Benefits of acupuncture for dogs with arthritis

Acupuncture is an alternative practice that originates from traditional Chinese medicine. Certified veterinarian acupuncturists use this technique to support western medicine practices. Some animal professionals believe that the use of acupuncture on their pet patients helps with their healing and adds to a pet’s recovery. One of the main uses of acupuncture is to help with the management of arthritis in dogs and their pain relief.

Old husky

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What causes arthritis in dogs?

The medical term for arthritis is Osteoarthritis (OA). It’s a complex condition where the joints of our pets become inflamed. This condition can cause our pets to be in serious pain and their quality of life may suffer.

It’s common to believe that only older dogs will end up having arthritis. But, just aging and being a senior dog is unlikely to be the main cause of this chronic condition. Other factors come into play when diagnosing arthritic dogs such as:

How is my dog diagnosed with arthritis?

Your vet will take the factors above into consideration along with a combination of a physical examination and possibly x-rays to accurately diagnose your dog with arthritis. 

If your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms below for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to have them examined by your vet to understand their condition. Many times your dog will be experiencing multiple symptoms from below as their arthritis develops and progresses. 

Trouble getting up and down

You may notice your dog is slowly getting up from the floor or furniture and appears to be in discomfort when doing so and this could be from arthritis pain.

Stiff walking

As you take your dog out for their walk, they may also seem uncomfortable or need a warm-up lap before they start enjoying their walk.

Difficulty going up and/or down stairs

Wes used to just stare at me at the bottom of the stairs as if he was saying “please pick me up and take me up the stairs”. You may notice your dog pausing and staring at you or refusing to go up or down the stairs.

Reluctance to jump up or down, specifically on furniture

The same signs your dog exhibits on the stairs, you may also see when they need to jump on and off the couch or bed.

Wincing when touched in some parts of their body

If you go to pick up your dog and they yelp out, they may be experiencing some stiffness and soreness. Many dogs will be in chronic pain in different areas of their body and it’s difficult to pinpoint what is going on.

Low energy level

Dogs may lay down mid-walk because they are too tired or are feeling some pain in their body.

Sudden and unexpected aggression toward other dogs or humans

When I am in pain, I’m not the happiest person either so can you blame our dogs for feeling upset about their discomfort? 

Be sure to schedule an appointment with your vet if your dog is experiencing any or all of the symptoms above.

Any symptoms we may see in our furry friends can be caused by a variety of conditions. It’s important to examine the symptoms over a few days and document what is happening and when. As mentioned before, most of the time your dog will experience more than one of the symptoms associated with arthritis. It’s important to have those documented when you take your dog to the vet to explain what your concerns are with your dog’s behavior and movement. Your documentation will help determine the best pain management and treatment plan for your dog and get them the pain relief they need.

old dog on bed

What is dog acupuncture?

Acupuncture is correcting the imbalance of energy throughout one’s body for the purpose of healing. A certified veterinary acupuncturist will perform the procedure. You can look up the international veterinary acupuncture society to learn more about their certification, and training to understand more about the effects of acupuncture and its healing response.

During the acupuncture procedure, small needles will be inserted into your dog’s body at specific acupuncture points. These needle insertion points are all over the body and are specifically located in sites called meridians. The meridians are the energy channels that transmit energy throughout the dog’s body. Keep in mind that these are acupuncture needles and are thin needles so don’t be alarmed by the word needle!

Through the specific points, the needles will enhance blood circulation which will help in your dog’s healing ability. Acupuncture also stimulates the nervous system and increases the release of anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving substances which will all support your dog’s recovery and reduce their discomfort.

What are the benefits of acupuncture for my dog?

Since acupuncture helps increase the release of anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving substances, it’s a good alternative to conventional medicine. Acupuncture has had positive results in its ability to provide pain relief for a dog’s arthritis. Below are three great benefits of the treatment.

  1. Improves the joint range of motion in your dog which can help them enjoy their walks.
  2. Reduces back pain which can help your dog with moving themselves up and down stairs.
  3. Support non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or other pain medications your dog may be taking for arthritis. Having multiple pain relievers for your dog when they are feeling discomfort is always a good thing.
little dog walking

How do I find a vet who practices acupuncture?

If you and your regular vet have decided that acupuncture could work for your dog’s discomfort with their arthritis, they likely have a referral to someone who they know and trust. There are some vets who practice both western and new medicine alongside traditional Chinese veterinary medicine. You can head over to google and search your zip code and the word “acupuncture vet” to find one in your area. It’s always great to look at reviews or check recommendations from local pet owners in Facebook groups as well.

Considerations before scheduling acupuncture for your dog

When acupuncture is performed on your dog, the certified vet is using a needle. It’s very small and unlikely to harm your dog. Be sure the vet reviews the side effects with you before the procedure is performed. In most cases, your dog may feel sore in the area that the needle went in, but should resolve itself in a day or two.

Your dog may also feel more tired than usual for a day or two following acupuncture. It’s nothing to be concerned about. They may even just be more relaxed and in less pain and are catching up on some sleep!

Lastly, acupuncture treatments for your dog can be costly. For best results, your dog should have multiple sessions; each session may cost you upwards of $80/session or more. Be sure to read reviews, talk to other pet owners and call a few places for their prices before booking your dog’s session. 

In conclusion:

Regardless of the considerations, acupuncture combined with modern-day medicine for our pups has had great results in improving a dog’s pain. At the end of the day, having our dogs happy and healthy is what matters. I know that we just want to provide them with the best quality of life possible.

I would love to hear if your dog has had acupuncture before and what your experience was like. Please comment below and let everyone know what your experience was like (good/bad, cost, reason, etc.).