Acupuncture for Pets: Does it work?

Medical articles
French Bulldog getting acupuncture

When my senior dog was diagnosed with terrible arthritis in his spine and hips, our vet agreed that putting him through surgery wasn’t humane, but the meds didn’t seem to be helping. He was irritable and kept to himself more and more, which is absolute heartbreaking for the pet parent of a typical Velcro-personality golden mix. It’s hard to know how far to go to help a pet with medical issues in a case like that, and I was honestly starting to think euthanasia was on the horizon. A traditional veterinarian’s job is to provide us with all treatment options, medication, surgery, and therapy. But it wasn’t until a friend suggested we try acupuncture that he got some relief.

We took a little trip to the closest vet that offered alternative care. After a physical exam and consultation, the vet discussed our options for chiropractic care, supplements, and acupuncture. A few days later, we were back for his treatment. My dog was given a comfortable bed to lie in while I sat to observe his minor chiropractic adjustment. Next came the acupuncture needles. I had seen photos of dogs with needles placed but couldn’t imagine it would go over well with a real live dog in a real-life vet’s office. As I sat and waited, I realized that I hadn’t even noticed that the vet had placed a few tiny white needles around my dog’s neck and head. Before I knew it, my old man had his nose down on his paws, fast asleep and totally comfortable. My dog barely moved from this place for the next 20 minutes while the needles did their thing. I sat smiling, recognizing the peaceful relaxation I hadn’t seen on his face in a long while.

We continued his alternative therapy, abandoning the prescription pain meds that seemed to do little but make him groggy. I felt so fortunate to get a second phase of his life that was comfortable and at ease.

Acupuncture for Dogs & Cats

Acupuncture isn’t just for seniors. Specially-trained vets can perform acupuncture on cats or dogs of any age to treat allergies, seizures, and other ailments, and it may be used as a complement to modern medicine. For example, while acupuncture can’t treat cancer, it can alleviate symptoms like pain or the side effects of medicine, such as nausea and inappetence. There are no side effects, and the treatments can have long lasting effects.

Your pet is likely to need several treatments before you see the effects, but your pet won’t feel any additional discomfort in the meantime. The needles release chemicals in specific areas of the body and brain to stimulate healing and pain relief. In some cases, a vet may do acupressure or laser therapy as a supplement to acupuncture. These treatments provide similar effects but may be better tolerated by certain pets who require easier access to sensitive areas. Embrace Pet Insurance offers complementary treatment coverage that covers acupuncture and other alternative care, so you and your pet have no reason not to try it.

If you’re nervous about the needles, don’t worry. They’re extremely thin, lightweight, and blunt tipped, and they’re placed very superficially. Most patients are like my dog (and me) and often don’t realize they’re even there.

It goes without saying that you should only allow a certified veterinary acupuncturist to work on your pet, and you can find a practitioner through the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture. For more information on how Embrace covers alternative care, check out some of our alternative therapy claim examples.