Acupuncture for Dogs and Cats

by Gary Le Mon

Acupuncture for Dogs

Veterinarians trained in acupuncture for dogs and cats are seeing an uptick in treatment sessions lately.

Popular demand for this legendary alternative medicine is growing on par with the whole “green pet” movement that’s sweeping the planet.

Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Using small needles to penetrate the skin, the treatment stimulates the flow of Qi or life force energy.

Clinical veterinary practices offering traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM) often include acupressure, Chinese herbs, and food energy therapy.

Veterinary acupuncture is used to help treat a number of clinical conditions including

  • Gastrointestinal disorders, diarrhea
  • Respiratory problems, kennel cough
  • Neurological disorders, chronic pain
  • Musculoskeletal disorders, hip dysplasia
  • Reproductive, endocrine, and metabolic disorders
  • Immunosuppressive and allergic disorders
  • Dermatologic disorders
  • Urinary disorders
  • Emergency procedures such as cardiac and respiratory arrest

Look for certification

The American Veterinary Medical Association acknowledges acupuncture for dogs and cats as alternative therapy, but it is not offered in most veterinary hospitals. More favorable advocates of acupuncture for dogs and cats, including a holistic vet finder for your area, can be viewed at the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association’s website.

There are veterinarians specializing in acupuncture, and there are acupuncturists working their healing powers on people and animals alike. In order to ensure the highest standard of care for your pet, it is suggested that you work with a licensed veterinarian that can properly administer acupuncture treatments. The Chi Institute is a good credential to look for in veterinary acupuncture training and certification.

What to expect

Practitioners of acupuncture for animals should have sterile equipment, clean facilities, and the proper documentation to operate in your area. Always schedule a consultation first to discuss how the procedure works, learn about their professional background and experience, and then determine if it’s the right fit for you and your pet.

An acupuncture session will usually last for 30 minutes to an hour. The needles are a few inches long and are inserted only a few millimeters. They are completely sterile to prevent the spread of disease.

Once the needles have been placed into the skin they will remain there for about 20 minutes. The process of inserting the needles is typically not painful, but there can be some initial discomfort. Dogs and cats will usually just sit there during the session or even fall asleep in some cases. Most pets can tolerate the procedure as they experience very little pain or discomfort, but some of them can get restless. A family member should be present during the procedure to help the pet feel safe and at ease.

The cost of an acupuncture session for a dog or cat will typically run between $75 and $150 each. Treatment can easily involve 6 or more sessions depending on the health problem being treated. Acupuncture is not cheap compared to other types of veterinary medicine, which is yet another factor to consider. 

Is it right for your pet?

Acupuncture for dogs and cats is growing in popularity, but the real question is whether or not it is effective for your dog or cat. There are few concrete answers and there have been very few studies regarding acupuncture for dogs and cats.

Many pet lovers have reported their pets showed significant signs of improvement after treatments while others have said they noticed little or no difference. The decision to begin an acupuncture regimen for your pet is a matter you should discuss with a veterinarian educated in alternative medical treatments including TCVM.

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