Acupuncture and Your Pet

By Debbie Kung, DAOM, LAc – March 1, 2021

Our pets are our best friends, loving companions, family and fur angels. And, like humans, they can get sick and suffer from similar ailments, too.

Chinese Medicine is as great for pets as it is for humans. Animals also have Qi (energy life force) that runs through their bodies, just as humans do. Incorporating acupuncture and herbal remedies into a pet’s life can be beneficial for post-surgical recovery, aging issues (such as arthritis) and anxiety. On pets, acupuncture treatment can help ease pain, strengthen joints and ensure a high quality of life. 

Acupuncture on pets can have a plethora of therapeutic effects on a wide variety of animal conditions:

  • Musculoskeletal/neurological: acute or chronic pain, osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc disease
  • Dermatological: lick granulomas, allergies, chronic skin disorders
  • Respiratory: asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, chronic cough
  • Gastrointestinal: inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, vomiting
  • Urinary: chronic renal failure, cystitis, incontinence
  • Autoimmune diseases, cancer, reproductive, behavioral, geriatric issues, etc.

Pet Acupuncture FAQ 

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself. For example, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasm and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (the body’s own pain modulator) and cortisol (a natural steroid).

Is it painful for the animals?

For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. The needles used are very thin (hair-like thin). Once they are in place, there should be no pain (unless the animal moves around excessively). Most animals become very relaxed and may even become sleepy. Nevertheless, acupuncture treatment may cause some temporary sensation such as tingles, cramps or numbness — similar to human treatment — and can be uncomfortable to some animals.

Is acupuncture safe for animals?

Acupuncture is considered a safe and effective form of medical treatment when it is administered by a trained (certified) veterinarian and licensed acupuncturist. 

Side effects of acupuncture are rare but possible. An animal’s condition may seem worse for up to 48 hours after treatment. Other animals may become sleepy or lethargic for 24 hours after acupuncture. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are happening and they are, most of the time, followed by an improvement in the pet’s condition.

How long do acupuncture treatments last, and how often are they given?

The length and frequency of acupuncture treatments depend on the condition being treated and the method of stimulation used. Stimulation of an individual acupuncture point may take as little as 10 seconds or as much as 30 minutes. A simple acute problem, such as a sprain, may require only one treatment, whereas more severe or chronic conditions may need multiple treatments. When this is the case, treatments usually begin intensively and are tapered to maximum efficiency. 

Just like humans, patients often start with 1-2 treatments per week for 4-6 weeks. A positive response is usually seen after the first to third treatments. Once the optimum response is achieved, treatments are tapered off based on symptoms. Some animals with chronic conditions can taper off to 2-4 treatments per year.

When you do get your pet treated with acupuncture and herbs, be sure that your practitioner is licensed in both acupuncture and veterinary medicine. In the state of Texas, both are required in order to treat animals.

Debbie Kung, DAOM, LAc., is a Board-certified NCCAOM licensed Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Kung practices TCM modalities such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, Gua Sha, cupping, auricular acupuncture, specializing in stress management, cosmetic facial rejuvenation, pain management, Lyme disease, fertility treatments/IVF support, Bell’s palsy, esoteric acupuncture, sports medicine acupuncture, and the battlefield/NADA protocol. Kung is currently practicing in both Austin, Texas and New York City. IG: @kung_acu


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