What Is Veterinary Acupuncture For Dogs?

Veterinary acupuncture is a component of Traditional Chinese Medicine that has been used for thousands of years. The rationale behind this treatment is that the flow of Qi (vital life force), which courses throughout the body along precisely defined pathways called meridians, can become impaired or blocked, causing illnesses characteristic to the affected meridian(s). Acupuncture aims to restore the normal flow of Qi by inserting extremely fine needles through the skin at precise points where this flow is impaired.

Contemporary medical research reveals that the insertion of acupuncture needles at acupuncture points stimulates specific nerve endings, resulting in modulation of the production and activity of various neurotransmitters, neurohormones, and inflammatory mediators.

Stimulation of appropriately selected acupuncture points based on a patient’s specific diagnosis can result in pain relief, decreased inflammation, relief of nausea, improved immune function, reduction in blood pressure, and potentially other benefits as well. Research into the benefits and applications of acupuncture is ongoing.

How Can Acupuncture Help My Dog?

When properly administered, acupuncture is a very safe treatment modality for dogs in the control of pain, inflammation, and nausea, and may have a role in some neurologic disorders. Dogs suffering from arthritis, intervertebral disc disease, cancer pain, neuromuscular diseases, and other chronic pain conditions may experience superior pain relief when acupuncture is incorporated into their pain control regimen.

Acupuncture can also be used to reduce the nausea and GI upset that can be caused by a variety of illnesses in dogs. There are likely even more conditions that are responsive to acupuncture therapy, as research continues into the applications of this treatment modality in humans, dogs, and other animals.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture stimulates nerve endings in precise locations on a dog’s body. This stimulation alters nerve transmission activity along specific pathways, ultimately resulting in changes in the production and activity of various neurotransmitters, neurohormones, and inflammatory mediators, both at the site of stimulation as well as elsewhere in the body. These substances elicit reductions in inflammation, pain, and other sensations such as nausea.

Which conditions does acupuncture work best for?

Indicated primarily for pain and inflammation, acupuncture can be beneficial for many musculoskeletal and neurologic conditions. Research into the possible utility of acupuncture in the treatment of immune-mediated diseases, metabolic diseases, kidney disease, and other illnesses is ongoing, and additional applications will likely be identified in the future. Common conditions treated with acupuncture include:

  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Tendon or ligament injuries
  • Nerve injuries and diseases
  • Lick granulomas
  • Nausea/vomiting

What Will Acupuncture Be Like For My Dog?

Generally, a canine acupuncture session will last between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the dog’s condition and treatment needs. No clipping or shaving of the dog’s fur will be necessary, and mild sedation is seldom required. A number of very thin needles will be inserted through the dog’s skin at specific locations and left there for a specific period of time.

The needles may be gently manipulated, heated, or connected to a very low electrical current to enhance stimulation. Dogs typically do not react to the placement or manipulation of the needles, and often become calm and relaxed during their session.

When shouldn’t acupuncture be used?

Acupuncture cannot be used to treat or cure most diseases, including cancer, and cannot alter the outcome in cases of irreversible nerve damage. It is, however, useful in combination with appropriate medical and surgical treatment to alleviate the pain and nausea associated with many of these conditions, resulting in improved quality of life. Acupuncture is contraindicated in pregnant animals or directly around tumors.

Is acupuncture on dogs safe?

Acupuncture is very safe when it is administered by a properly trained veterinarian. Side effects of acupuncture are very rare. Dogs may seem a bit drowsy or more relaxed than usual within the 24 hours following a session, then often demonstrate an increase in activity associated with pain relief.

Where Are The Acupuncture Points On Dogs?

Dog acupuncture points are analogous to the acupuncture points on the human body, which are generally located adjacent to neurovascular bundles.

Is Acupuncture Painful for Dogs?

Acupuncture is typically a painless experience when performed properly. The acupuncture needles are so fine that dogs often do not even feel them as they are inserted. In some locations, a dog may experience a very brief, subtle pinch or stinging sensation with needle insertion.

Humans report experiencing a mild, dull ache at some sites while the needles are present. This is from stimulation of the nerve endings, and resolves once the needles are removed. Most dogs become relaxed and calm once the acupuncture needles have been properly placed. In fact, it is not unusual for dogs to fall asleep during their acupuncture sessions.

How Soon Will My Dog Experience Results from Acupuncture?

Most dogs will demonstrate improvement within a few days of an acupuncture session. In some cases, a dog may appear tired or sore during the first one or two days following a session. Typically, within 24 to 72 hours, a dog will begin to show improvements in comfort, mobility, and energy.

How Often Does My Dog Need Acupuncture?

The total number and frequency of acupuncture treatments your dog needs ultimately depends on your dog’s condition and individualized needs. Typically, most dogs will initially need between one and three sessions per week. As control over a dog’s symptoms is achieved, the frequency of acupuncture sessions can typically be reduced.

What is electroacupuncture?

Electroacupuncture involves the application of a very gentle electric current to the needles for specific periods of time to enhance stimulation of nerve endings.

How to Schedule a Veterinary Acupuncture Session For Your Dog

At the Animal Clinic of Billings and Animal Surgery Clinic, our veterinarians and support staff are here to help you and your dog enjoy a long, healthy, and happy life together. We believe this starts with compassionate and exceptional veterinary care. Call to schedule your next appointment with one of our veterinarians today and let us determine if acupuncture is right for your dog.


Let our highly trained and experienced team of veterinarians and veterinary technicians help you keep your pet as happy and healthy as they can be.

Call and schedule an appointment for your four-legged friend today and receive a 20% discount on canine rehabilitation therapy for your dog.


Request An Appointment



providing our region’s companion animals and their families what they need and deserve since 1981

1414 10th St. West, Billings MT 59102