip dysplasia.


Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy that consists of burning dried Chinese herbs called “moxa” on or near the skin. The purpose of this technique is to stimulate circulation. Heat therapy may be very beneficial to pets that are older or suffering from conditions involving joint stiffness and/or muscular soreness.

Electrostimulation (Estim)

In this method of acupuncture, an electrical device is used to stimulate acupuncture points. This is done by sending an electrical charge through wires attached to the acupuncture needles. This treatment method is ideal for dogs with severe paralysis.


In this most-recent form of acupuncture treatment, lasers are substituted for needles to stimulate acupoints. Laser treatment for dogs employs deep-penetrating light to promote a chain of chemical reactions known as photobiostimulation. This process helps relieve pain through the release of endorphins, and it stimulates injured cells to heal at an accelerated pace.


According to some who have brought their pets for these procedures, it can take a couple of sessions before a dog may see improvement. However, there are some cases where benefits are seen immediately. Although acupuncture is not painful, it does require your pet to sit still for longer periods of time.

Because there is a potential for harm if the treatment is performed incorrectly, it’s important that only a properly trained veterinarian carry out the procedure. Costs for acupuncture treatment will vary based on the condition being treated and skill level of the practitioner.

Keep Expectations in Check

If you are looking for a completely natural remedy for pain relief, beware that many vets use acupuncture in conjunction with other painkillers for the best results.

A study by the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine looking across all available clinical trials did not find enough evidence to recommend or reject acupuncture for animals. Most of the evidence in support of acupuncture for animals is anecdotal, coming from the pet owners themselves. However, the practice of incorporating acupuncture into an animal’s wellness routine is most definitely growing in popularity.

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