Acupuncture is a form of alternative therapy that can be used for treating (or rather, improving the clinical manifestations of) some painful conditions in people. But does it work for dogs? Can your canine friend benefit from having needles stuck in specific areas of his body?
We’re answering this question in today’s post and also looking at the potential benefits of acupuncture and whether it does indeed work for dogs.
Does acupuncture work for pets?
Yes and no. Not every pet responds the same to acupuncture, and it can’t be used to alleviate the pain of all conditions. While it might work for degenerative joint disease, for example, or nerve pain, it might not work for improving the symptoms of metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
As you probably know, every dog is different, and not just in terms of size. Yes, for some of our canine buddies, acupuncture can make a lot of difference in terms of improving their quality of life.
But it might not be the same for every dog out there. This is what pet parents should understand first and foremost.
Moreover, we’d like to add that since it is an alternative type of treatment, you should always talk to your veterinarian before taking your pooch to an acupuncture specialist.
Some conditions might call for synthetic drugs in order to have your pooch’s pain levels lowered — and nothing else might be able to work.
Finally, a correct diagnosis is the best thing possible and only your vet can help you get it and understand what the appropriate therapies for your dog’s conditions might be.
What conditions might acupuncture improve?
Acupuncture cannot treat the primary disease. This means that if your dog is diagnosed with cancer, acupuncture is effectively incapable of treating it — your pet needs to be treated through surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.
However, this alternative treatment definitely proves its worth in minimizing the discomfort that a dog with cancer might feel, either due to the disease itself and its clinical manifestations or due to the side effects that some cancer-treating drugs might have.
Here is a list of conditions whose symptoms acupuncture could improve (your pet might respond to this type of therapy):
- Arthritis and other joint diseases (pain and lack of mobility)
- Surgery (anxiety and pain)
- Cancer (nausea, pain, loss of energy, appetite loss due to cancer treatments)
- Cushing’s syndrome or Addison’s disease
- Bone, muscle, or nerve lesions due to trauma
- Allergies (it could decrease your dog’s tendency to scratch his/her skin)
- Idiopathic epilepsy (it could decrease the frequency of seizures)
What conditions shouldn’t acupuncture be used for?
Almost any acute disease requires medical assistance and treatments that involve actual medications rather than alternative therapies, at least in the beginning.
For example, if your dog was involved in an accident such as being hit by a car, taking your pet to the emergency vet clinic is definitely the best way of going about things.
There, the dog will receive glucose, fluids, and pain relievers (not to mention drugs for the inflammation) through an IV, and if an internal hemorrhage is diagnosed, they might have to be operated on.
In a situation like this, you shouldn’t even consider alternative therapies. Your dog’s life is at risk, and every minute counts, and this is what every responsible veterinarian that also specializes in acupuncture will tell you.
Other diseases that acupuncture is virtually worthless in treating are infectious ones. If your dog was not vaccinated against Distemper or Parvo and they come in contact with an infected animal and get the pathogen, there is no amount of acupuncture in the world that might be able to treat them. These two are viral diseases that can be particularly deadly for puppies.
Even bacterial infections do not respond to acupuncture, not to mention fungal ones.
Acupuncture should be used in instances where it has been recommended by your vet, and they have referred you to a specialist.
Do not forget that acupuncture specialists that perform it on humans cannot do the same for pets as they would have to know exactly where to stick the needles so as not to produce nerve damage or even more discomfort. They have to have excellent knowledge of a dog’s anatomy.
How many acupuncture sessions does my dog need?
Giving a clear answer to this question is impossible. The number of sessions depends on your dog’s specific health status and the condition whose symptoms have to be improved.
For example, if a dog has cancer, they might have to be taken for 2-3 weekly acupuncture sessions just to keep the pain under control.
If you have a fairly healthy 7 to 8-year-old dog and he/she has incipient arthritis, only one session per week for a period of several months might relieve pain for half a year.
Vets often recommend acupuncture alongside a number of other alternative therapies, such as physiotherapy, laser therapy, or administering supplements that can increase your dog’s mobility and decrease their pain levels — such as chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, shark cartilage powders or even CBD oils.
Some dogs might also have to receive typical medicine such as NSAIDs for the pain, especially during the first acupuncture sessions. Pets always receive customized treatment recommendations from their vets.
Asking your vet whether acupuncture is an option
In the past several years, many pet parents have focused on making their canine companion’s life better in a natural way. And while this is great for their health on the whole, sometimes their condition might not make it possible for them to be treated with alternative therapies.
If your vet feels that acupuncture is worth considering, they will most likely recommend it to you. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but you should know that in some diseases (such as those we’ve mentioned above), it will not have any effect on dogs.
On the other hand, if you feel that your vet is unreasonably reluctant about recommending acupuncture for your dog (who might have arthritis, for example), getting a second opinion doesn’t hurt.