Veterinary Acupuncture – it’s not just for the birds!


September is National Pain Awareness Month which means that the spotlight is on chronic pain and ways that we can prevent and/or stop it. Did you know that just like people, animals can feel chronic pain?

What type of disease processes cause pain? I think one of the more obvious answers to this question is arthritis pain. Arthritis affects one in five adult dogs in the United States. Contrary to popular belief, arthritis isn’t just for the old! It can start at a young age, particularly in pets that are overweight. We will discuss overweight pets in a later post. Other sources of chronic pain in animals can be things like cancer, broken bones, allergies, dental disease, and muscle strains, just to name a few.


There are many approaches to pain management in animals. We can medically manage pain with daily medications like anti-inflammatories. We can supplement anti-inflammatory factors in the body with daily supplements like fish oil, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and vitamin E. We can also provide treatments that help to reduce the source of pain and secondary side effects of it through alternative approaches like acupuncture, chiropractics, herbal medicine, and cold laser therapy.


Some might say that acupuncture and other associated holistic methods are for the birds. I was trained in acupuncture in a method that is anatomy based – focusing on the groups of nerves that are communicating pain from various parts of the body to the brain. When thinking about acupuncture in this way, it becomes less of an obscure science and more of a understandable treatment method.


Acupuncture can be used for a wide variety of animal ailments.

Acupuncture can be used for a wide variety of animal ailments. Scientific studies have well documented the benefits of acupuncture in cancer patients, cranial cruciate ligament injury (aka ACL injury), intervertebral disk disease, and other surgical patients. Other areas where Acupuncture can also be useful is with kidney disease, lack of appetite, diarrhea, and respiratory changes, among others.

Many people ask if the acupuncture needles hurt the animals when they are being placed. The truth is, the needles are so small, they are barely able to be sensed. When in doubt, a little food treat usually acts as a good distraction, too!


The other common question I receive about acupuncture is what types of animals can receive the treatments? My answer is always all of them! I’m certified to perform acupuncture on small, large, and exotic animals. I have treated several dogs and cats, birds, reptiles, and even a giraffe! A few of my patients are pictured below – can you spot the acupuncture needles on each of them?


Do you have other questions about acupuncture that were not answered? Post them below!

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