How Does Acupuncture Work?

The insertion of small sterile needles elicits a positive effect on the body by stimulating the central nervous system. Animal acupuncture has been shown to release the body’s own natural pain relieving chemicals (endogenous opioids), in addition to increasing blood flow and stimulating proper nerve function. By choosing specific points, acupuncture allows the body to help heal itself. Research has proven its effects on treating orthopedic disease, stimulating the neurological and immune system, and aiding in the treatment of organ dysfunction.  Because we are trying to elicit a specific body response, it is important to start with an accurate medical diagnosis. Research continues to uncover the many complex mechanisms of action and applications for medical acupuncture.

Indications for Acupuncture

It is important to understand that acupuncture does not cure every disease and has varying success based on individual pets depending on their condition. Some conditions may require up to 3 treatments before noticeable results occur.  Animal acupuncture can be used as an adjunct therapy with other medications, or can be used in situations when medical therapy is not enough or not suitable for a particular patient. 

Is it Safe?

Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment available when administered by a properly trained veterinarian. Acupuncture needles are designed to be extremely small so that the insertion is virtually painless . Many patients become relaxed and sometimes fall asleep during treatments.  Side effects are rare and short acting. Some conditions may worsen for up to 48 hours after treatment, but are usually followed by improvement of signs. Some patients may be lethargic or sleepy for up to 24 hours after treatment.


Chiropractic care is used to restore motion to "stuck" joints. Lack of motion in joints causes pain and inflammation along with secondary soft tissue soreness. This can be observed as subtle signs of muscle soreness or slight decreased performance. 

When a joint is "stuck" a chiropractor would use the term 'subluxation' which can be confusing. It may be perceived as the joint being "out" or "out of place". But it is meant to mean a joint that is stuck in its normal range of motion. 

The normal motion is restored with a high velocity, low amplitude force to one specific joint. While palpating some areas may be uncomfortable for the animal, the actual adjustment is more alarming/surprising. Dogs may whine or cry and horses may try to kick or bite. After the adjustment all animals feel great! 

When looking for an animal chiropractor, you should ensure you are using a licensed veterinarian or doctor of chiropractic. Either should be specially trained in animal chiropractic and be able to explain how your animals treatment in a way you understand. 


What does Acupuncture/Chiropractic Help?

Acupuncture is Commonly Used For...

  • Musculoskeletal issues including osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc disease, soft-tissue injury, sore backs, downer cow syndrome, relieve muscle spasms and more. 
    • Regular acupuncture can also be uses on for sport horses and dogs to maintain peak performance for show or working animals. 
  • Neurological disorders such as nerve paralysis or acute nerve injury
    • Additionally, it can be helpful for epilepsy and other seizure disorders. 
  • Metabolic diseases 
    • Renal/Kidney failure in cats and dogs
    • Liver disorders
    • Urinary issues
  • Cardiac and Respiratory issues
    • Cardiac arrhythmias
    • Adjunct treatment for heart failure and respiratory problems
    • Feline Asthma or Equine Heaves
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
    • Irritable Bowl Disease (IBD)
    • Diarrhea
    • Gastric ulcers
    • Chronic colic in horses
    • Can help with nausea and stimulate appetite (this can be a helpful adjunct treatment for pets going through cancer treatment
  • Skin problems
    • Allergies
    • Atopy
    • Skin infections
    • Anhydrosis- difficulty sweating
  • Selected Ophthalmic disorders
  • Selected Reproductive/Fertility and Production issues

Learn More

To learn more or find out if acupuncture would be a helpful adjunctive therapy for your pet please give us a call. We would be happy to talk with you about your pets specific case. 

Acupuncture Video

People often ask if acupuncture is painful. The answer is NO. It shouldn’t be. The needles are very small and placed in specific locations to stimulate the nervous system but as to not cause pain. Many patients will allow the placement of 20-40 needles based on their specific therapy and may even fall asleep during their treatment.


Check out this great video

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