The history of acupuncture for animals is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, which has been practiced for thousands of years.
In North America, acupuncture as an organized form of veterinary medicine has been in existence since approximately 1975, when the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) was founded.
The goal of acupuncture is to promote the body to balance and heal itself by inserting very small needles into specific points along the body. These acupoints are tiny areas on the skin that contain concentrated nerve endings, blood vessels, and lymphatics. The acupoints course along the body in specific energy paths called meridians and when stimulated release the body’s natural anti-inflammatory hormones as well as pain relief hormones, such as endorphins.
During treatment, multiple points will be stimulated to take advantage of synergism between the points or to treat multiple issues at the same time.
Some of the benefits of acupuncture for animals include:
Pain relief: Acupuncture is known to be an effective method of pain relief, particularly for pets with chronic pain conditions such as osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, and other conditions that can cause pain and mobility issues.
Improved mobility: Acupuncture can help improve mobility by reducing pain and inflammation in affected joints.
Improved digestion: Acupuncture can help with gastrointestinal issues, such as constipation and diarrhea, by regulating the digestive system.
Anxiety and stress relief: Acupuncture can help reduce anxiety and stress by promoting relaxation and balance in the body.
Improved skin health: Acupuncture can help improve skin conditions such as allergies and itching by regulating the immune system.
Enhanced overall wellness: Acupuncture is also believed to improve overall wellness by promoting balance and harmony in the body.
Cancer side effects: Acupuncture is often used to help improve energy and reduce pain, nausea and loss of appetite associated with cancer or cancer treatments.
Hormonal or metabolic conditions: Dogs who suffer from hormonal conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus or Addison’s disease may find relief through acupuncture. Dogs with liver or kidney disease may also experience benefits.
Your veterinarian will decide how often your dog should receive acupuncture treatments. In general, acupuncture sessions are scheduled more closely together in the beginning. As your dog begins to feel better, sessions will likely be spaced out further apart.
If your dog is receiving acupuncture for an acute problem, such as healing after surgery or an illness or injury, they may only need a few sessions. If they’re being treated for a chronic condition, such as arthritis, then they may need ongoing treatment to alleviate pain. It may take a few sessions for you to see benefits in your dog, or you may see improvement right away. In general, a minimum of three sessions are recommended to judge effectiveness.
Only a properly trained veterinarian should perform acupuncture on animals due to the differences in anatomy, and the potential for harm if the treatments are done incorrectly.