Acupuncture for dogs and cats

July 24, 2022 - 3 min read

This article was written for the United Kingdom market and the advice provided may not be accurate for those in the United States.

dog acupuncture
dog acupuncture

Acupuncture involves inserting small needles into strategic points around your cat or dog’s body to help with chronic pain.

This complementary therapy is usually used alongside conventional veterinary treatments to help your pet heal.

How can I get acupuncture for my dog or cat?

By law, only a veterinary surgeon is allowed to perform acupuncture on your pet.

If your own vet doesn’t offer it, they should be able to refer you to a veterinary acupuncture specialist near you that can offer these services.

Does acupuncture work for dogs?

There’s very little evidence on whether acupuncture for animals works or not. The nature of the therapy means it’s very hard to create a placebo effect to test effectiveness.

There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that acupuncture for dogs and cats has benefits. It’s also non-invasive and many dogs seem to find the treatment relaxing.

A 2020 study of 72 dogs with osteoarthritis concluded that: “Acupuncture did not improve weight-bearing on the primarily affected limb, increase activity as measured by accelerometry, or improve subjective orthopaedic scores; however, an owner-perceived improvement in pain and function was identified.”

The benefits of acupuncture for dogs and cats

Despite the lack of hard evidence in its favour, lots of pet owners and vets do report success with using acupuncture to:

  • Improve circulation

  • Help muscles relax

  • Reduce inflammation

  • Increase speed of healing

There are a few conditions that acupuncture seems particularly beneficial for:

Arthritis – Arthritis and joint inflammation is one of the most common reasons a vet will recommend acupuncture for a dog or cat. By providing more natural pain relief it could reduce the amount of medicated pain relief the animal needs. Acupuncture is also sometimes used for pain relief in dogs with hip dysplasia.

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) and chronic spinal pain – IVDD is most commonly seen in dachshunds but can also affect larger dogs like German Shepherds and Labradors. Acupuncture can be used to relieve pain in dogs recovering from spinal surgery for IVDD, or to manage pain for dogs that can’t have surgery.

Allergies – It’s not just muscle and nerve pain that acupuncture’s used for. Some vets offer it to treat pain caused by serious skin allergies. They might also aim to stimulate acupressure points thought to stimulate the immune system.

Cancer – immune system acupuncture points might also be targeted for dogs and cats with cancer. Again, it can also be used for pain relief.

Epilepsy, seizures and neurological problems – Sometime acupuncture is used to stimulate the nerves. To reduce seizures, acupuncture needles are used on points around the head and ears.

Kidney disease – Chronic kidney disease is fairly common in cats and acupuncture can be used here too. It’s thought to stimulate blood flow to the kidneys to improve renal function.

Acupuncture for any of these conditions will usually support your vet's medical care plan. Online pharmacies are convenient, affordable and deliver quickly. Before you pay for your prescription in-person, investigate dispensers online too.

What are the side effects of acupuncture in dogs

Although acupuncture is a non-invasive treatment, there are sometimes side effects at the points where the needles are inserted, including:

  • Soreness

  • Bruising

  • A small amount of bleeding

Some owners report their dogs seem worse after acupuncture or more tired, but this is rare. On the whole acupuncture is considered safe, with few side effects.

How much does acupuncture for dogs and cats cost?

How much does acupuncture for dogs and cats cost?

In July 2022 we checked the prices of 12 vets around the UK offering acupuncture and the average cost of a session was £46.58.

The price of acupuncture for cats and dogs varied quite a lot. The cheapest sessions we found is £40 and the most expensive is £70.

You’ll usually also have to have an initial assessment and introductory session which is generally more expensive. The average cost for this is £67.44.

Derri Dunn
Content marketer

Derri is a personal finance and insurance writer and editor. After seven years covering all things motoring and banking at GoCompare, Derri joined ManyPets in 2021 to focus on pet health. She has fostered cats and kittens for Blue Cross and Cats Protection and is owned by tabby cat Diggory and two badly behaved dogs.