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Advice From Dr. Lindsey: What is Acupuncture?

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Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM

Acupuncture is the act of inserting very tiny needles into certain points on a pet to produce a response. The acupuncture points come from Traditional Chinese medicine. These points are well charted in humans and animals. They are often along nerve paths. When an acupuncture point is stimulated, it can stimulate a certain part of the body like a nerve or a muscle or cause the release of hormones like endorphins or cortisol. 

The number one question I get as a certified veterinary acupuncturist is, will it hurt my pet? The answer is no, it might feel funny but it usually doesn’t hurt. The insertion of the needle is painless for most pets. After the needles are inserted, some pets may even become sleepy! Humans have reported some tingling or cramping sensations with various acupuncture treatments which I could imagine could be uncomfortable or weird for some pets. Side effects of acupuncture are rare but possible. Some side effects include mild redness or swelling at the needle insertion site, mild worsening of the condition for a short time after a treatment, or difficulty removing a needle due to a muscle spasm.

Acupuncture can be beneficial for many different conditions. Personally, I have had the best success with it for helping with pain or paralysis conditions like arthritis, degenerative joint disease, intervertebral disc disease etc. It’s important to have a proper medical diagnosis prior to starting acupuncture therapy. Acupuncture can be combined with other traditional and alternative therapies. The length and frequency of treatment depends on the condition being treated.

For more information about acupuncture, check out the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (


Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.