Introduction to Acupuncture and Pets

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that can be used to treat a variety of health problems, both physical and mental, and it can help improve your emotional well-being. Many people have experienced first-hand the benefits of acupuncture – relief from chronic pain, depression, anxiety, headaches, allergies, digestive problems, and more.

This spring, we’ll be featuring a series of posts by Dr. Ruth West, a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist and owner of Karma K9 Mobile Acupuncture. These posts will help you understand what acupuncture is and how it may be able to help your pet.

This week, Dr. West provides an introduction to acupuncture, how to know if it’s right for your pet, and how to find out more.

What is acupuncture?

  • Acupuncture is an age-old healing practice of traditional Chinese medicine in which thin needles are placed in specific points in the body.
  • It is a potential alternative to pain medications.
  • It is considered a “complementary” medicine that can be used along with other veterinary treatments.

How does it work?

  • Research has shown that the points used in acupuncture are “biologically” active, meaning there are more blood vessels, nerve endings and immune cells in these areas.
  • Local irritation by the needles cause increased blood flow and immune response, bringing healing and muscle relaxation to the area.
  • Endorphins, or “feel good” hormones, are also released, allowing painful dogs to relax and rest.
  • Electroacupuncture can be used like a TENS unit in humans, actually blocking the pain impulses from reaching the brain!


Does it hurt?

The sterile needles used for acupuncture are tiny, a fraction of the size of a normal hypodermic needle. Over 95% of patients are comfortable with acupuncture, including most of those whose owners do not initially believe they will tolerate it, as it is not generally painful. Many pets fall asleep during treatment!

A dog relaxes during treatment

Is it effective?

A recent study was done with 65 arthritic dogs who were no longer responding to conventional pain medicines. The only options left for these dogs were continued pain or euthanasia. After a course of acupuncture treatments, 70% of the dogs had improvement or greater than 50% increase in comfort and mobility.

Is acupuncture right for my pet?

Acupuncture is great if…
…your dog is suffering from a chronic condition and still has symptoms despite exhaustive veterinary treatment.
…you don’t like the side effects your dog suffers from certain drugs.
…you would like a more natural, gentle therapy.
…you would like to take a multimodal approach to your dog’s healthcare.

How do I find out more?

Stay tuned for more information about how acupuncture can help your pet, as well as some interesting case studies!

Ruth West

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist
Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner
Owner of Karma K9 Mobile Acupuncture

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