What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the practice of inserting fine needles into specific acupuncture points around the body. This relieves pain by blocking pain signals to the brain and encouraging the body to release endorphins (natural pain killers). 

Acupuncture should only be carried out by a vet, and ideally one who has received training from or is a member of the Association of British Veterinary Acupuncturists (ABVA)

How can acupuncture help my pet?

Although acupuncture has been used in Chinese and other Eastern cultures for thousands of years, the acupuncture used in animals is known as Western Scientific Acupuncture. This has been studied extensively in people, and there is good evidence† for its effectivity as a pain relief method in pets as well. Acupuncture is most commonly used to manage pain, such as from arthritis, but can also be used to help abdominal conditions such as constipation, cystitis and irritable bowel syndrome. 

Acupuncture is very safe with no side effects other than a mild drowsiness seen in some pets after treatment. For this reason, acupuncture can be used in pets with other health concerns and alongside any medications. It does not require sedation or anaesthesia to perform. 

What can I expect an acupuncture session to be like?

A session of acupuncture typically takes 10-30 minutes and is performed with pets awake; most animals tolerate this very well and some seem to actively enjoy treatment. Although some pets may respond after one session, it is recommended that sessions are repeated weekly for 4-6 weeks to see a full response. 

During the session your pet will be encouraged to settle into a comfortable position on a dog or cat bed. You can stroke and reassure your pet, and the vet will advise of any areas you should avoid touching. You are welcome to stay with your pet for the duration of the session. 

What does acupuncture cost?

The price of acupuncture will vary between practices, so contacting your practice directly is the most reliable way to obtain a current price. Some practices charge per session while others offer a discount for a block booking of 4-6 sessions. It is recommended to have at least 4 sessions to see the maximum effect, so this is often an economical option. 

Many insurance policies will cover acupuncture under a “complementary therapy” claim. Your insurer may want confirmation from your vet that they have recommended this treatment. If in doubt, check your policy or call your insurer directly. 

The scientific basis of acupuncture for veterinary pain management: A review based on relevant literature from the last two decades - PMC (


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