Yes, Pet Acupuncture Is A Thing & Here's What You Need To Know About It

By Sarah Jeanne Terry
alternative medicine
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Acupuncture is a well known holistic treatment for humans, but this ancient Chinese medicine can also be used on pets as a natural remedy for a number of ailments. While the practice of veterinary acupuncture has long been popular in China, it's recently migrated to the United States.

Veterinarians use acupuncture to help manage a number of conditions by placing tiny needles throughout the body. The needles help stimulate circulation, which can alleviate aches and pains. But there's more we need to know before treating our furry friends with this medical procedure. We talked to Dr. Tori Countner of Vetted PetCare, a veterinarian certified in veterinary acupuncture, to find out more about the practice.

Vet doing acupuncture treatment
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Acupuncture can be used to treat a number of our pet's ailments in a non-invasive way.

Although some pet owners might worry about the safety of sticking needles into their pets, Dr. Countner assured us that it's safe. She explained, "The body wants to balance itself, and therefore placing acupuncture needles will not over correct the issue we are treating or harm the patient — the needles are sterile, one-time use small-gauge needles that are very safe for placement into the skin."

Vets use acupuncture to treat a variety of ailments, often in combination with other medications or care. But acupuncture can help reduce the amount of, for example, pain medication necessary to treat a pet. Acupuncture can help manage conditions like:

  • Pain management, for conditions like arthritis and post-op care.
  • Balancing the body in conjunction with Western treatments like chemo or other long-term medications.
  • Inflammatory conditions, like asthma and allergies.
  • Skin and ear infections.
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Geriatric pets, like those with dementia or anxiety.
Japanese Dogs Treated By Owners
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That sounds great, but how do animals feel about acupuncture?

As people, we can make the conscious choice to put acupuncture needles all over ourselves, but do our pets really understand what's going on? Dr. Countner explained, "Most pets do very well during acupuncture. After placing the needles, they calm down after about five minutes, are in a relaxed state, and some even fall asleep!"

And even if they're a little stressed at first, Dr. Countner assured us that they usually relax, because the treatment releases endorphins. She said, "Even if they are a little nervous during the session, afterward many owners report the dog or cat has greatly improved or relaxed."

Plus, Dr. Countner added, if dogs don't enjoy the needles and shake them out, even having them in for a few seconds can be helpful. And there are a number of other traditional Chinese remedies — herbal medicine, food therapy, laser therapy — that can work in combination with Western medicine to help your pet.

Japanese Dogs Treated By Owners
credit: Adam Pretty/Getty Images News/GettyImages

If you're thinking about acupuncture for your pet, it's important to see a certified veterinarian.

Only vets certified in acupuncture should practice on your pet. Always consult your veterinarian first to see if your furry friend is a good candidate for acupuncture. Like any treatment, your vet can create a solid plan that gets the most out of treatment.

We all want our pets to have the best life they can, and acupuncture is another healthcare tool to help us achieve that goal. So if you think your pet could benefit, then talk to your vet about how those tiny needles could help your best pal.

Are you interested in learning more about what you're reading? Then scroll through this article about what it means when your pet doesn't remember you. Also, like us on Facebook and join our newsletter to learn more about your pet's behavior.