Acupuncture for your pet?

When your dog or cat starts to suffer from pain related to arthritis or hip dysplasia, it can be a long process to find a way to help ease the suffering. While traditional pain killers or treatments may work, other pet owners find that their pets don’t do well on the drugs, sometimes developing stomach complaints. This can leave the owner feeling helpless and the pet still in pain.

More veterinarians and owners are turning to chiropractic, acupuncture, herbs and homeopathy to treat cats, dogs, and horses. And it’s becoming more common for veterinarians to train in complementary and alternative treatments. Acupuncture is one of the best known complimentary therapies.

How does it work?
Acupuncture is the insertion of needles into specific points on the body to cause a healing effect. It has been used in China for over 3,000 years. It’s not a cure-all, but pet owners report that it can be very effective. The Association of Veterinary Acupuncturists of Canada states that acupuncture is indicated mainly for functional problems such as those that involve paralysis, noninfectious inflammation (such as allergies), and pain.

Some vets who pform acupuncture will do a treatment in the office, and others will come to your home where your pet is comfortable. Treatments last between 10 and 30 seconds once the needles are inserted, and most commonly are performed 1-3 times a week for 4-6 weeks. Quite often a change in the animal’s condition can be seen after 4-6 treatments.

What are the risks?
The risks associated with acupuncture are rare, which makes it one of the easier complimentary therapies to try. There are a few things to be aware of. Sterile needles should be used, and the practitioner should make careful note of where the needles are inserted – with humans, a stray needle will be easily found and removed, but on pets they can be harder to find due to the animal’s fur.

What should I look for?
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) has released a position statement on complimentary medicine. It states:

  • the use of alternative and complementary medical therapies on animals constitutes the practice of veterinary medicine.
  • these therapies should only be offered in the context of a valid veterinary / client / patient relationship
  • informed client consent must be obtained.
  • clients should be informed of conventional diagnostic and therapeutic options that are applicable and available
  • veterinarians who use alternative and complementary therapies to become adequately trained in their application.

The only organization which certifies veterinarians in acupuncture is the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS), formed and chartered in 1974. You can use their website in order to search for a certified professional in your area. (

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