A French Bulldog with acupuncture needles inserted throughout its body.

Is Acupuncture Right for Your Pet?

Acupuncture has been practiced for over 2,000 years and can be a helpful tool to add to your pet’s treatment toolbox. Veterinary acupuncture is performed by veterinarians with advanced training in Eastern medical diagnosis and treatment. Along with your general practitioner’s care, acupuncture can be added to help with chronic, painful, or complicated disease processes.

The Benefits of Acupuncture: Great for Neck and Back Pain

Veterinary acupuncture has been researched thoroughly and is evidence-based. The most common and effective disease process it can address is intervertebral disc disease, or a slipped disc, in the neck or back. Pets that have slipped discs that cause chronic pain tend to respond best to a form of acupuncture, called electroacupuncture, where a small electric current is passed between two acupuncture needles in a location chosen by your veterinarian. This treatment decreases pain and can help with improvement in pets that have difficulty walking or dragging their feet. This treatment can be used in lieu of spinal surgery or can be used in conjunction with recent spinal surgery.

Other disease processes that acupuncture has been shown to help with include: chronic pain associated with arthritis, seizure disorders, skin allergies and in some respiratory conditions, such as feline asthma. If your pet is suffering from a chronic disease process, talk to your veterinarian about whether incorporating acupuncture in the treatment plan would be recommended.

Acupuncture & Your Pet

Acupuncture can be used in almost any disease process including gastrointestinal, neurologic, metabolic, and behavioral diseases. Aggressive or fearful pets are still candidates for acupuncture, as the treatment can be modified for minimal handling (quickly inserting needles or inserting fewer needles) or long-lasting treatment, such as aqua-acupuncture (injecting saline or vitamin B12 at a site can last longer at those sites). Pets do not need to be fasted prior to acupuncture treatments, and can be fed treats to keep them calm or distracted during the appointment. Most veterinary acupuncturists encourage you to remain with your pet throughout the entire treatment. At least three appointments are recommended to see if your pet, and their specific disease, will respond to treatment, although cats can sometimes respond to acupuncture more quickly. Electroacupuncture should not be performed across the heart in pets with heart disease, or in pets with seizure disorders. Certain acupoints should not be used in pregnant pets.

Where to Find an Acupuncturist

Ask your local veterinarian if they practice acupuncture and, if not, if they have a preferred Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist that they can recommend. Both the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine have directories on their websites that contain certified veterinary acupuncturists in your region.


Still, J. Analgesic effects of acupuncture in thoracolumbar disc disease in dogs. J Small Anim Pract. 1989;30:298–301.