An Introduction to Acupuncture for Pets

A close-up of a small animal receiving acupuncture treatment to help with anxiety and stress.

Acupuncture, a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), has been practised for thousands of years to maintain health and treat a wide variety of conditions in humans. In recent decades, acupuncture has gained traction in the field of veterinary medicine as a complementary therapy for pets, offering a natural and non-invasive approach to support their well-being. This blog post will provide an introduction to acupuncture for pets, discussing its history, application, and potential benefits.

The History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture has its roots in ancient China, with the earliest recorded usage dating back over 2,000 years. The fundamental principle of acupuncture is to balance the body’s flow of energy, known as “Qi” (pronounced “chee”), through the stimulation of specific points on the body. In TCM, it is believed that disruptions in the flow of Qi can lead to illness and discomfort, and that acupuncture can help to restore balance and promote healing.

How Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine, sterile needles into specific points on the body, known as acupuncture points. These points are found along pathways called meridians, which are believed to be channels of energy flow within the body. The precise stimulation of these points is thought to regulate the flow of Qi, improve circulation, and support the body’s natural healing processes.

In the context of veterinary medicine, acupuncture is believed to work through a combination of physiological mechanisms, including:

  • Stimulating the release of natural pain-relieving substances, such as endorphins and serotonin
  • Reducing inflammation and promoting tissue healing
  • Modulating the nervous system to alter pain perception
  • Regulating the immune system to support overall health

Potential Benefits of Acupuncture for Pets

Acupuncture has been shown to benefit pets with a variety of conditions, including:

  1. Pain Management: Acupuncture can help to alleviate pain in pets suffering from chronic conditions such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, and intervertebral disc disease. It can also provide pain relief for pets recovering from surgery or injury.
  2. Gastrointestinal Disorders: Acupuncture may be beneficial in treating pets with gastrointestinal issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, and diarrhoea.
  3. Neurological Conditions: Pets with neurological disorders, such as seizures, peripheral nerve paralysis, and degenerative myelopathy, may benefit from acupuncture therapy.
  4. Respiratory Problems: Acupuncture can help to alleviate respiratory issues such as asthma and chronic bronchitis in pets.
  5. Allergies and Skin Conditions: Pets suffering from allergies or skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, may experience relief from acupuncture treatments.
  6. Behavioural Issues: Acupuncture can help to reduce anxiety and stress levels in pets, potentially improving behavioural issues such as separation anxiety and aggression.

What to Expect During an Acupuncture Session

During an acupuncture session, your pet will be placed in a comfortable position, and the practitioner will gently insert fine needles into specific acupuncture points. The needles are typically left in place for 10-30 minutes, depending on the condition being treated. Most pets tolerate acupuncture well and may even find the experience relaxing.

The number of sessions required will vary depending on your pet’s individual needs and the severity of their condition. Acute issues may resolve with just a few sessions, while chronic conditions may require ongoing treatment.

Choosing a Qualified Veterinary Acupuncturist

It is essential to work with a qualified veterinary acupuncturist to ensure the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture for your pet. This can be a veterinarian with additional training and certification in veterinary acupuncture or a certified animal acupuncturist. Always consult with your veterinarian before seeking acupuncture treatment for your pet.


Acupuncture offers a natural, non-invasive treatment option for pets suffering from a wide range of conditions. By working with a qualified veterinary acupuncturist, you can provide your furry friend with a holistic approach to health and well-being that complements conventional veterinary care. As always, it is important to maintain open communication with your pet’s primary veterinarian and to monitor your pet’s progress throughout their acupuncture treatments. With the right care and support, acupuncture can be a valuable addition to your pet’s overall health regimen, helping them to live a happier, more comfortable life.

Dr. Sara Lam

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