Acupuncture is an ancient medical art, which has been used for over 2000 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In fact, it used to be taught in European Veterinary schools until the early 1800s, but with advances in modern medicine its use declined. In more recent years, there has been a return to acupuncture for the treatment of animal disease.

Acupuncture involves placing needles into certain points on the body surface in order to stimulate these points. This in turn stimulates the body to heal itself form within, without the use of drugs. As well as its well-known pain killing effects, acupuncture is also known to actually stimulate the immune system of an animal. A great deal of research has been done to try and establish in modern medical terms, how acupuncture can do this. Although we can only partially explain how it works, the fact remains that in many cases it does, even if we don’t know why!

Acupuncture can be of great use in chronic illness that has not responded to conventional forms of medicine, and for long-term pain relief. It is also useful in cases where surgery is contraindicated, or too expensive, and in animals that react badly to some conventional drugs. Some drugs such as steroids interfere with acupuncture treatment and an animal may need to be weaned off them for the treatment to work.

An acupuncture consultation lasts approximately 30 minutes. In this time, the animal is examined, and its condition is discussed with the owner. Needles are then placed in the appropriate acupuncture points. The needles are stainless steel and very fine. They are usually tolerated well by the animal, producing relaxation in many cases. The needles are then removed after about 10 to 15 minutes.

Further sessions can be arranged depending on your animal’s response to the treatment. A response may not be seen for several days after the treatment. The effects of acupuncture are cumulative and often a better response is seen after each additional treatment. Unfortunately, about 10% of animals will not improve after acupuncture, and if, after 3 to 4 treatments, no response at all is seen, then it is unlikely that a result will be achieved. In animals that do respond, additional sessions 1 to 2 weeks apart are initially required. Booster sessions may then be necessary every 6 – 8 weeks after that.

Nervous or very fractious animals unfortunately, are poor candidates for acupuncture treatment. This is because the adrenaline release in the body caused by their fear will actually overcome any potential benefit of the acupuncture. However, in some cases, sedation or anaesthesia can be used to enable the treatment to be carried out.

Acupuncture is not a replacement for conventional medicine, nor can it claim to be a treatment for every type of disease.  It often works best in cases where conventional treatment has produced a poor result. Diseases which can often be treated beneficially by acupuncture, include:

Arthritis and hip dysplasia             Sore backs and necks

Paralysis/Paresis                           Incontinence

Some respiratory problems              Lick granuloma

Some skin conditions                       Chronic non-specific vomiting

Allergies                                       Keratoconjunctivitis (Dry Eye)

Chronic sinusitis or gingivitis          Feline cystitis and lower urinary tract disease

Vestibular syndrome (Stroke)         Any chronic painful condition

Your veterinary surgery will be able to advise you whether they offer acupuncture and they will be happy to discuss your pet’s needs in depth with you. Prices will vary from surgery to surgery.


With very special thanks to The Daily Mews' very own veterinary practice (Pet Care) for the information sheet on acupuncture.

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