Close up acupuncture with dog needle in hand

Dog Acupuncture

Dog acupuncture is a viable treatment for your dog if they’re experiencing pain or discomfort. There are various types of acupuncture for dogs, each serving its own purpose to bring comfort, provide pain relief, or aid in recovery from an injury. If acupuncture has been suggested as a way to help your dog deal with chronic pain, you likely have a number of questions. We’ve taken the most frequently asked questions about dog acupuncture and answered them as thoroughly and accurately as possible so you can make an informed decision.

If you’re looking for a highly trained veterinarian in Rio Rancho, NM, we’d love to help you understand more about the benefits of dog acupuncture. The first step is to bring your dog in for a visit, so please call us at (505) 314-8024.

What is dog acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a type of medicine that has been around for thousands of years, originating in ancient China. Dog acupuncture is the practice of placing tiny needles in specific points or along certain channels of your dog’s body to activate their natural healing abilities. The needles stimulate the acupuncture points, causing stem cell release and a cascade of events that allow the body to release endorphins for pain management and tissue relaxation. Acupuncture points correlate with areas where your dog has a bundle of vessels and nerves, and insertion of the needles causes an increase in blood flow to the area and the release of anti-inflammatory mediators.

Is there more than one type of canine acupuncture?

There are several different types of dog acupuncture, some of which are very different from traditional dry needle acupuncture. It can also be combined with other traditional Chinese medicine techniques.

The different types of dog acupuncture and related modalities include: 

  • Dry needle acupuncture – A single needle placed in a specific spot
  • Electrical acupuncture – A needle hooked to an electrical current to stimulate the area in that channel
  • Aquapuncture – Medications such as B12 or saline are injected at the acupuncture site
  • Pneumo acupuncture – Uses air in certain areas to help build muscle tissue
  • Acupressure – Uses your thumb or finger at an acupuncture point
  • Laser acupuncture – Uses a laser to achieve the same result as a needle
  • Moxibustion – Uses heat and incense-like aroma on the needle to create different effects using heat

What is moxibustion, and why is it considered part of acupuncture therapy?

Moxibustion is when we take an herbal stick, called Artemisia vulgaris, and light it. We then place a needle in your dog and hold that warm stick over that needle. The heat travels down the needle into the body and helps warm the area. As an alternative, we can simply hold the stick over the area without the needle. Moxibustion is excellent for older, arthritic patients that need help warming up their joints.

How does the use of acupuncture impact the health and well-being of my dog?

Using acupuncture treats the problem at hand and improves your dog’s quality of life by making them feel better. Acupuncture can help support dogs through chronic diseases, providing another alternative to use in treatment regimens. Acupuncture is an additional tool in a veterinarian’s toolbox that treats the body as a whole unit. For example, if your dog has a lameness problem, we're not just treating the sore leg — we're thinking about the organ systems that support the bone system, and looking at the whole body to correct problems and maintain long-term health.

How old does a dog need to be to receive acupuncture?

There is no age restriction when it comes to dog acupuncture. We treat every dog with an individualized plan based on their age and specific needs. For younger dogs, veterinarians more commonly use gentle acupressure rather than needles. We also won't leave needles inserted as long as we do with older dogs. At Zia Pet Hospital, we see mostly older animals for acupuncture because it’s often used as the third or fourth option to help chronic issues. Acupuncture isn’t at the forefront of the minds of many pet owners, but we can use it to maintain health and as a preventative care mechanism in younger dogs and even puppies.

What are some conditions that would benefit a dog by receiving acupuncture treatments?

The most common dog conditions for using acupuncture involve mobility issues, although the Chinese practice may be applied to various diseases and ailments to alleviate related symptoms.

Dog conditions benefiting from acupuncture include:

  • Mobility issues, such as ACL injuries
  • Musculoskeletal pain, such as back or neck problems
  • Neurological issues, such as intervertebral or degenerative disc disease
  • Heart disease, to control certain symptoms
  • Gastrointestinal disease, to control symptoms such as diarrhea
  • Skin allergies

The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture offers more insight into what we can treat with acupuncture. 

Would acupuncture complement my dog's current treatments?

Acupuncture is an excellent complementary treatment to what’s already being used to treat your dog. Adding acupuncture to your dog's treatment regimen often allows you to decrease the number of medications they're taking, which is an excellent thing in terms of their overall quality of life.

How can dog acupuncture be integrated with Western medicine?

The integration of acupuncture with Western medicine depends on a particular dog's situation. We look at acupuncture as another treatment tool in our toolbox — much like pain medication, antibiotics, x-ray, and lab equipment. It’s something available to use when needed.

How will a veterinarian determine if acupuncture is right for my dog?

The best way to determine if acupuncture is right for your dog is to schedule an appointment with a certified veterinary acupuncturist. You need to ensure you have the correct diagnosis before proceeding with acupuncture to provide the best chance for improving your dog’s health. When considering acupuncture, your dog must have a complete exam to assess their ability to safely endure the treatments. Some dogs won't sit still for the session, and some don't like the needles being placed. A certified veterinary acupuncturist must assess your pet's condition to see if they’re a viable candidate for acupuncture. 

If you have further questions about dog acupuncture, reach out to your veterinarian. If you live in or near Rio Rancho, NM, we’d love to see your dog to evaluate if they’re a candidate, so please don’t hesitate to call us at (505) 314-8024.