Could acupuncture cure your ailing pet? -

Acupuncture for your pets

Acupuncture is an alternative therapy used to treat everything from anxiety to aches and pains, and now it is being used on pets.

Before you bring your dog or cat anywhere near those tiny needles, there are a few things you should consider first about animal acupuncture.

Acupuncture is the practice of using tiny needles carefully tapped to 're-balance' the flow of energy through the furriest member of your family.

Animal acupuncturists, like Veterinarian Kim Hombs, claim they can treat everything from behavioral problems to paralysis using this ancient form of therapy.

"The beauty of acupuncture, not only does it give pain relief, but you're also doing something to actually help heal and nourish those tissues," Hombs says.

The practice can be used on dogs, cats, bunnies and birds, just to name a few.

"It's a little trickier and you have to be a little quicker and the 'cook time,' the time you leave the needles in, is much shorter," Hombs says.

Advocates for alternative medicine believe that sickness is caused by blocked energy in the body.  

"What you're doing with the acupuncture needles, at very precise points, is opening up those channels for that energy to flow," Hombs says.

She says acupuncture is sort of like flipping on a switch along the nervous system and activating the nervous system.

But does animal acupuncture actually work?   

Most sessions range between $40 to $80 per visit. Hombs says the results may not be immediate and may require several treatments.

Nevertheless, she says you should be able to see improved behavior and movement in your pet within time.

Acupuncture has its share of critics for both humans and pets alike.

If you decide to try it, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society recommends making sure whoever is adjusting your pets is a licensed veterinarian and also has formal training in veterinary acupuncture.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, which represents more than 78,000 veterinarians, does not endorse animal acupuncture as a specialty, but it does recognize the growing interest in and use of alternative treatments for animals.

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Additional Information:

Click here to access a directory compiled by the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture to find an acupuncturist near you.

The following information is from The Washington Post in an article entitled "Pet acupuncture more popular as practice becomes more mainstream" (Source:

  • Membership to the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture has increased by about 600 over the past ten years.
  • Veterinary acupuncture was approved as an "alternate therapy" in 1988 by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
  • Maryland is the only state that allows non-veterinarians to practice acupuncture. Licensed acupuncturists are permitted to treat pets after obtaining an additional 140-hour certification in animal acupuncture.
  • Animal acupuncturists say they can treat an array of maladies, from emotional trauma to stomach woes or a hind-limb paralysis.
  • The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society has trained 6,000 veterinarians worldwide in animal acupuncture since 1974.
  • Some critics say acupuncture is an unproven treatment, for both pets and humans.
  • The American Medical Association takes no specific position on acupuncture, but says that "there is little evidence to confirm the safety or efficacy of most alternative therapies." It says more "stringently controlled research should be done" to determine whether it is useful.

The following information is from National Geographic in an article entitled "Animal Acupuncture: More Pets Get the Point" (Source:

  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that acupuncture is an effective treatment for a host of ailments in animals. But researchers still understand relatively little about why and how this alternative therapy works.
  • The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture in Hygiene, Colorado, says that acupuncture can treat ailments ranging from hip dysplasia and chronic degenerative joint disease to respiratory, gastrointestinal, neurological and urinary tract disorders.
  • Vets most commonly apply acupuncture to cats, dogs, cows and horses. But they also can treat pets like birds, ferrets and rabbits.
  • Veterinarians in the United States have practiced acupuncture since the early 1970s. The demand for acupuncture services has increased over the last decade, and it is raising fewer eyebrows from skeptical colleagues, practitioners say.
  • Acupuncture has been practiced on humans in China for more than 4,500 years. The first use of acupuncture on animals can be traced to the western Jin dynasty period of China from 136 to 265 A.D.
  • In this early form, sharp stones were used to cut and bleed specific locations on horses and other large working animals.
  • Traditional eastern medicine explains acupuncture as a method to assess and rebalance the flow of energy, that travels along 12 main linear pathways, or meridians, in the body. Sickness comes from blocks or imbalance in the body's energy.
  • To correct these imbalances, small needles, inserted in any number of 365 basic acupuncture points, redirect the flow of energy and restore the body to health.
  • The West explains acupuncture by pointing out that most of the body's 365 main acupuncture points are located at clusters of nerves and blood vessels. Stimulating these areas triggers a host of local and general physiological effects, leveraging the body's own healing power.
  • Studies have shown that acupuncture can increase blood flow, lower heart rate and improve immune function.

The following information is from the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society in an article entitled "Veterinary Acupuncture" (Source:

  • Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into specific body points in order to produce a healing response.
  • The technique has been used in veterinary practices in China for thousands of years.
  • Acupuncture can help with paralysis, noninfectious inflammation (ex: allergies) and pain.
  • Small animals may be treated for musculoskeletal problems (arthritis, disk disease, nerve injury), skin problems, gastrointestinal problems (diarrhea), reproductive problems.
    Large animals may be treated for musculoskeletal problems (sore backs), neurological problems, skin problems, respiratory problems (heaves), gastrointestinal problems and some reproductive problems.
  • For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. The larger needles necessary for large animals may cause some pain as the needle passes through the skin. In all animals, once the needles are in place, there should be no pain.
  • Side effects of acupuncture are rare, but they do exist. An animal's condition may seem worse for up to 48 hours after a treatment. Other animals become lethargic or sleepy for 24 hours. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the animal's condition.
  • The length and frequency of the treatments depends on the condition of the patient and the method of stimulation (dry needle, electroacupuncture, aquapuncture, etc.) that is used by the veterinary acupuncturist.
  • Acupuncture should never be administered without a proper veterinary medical diagnosis and an ongoing assessment of the patient's condition by a licensed veterinarian. This is critical because acupuncture is capable of masking pain or other clinical signs and may delay proper veterinary medical diagnosis once treatment has begun. Elimination of pain may lead to increased activity on the part of the animal, thus delaying healing or causing the original condition to worsen.
  • Your veterinary acupuncturist must be a licensed veterinarian and should have formal training in the practice of veterinary acupuncture.
  • Because of the differences in anatomy, and the potential for harm if the treatments are done incorrectly, only a properly trained veterinarian should perform acupuncture on animals. The proper training for a veterinarian would include an extensive post-doctoral educational program in veterinary acupuncture.

The following information is from The New York Times in an article entitled "Old Dog, New Trick: Acupuncture" (Source:

  • The American Veterinary Medical Association, an organization that represents 76,000 veterinarians nationwide, does not keep track of how many of its members practice acupuncture and does not recognize acupuncture as a specialty. However, the organization does recognize the interest in and use of alternative therapies like acupuncture.


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