Acupuncture for Cats and Dogs

Acupuncture is a wonderful technique that stimulates specific points in the body to rectify imbalances, originated some 3500 years ago in China. According to legend, thousands of years ago someone noticed that lame warhorses, when wounded by arrows in certain spots, would stop limping. (Another legend tells a similar tale about humans.) The same spots were stimulated in other lame horses, who also stopped limping.

After the energy pathways of the body were discovered and mapped, it was concluded that any disruption of the energy flow, qi (or chi), caused disease. Placing small needles along exact points on these energy pathways was found to enhance the flow of qi and promote a state of health. So, in essence, acupuncture is simply another means to help the body heal itself. Originally, stone needles were used.Today acupuncturists may choose from among metal needles, heat, pressure, massage, electrical stimulation, injections, (injections can include those prepared in saline from homeopathic remedies), magnets, gold beads, lasers, or any combination of the above.

Human and veterinary acupuncture began separately, using different charts.The human charts show a system of inter-connected pathways (meridians and collaterals) through which flows the energy of the body. Hundreds of acupuncture points are spread throughout these pathways. Identification of animal meridians was less complete, and their points were usually given different names, even when their location and function seemed identical to human ones. Charts were developed primarily for farm animals, especially horses, chickens, pigs, and water buffalo. Today in China, though cats and dogs are treated with acupuncture, the emphasis is still on farm animals. Today acupuncture is frequently made available in veterinary clinics but it was not always that easy to find.

The American Veterinary Medical Association became impressed by research and clinical results and sanctioned further study of acupuncture as a valid method of treatment in 1989. Many holistic veterinarians now embrace this technique in their practice.

The Chinese advocate the holistic approach as a means of preventing disease. They resort to acupuncture and herbs when their preferred methods—meditation, exercise, diet, and massage—have proved insufficient. Although acupuncture, like Western medicine, may be used to treat symptoms alone, the best approach is to correct the underlying imbalances that created the conditions fostering specific diseases.Therefore, most contemporary acupuncturists emphasize a total approach to health which includes first and foremost a natural organic, raw meat and raw bone diet, which is species specific for carnivores.

The basic theory behind this comprehensive system is that the fundamental energy fields that compose the body (as well as all aspects of the universe) manifest two poles which are actually expressions of one whole. The Chinese refer to these poles as yin and yang. They are opposites, not looked upon as good or evil. (Yang is masculine and active, and yin is feminine and passive.) For good health, we need to achieve a proper balance between these two extremes.

Many veterinarians, specializing in dogs and cats who incorporate acupuncture into their practice today reach deeper levels of mastery than the Chinese and I have heard them express that the more you know, the more you don’t know. So they continue to be open and learn the sensitive art of dealing with life forms that don’t have language.

Oriental medicine comes from the insight that ultimately we don’t know how the body works, and nature cannot be explained by the mind. You can’t always go by the recipe. Sometimes an intuitive vet just gets a hunch to put a needle in a certain point without knowing why, then later he or she will read about it and discover how it was appropriate. Ultimately, any improvement seems to be due to a rebalancing of the entire body and mind.

As with homeopathy, it’s important to glean as much information about the dog or cats general habits, attitude, background, and family life before commencing treatment. The placement of the needles may be determined according to such factors as the personality and characteristics of the animal, the time of day the problem occurs, and the kind of weather that makes it worse.

During the physical exam, the anatomy of the dog or cat is examined, as are acupuncture points along the backbone. A specific point may be tender or painful when an animal has a problem with certain organs or the meridians associated with that point. Some veterinary acupuncturists use traditional tests such as blood panels, X rays, and stool tests to help them assess the animal’s condition.

Animal acupuncture is used to treat arthritis, spinal and disc problems, kidney disorders, metabolic imbalances, aging disorders, cataracts, asthma, and allergic dermatitis. It can be helpful in unblocking obstructed urethras in unneutered males and may be used during surgical emergencies (this is rare, however) for shock and respiratory arrest, in treating infertility, and to build immune response. Have your acupuncturist show you how to needle the emergency rescue point known as GV-26; nonbreathing puppies and kittens can sometimes be resuscitated this way.

Acupuncture has also been used in place of an anesthetic; studies have shown that endorphins and enkephalins (the body’s natural pain relievers) are released when certain acupuncture points are stimulated. However, restraining an animal anesthetized by this means is problematic because it does not make him sleepy and is therefore not common place today.

You may wonder how your dog or cat will tolerate acupuncture. Many holistic veterinarians report that dogs and cats who resist treatment on the first session often prove extremely cooperative in subsequent visits. Many times the animal lets the practitioner know where it hurts and then relaxes throughout the treatment. If your dog or cat resists acupuncture, please don’t force he or she to be “needled.” Try just one point and come back another day.

