College of Veterinary Medicine

Pet Health Topics

Veterinary Acupuncture 


dalmation puppyThis information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.

Despite the fact many of its practices are thousands of years old, Eastern, or non-traditional, medicine is becoming more popular today than ever. Acupuncture is one specialized facet of non-traditional medicine that not only entered the mainstream; it’s become a treatment option for our pets.

“The specific origin of acupuncture is uncertain,” said Rodney Bagley, a veterinary neurosurgeon. “No one knows if it originally came from China, Korea, or India but it’s widely held that the Chinese perfected it.” Dr. Bagley recently completed a three-week certification course learning veterinary acupuncture techniques.

The specific mechanism of how acupuncture works is uncertain. Theories include stimulation of the release of natural chemicals with in the body or stimulation of neuromechanical mechanisms that diminish pain and promote healing. Local micro-trauma from the needle itself may also play a role.

There are more than 150 acupuncture points on a dog’s body with 50-100 of those points being most commonly used. Overall, acupuncture is based on a principle of restoring balance with in the body.

Veterinary ailments acupuncture is most commonly used for are pain management and diseases of the liver, kidney, and skin. Generally, acupuncture treatments are combined with traditional approaches to healing such as physical therapy or the use of medications.

Just as with any medical treatment, acupuncture has innate risks associated with it. According to Dr. Bagley “There is always potential for site infection, but that’s rare because the needles used are small. Acupuncture’s effect on animals is usually positive or none at all. There have been some studies that showed it increased the growth of certain forms of cancer so it shouldn’t be used in those circumstances.”

Veterinary acupuncture isn’t widely available yet. If you think it could benefit your pet ask your veterinarian for more information or a referral.

Acupuncture isn’t a panacea, but it’s another tool to treat ailments and enhance the quality of our pet’s lives. Despite the amazing scientific advances in veterinary medicine, one of the most exciting new treatments may be thousands of years old.

This Pet Health Topic was written by Sarah Hoggan, Washington State University, Class of 2001.

Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.


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Last Edited: Dec 16, 2014 3:57 PM   

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