What is dog acupuncture?

Acupuncture uses tiny needles inserted in specific places on a pet's body to help with pain relief.

Dr. Keala Shotwell
The Drake Center

Is there more than one type of dog acupuncture?

There are multiple types of acupuncture. Some involve pressure with just a finger, acupressure. There is acupuncture, which is the use of a tiny needle. There's aquapuncture, where we can put a tiny amount of fluid at a pressure or acupuncture site. And there's even moxibustion, which applies a hot herb to the needle to stimulate the point.

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

It's unique in Chinese medicine, during which they use a herb called moxa, which comes in a long stick that holds to a very high temperature. So when we tap this hot herb to the needles very gently, it'll stimulate and release the moxa and conduct the heat into the acupuncture point.

How does the use of acupuncture impact the health and wellbeing of your dog?

Much of acupuncture can be used for pain management but also general wellness. It helps to move blood and what the Chinese call chi, or qi, through the body. The Chinese believe that there are meridians in the body or channels that carry life's energy. Most of the acupuncture points we use in small animals or humans are tiny corpuscles or places where veins, arteries, and nerves meet. And this is, according to Western standards, a way to help with pain release. The Chinese believe that the meridians run through these corpuscles too. And so it also influences chi, or your overall life's being.

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

Any dog or cat can receive acupuncture at any age.

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

We see a lot of benefit for dogs for intervertebral disc disease, either of the neck, the mid-spine, or the lumbosacral joint. We also see it benefit hip dysplasia and kidney disease.

Would acupuncture complement my dog's current treatments?

It's good adjunctive therapy. We have many patients who may be already on multiple pain medications and aren't seeing complete relief, so we will see an improvement by adding in acupuncture.

How can dog acupuncture be integrated with Western medicine?

We'll often use it in conjunction with medications like Rimadyl or Tramadol, which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or narcotics. So we're giving Western prescribed medication, but using the Chinese perspective in addition.

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

Veterinarians have a good sense of what acupuncture can benefit. So they can guide you if, depending on what medications you've already tried and what your options are, but adjunctive therapies like acupuncture, laser therapy, and physical therapy are great tools.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Acupuncture - FAQs

Dr. Keala Shotwell
The Drake Center

What do I need to do to prepare my dog for acupuncture treatments?

There's really nothing to do other than to bring the pet in. We like to have them relaxed and comfortable. I suppose the one thing not to do is bring them in with wet fur.

What will an acupuncture session be like for my dog? And how long will it last?

We'll bring in a patient. We usually put a big mat on the floor in the exam room and have them stand there. Usually, I'll begin my acupuncture appointment with feeling along the meridians and channels and looking at how the animal moves, what they're here for. I usually have a point prescription already figured out. We've seen the patient or have had a list of records, so I know what I'm going to be treating. I like to see the patient move before I start. Once I place all the needles into the prescribed points, we let them sit there for about 10 minutes. We'll turn the lights off in a nice, restful, dark space, so the pet can relax and be comfortable before we remove the needles and return the dog to you.

Will my dog tolerate acupuncture?

You would be amazed how well most dogs tolerate acupuncture. Some dogs are very needle sensitive. If they're very tender, then maybe acupuncture is not the best choice for them. But I would say that 9 times out of 10, most dogs don't even know that we're putting the needles in. Once the needles are in place, you can just see their bodies relax, and they get very sleepy.

How soon will my dog experience results from acupuncture treatment?

We typically see the maximum effects of the serotonin release and pain reduction at day three post-acupuncture treatment. The treatment can last anywhere from one to four weeks. It's dependent on the dog and what their disease is.

What can I expect after I bring my dog home from acupuncture treatment?

They're usually pretty tired. It's not so much that the needles themselves wipe the dog out. It's that wonderful serotonin release that makes them very relaxed. If you've ever personally had acupuncture, you know it's almost like a massage. It feels terrific, and you just want to go home and take a nap. I tell owners to expect a nice, sleepy pet the rest of the day.

How effective is veterinary acupuncture?

It's very effective. There are specific diseases that we see acupuncture make a tremendous change in how the dog functions and moves. And it can sometimes help reduce the need for some of the other medications that they're on, which would be great for them long-term.

What are the side effects of veterinary acupuncture?

There are really no side effects. I guess the one downside is not all dogs respond the same. You may have some expectations that it's going to work this miracle, and it maybe just gives a moderate effect.

Are there any risks associated with veterinary acupuncture?

No risks at all. As I said, the one thing is perhaps it may not be as effective as you'd hoped. But overall, dogs handle it great. A lot of our patients are regulars for it.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.