Although acupuncture is performed by stimulating specific points on the body, usually by using needles, they can also be stimulated with a small current, massage, heat, injections, implants, or other methods. I have experienced all of these protocols myself and find them usually quite pleasant. These points have the ability to alter various conditions in the body in order to achieve a desired effect. Acupuncture has been used successfully for nearly 5,000 years on animals as well as humans. As a matter of fact, it is still the treatment of choice for one-quarter of the world’s population for many problems. It is now being utilized by an increasing number of veterinarians for various conditions. It is not a cure-all but, where indicated, it works well.

Some people look askance on acupuncture. The idea that needles can do anything but cause pain is hard to imagine, and the choice of acupuncture points looks like voodoo to some. But I tell people that to me the needles are so fine they are more like a cats whisker then a needle!

Once trained appropriately one can find an acupuncture point by measuring the electrical resistance of the skin. Acupuncture points have a lower electrical resistance than do other points on the body. The resistance is furher changed when there is a problem in the area of the body that the point corresponds to. There are instruments called “point finders,” which are just ohm meters, measuring electrical resistance. These can be used to find and treat acupuncture points.

Another problem that people have in understanding acupuncture is how a point on the hand can have anything to do with something as far away as the heart. Western medicine has already recognized the phenomenon of referred pain, in which a problem in an organ is felt as pain somewhere else. Most people are aware that during a heart attack people often feel pain starting in their shoulder and traveling down the left arm. When cattle have a problem in the reticulum (one of their four stomachs), they feel it as pain in their breastbone area.
Acupuncture points work in a similar way, often showing unusual sensitivity when a corresponding organ is damaged or diseased.

There has been legitimate research by physicians and veterinarians in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe as well as in Asian countries, that has shown specific effects obtained by stimulating speific points.These effects include:

1 decrease of inflammation
2 increase of circulation to an area
3 release of endorphins (body’s natural painkillers)
4 relief of muscle spasms
5 stimulation of the body’s immune system
6 release of hormones
7 release of various substances in the brain and spinal cord

Because of this research, and because of the beneficial results achieved many times over by veterinary acupuncturists, the American Veterinary Medical Association has recognized acupuncture as a valid treatment for animals, when performed by properly trained professionals. Acupuncture works especially well for conditions involving nerves, muscles, bones, and joints.

Arthritis is one of the most common conditions treated by acupuncture. Animals usually have to a veterinarian on numerous occasions and been through all other available treatments, and nothing else is working like it used to so the choice can often be as drastic as acupuncture or euthanasia because everyone sees the dog or cat seems to be suffering. With acupuncture, a high percent are reported to respond well enough that they have an additional year of quality life, sometimes longer, before age catches up with them again. These animals may need continuous treatments as often as once a week to once a month and can be supported brilliantly with a raw food species specific diet and state of the art supplementation, especially with a high quality, cold extracted, organic Omega-3 anti inflammatory marine lipids.

I often recommend acupuncture for people, dogs and cats in my practice.


Kamia T.
Kamia T2 years ago

I would LOVE it if there were a vet within a reasonable driving distance who offered this or any other holistic treatment. Sadly there isn't!

Genoveva M M.
Genoveva M M3 years ago

Thanks for sharing this I interesting information.

Chaaht Aggarwal
Chaaht Aggarwal4 years ago

very nice

Celeste Yarnall
Celeste Yarnall6 years ago

This is fascinating and especially interesting after one of the comments eluded that there was no scientific basis for acupuncture...try this on for size! Now the meridians form a new drug delivery pathway! Everything old and natural will one day replace the harsh chemicals we use today!

Nancy P.
Nancy P6 years ago

I used acupucture on my ailing cat and she is doing beyond what the vet expected. She is unbiased and wouldn't know a placebo effect if it bit her in the arse......

Celeste Yarnall
Celeste Yarnall6 years ago

Acupuncture is often used for human pain relief. I have used it myself with my MD administering the acupuncture. This doctor took 2 years off from his practice to be able to give something natural to his patients. Here is an another article on its benefits..amazing today that people are taking shots at acupuncture after 10,000 years of use...much better track record than our each his own and thank heavens we still have a choice...

Celeste Yarnall
Celeste Yarnall6 years ago

The concept of the patient taking charge of their own healing and sitting at the head of the table was beautifully articulated here by Dr. Lissa...the more we know the better equipped we are to truly heal ourselves even if we have help from specialists, etc.

Rosi Caswell
Rosi Caswell6 years ago

Good article Celeste and spot on. Within The System of Animal Therapy I incorporporate Metaphysics (the underlying causes of ailments beginning within the Energy fields), and put in place tailor made programmes to redress balance within animals and their humans, from the Energy inwards (so to speak) Rosi Caswell Animal/ Human Therapist

Johan Johic
Johan Johic6 years ago

nice ty

Craig Gosling
Craig Gosling6 years ago

The latest scientific papers say acupuncture is no better than an enhanced placebo effect. All the research says there is no such things as meridians and blocked energy lines. Acupuncture has been debunked. Check out the latest scientific papers and books. It has been disproven conclusively!! It is the same as faith healing, you want to believe it works so badly that you ignore the facts. Three cheers for science and reason.