Chances are you’ve come across the term acupuncture at some point. Practiced for thousands of years in China, acupuncture is now used all around the world, either along, or in conjunction with, Western medicine. The practice itself is defined as the insertion of needles into specific points on the body, which will stimulate a healing response.

In Western medical terms, acupuncture can assist the body in healing itself by affecting certain physiological changes. For example, it can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasm, and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body’s pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid). Although many of acupuncture’s physiological effects have been studied, many more are still unknown.

And, while further research must be conducted to discover all of acupuncture’s effects and its proper uses in veterinary medicine, current clinical research is showing positive results in humans AND animals where treatment involves acupuncture. Of course, acupuncture will not cure every condition, but can often provide healing or relief for functional problems. These are often conditions that involve paralysis, noninfectious inflammation, such as allergies, or pain.

Why would your pet need acupuncture?

For our smaller, more furry family members, the following are some of the general conditions which may be treated with veterinary acupuncture:

  • Musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis, intervertebral disk disease, or traumatic nerve injury
  • Respiratory problems, such as feline asthma
  • Skin problems, such as lick granulomas and allergic dermatitis
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea and chronic constipation.
For animals involved in training or high levels of activity, regular veterinary acupuncture treatment can aid minor sprains and strains as they occur, keeping muscles and tendons resistant to injury. If your animals are involved in sports, such as agility or fly-ball, or if your animal just loves to chase a ball at the dog park, acupuncture can help them keep in top physical condition when worked into their training routine.

Will acupuncture be painful for your pet?

For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless and once the needles are in place, there should be no pain. Many animals often become very relaxed and may even become sleepy during treatment.

Nevertheless, acupuncture treatment may cause some sensation, presumed to be tingles, cramps, or numbness, which may be uncomfortable to some pets.

How many treatments will your pet need before seeing results?

As with any type of treatment, the success will vary according to the skill of the veterinarian, the condition being treated, and the number and frequency of acupuncture treatments.

The length and frequency of the treatments depends on the condition of the patient and the method of stimulation – dry needle or electroacupuncture – that is used by the veterinary acupuncturist. A simple acute problem, such as a sprain, may require only one treatment, whereas more severe or chronic ailments may need several treatments.

Is acupuncture safe for your pet?

When administered by a properly trained veterinarian, acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals. But, while side effects are rare, they do exist. Some animals may seem worse for up to 48 hours after a treatment. Others may 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. Your veterinarian will be able to walk you through a recovery schedule based on your pet’s needs.

If acupuncture is a path that might make sense for your fur family and you have any questions, please feel free to contact Dr. Pedersen by phone at 403-999-4822 or email at