Acupuncture for Pets

Tigard Animal Hospital
Dr. Barkley administering an acupuncture treatment.

Sometimes the key to helping a pet is to ask the pet to help themselves! Acupuncture is a therapy used to stimulate the body to heal itself by placing very tiny sterile needles near specific nerves in the body. These needles will cause the release of natural pain-relieving hormones from the cells in the muscles, the spinal cord and from the brain. 

Acupuncture is a powerful treatment used in animals for a wide variety of medical conditions, most commonly for spinal pain or dysfunction, arthritis, constipation, and cancer. This treatment can also be used for asthma, heart disease, skin conditions and seizure disorders. Most pets will allow acupuncture needles and, often, they are quite relaxed for the treatment. This might include just a few needles around a specific joint or up to 20 needles to treat multiple conditions. The treatment takes 10-30 minutes depending on the condition and the pet and how sensitive they are to the treatment. Not only will acupuncture help relieve pain, but it can improve function of the spinal cord and of the organs inside the body, by increasing blood flow, relaxing muscles and improving movement of the intestinal tract.

Acupuncture is a treatment that usually requires 4-6 sessions to get the maximum benefit, then an occasional ‘booster’ treatment every couple of months to keep the pet feeling their best. It is a wonderful, non-invasive treatment option for pets that cannot have surgery and/or have limited options for pain medications. Consider acupuncture as an additional tool to speed healing and support the whole well-being of the pet. Acupuncture has become quite mainstream and many veterinarians have acupuncture training. This treatment has become very popular with horse owners, as the horse can have immediate pain relief and return to riding much sooner. Many equine athletes get regular acupuncture to stay at peak performance.

It is important that a veterinarian has a diagnosis of your pet’s problem before trying acupuncture, or any alternative therapy. Frequently the veterinarian will need to perform an examination, take x-rays and run blood tests to help determine the best points for the acupuncture needles, and how frequently the pet needs acupuncture treatments. The tests are also important for understanding if there are other safe therapies to add to acupuncture, such as anti-inflammatories.

Next time your senior pet seems stiff and achy, consider a consult with your veterinarian about the benefits of acupuncture. The goal is to keep the brain and the body as comfortable as possible through normal life challenges, like injuries or allergies, and to ease the aging process.