Acupuncture is not a new healing practice, but it may be something you’ve heard of with regards to its use in animals more recently. While acupuncture has been around for ages, we often hear the question of how does acupuncture work on dogs and cats. The answer has to do with the science behind the nerves and how the body works. We are happy to be able to offer acupuncture through the Animal Hospital of Sussex County with Dr. Walker who is a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist! You can read more about veterinary acupuncture at our practice, or right here to learn how acupuncture works on dogs and cats. 

how does acupuncture work in dogs and cats

How does acupuncture work in dogs and cats? Very similarly to how it works in humans and horses!

How does acupuncture work on dogs?

Acupuncture is based on the concept of meridians, or energy lines, which then link to different organs in the body. It’s been used for over thousands of years in China. Using acupuncture in canines isn’t that new either, though certainly newer than in humans and horses and livestock. So how does acupuncture work on dogs? The idea is that when you stimulate a point along a meridian, the energy will travel along that meridian to the corresponding organ and help change the way that organ is functioning. Based on this concept, an example could be that dogs with stomach issues may benefit from acupuncture focused on the meridian that corresponds to the stomach. A big difference in adapting acupuncture to animals is difference in anatomy, for example dogs don’t usually have thumbs and horses walk on their “middle fingers!”  

What about acupuncture in cats?

Okay, now that you have an understanding on how acupuncture works on dogs, let’s talk about cats. The concept is the same in that it works on the same energy lines or meridians. The biggest difference is the number and location of points on different animals. For humans, there are approximately 360 acupuncture points, while horses have about 170 traditional points, and canines and felines have over 300, similar to humans. There’s a combination of traditional and transpositional points on animals where the transposed points are based on human points, adjusted for pets. 

The other main difference is that due to size, large and medium dogs are easier to work on while small dogs and cats can be more challenging. In addition, many dogs travel well while cats are not known for their cool and calm travel skills. This can lend additional challenges when doing acupuncture for your cat. Because of this, we recommend for cats and any dogs that do not travel well, to schedule a house call for your cat or dog. Dr. Walker at the Animal Hospital of Sussex County does make house calls, so if that’s what you need, just let us know.

acupuncture for cats

Acupuncture for cats can sometimes be more comfortable for your pet when done at home.

What can acupuncture treat in pets?

Great questions! Acupuncture can treat a variety of symptoms in dogs and cats. According to PetMD, veterinary acupuncture can be used to treat a variety of conditions, particularly those that involve inflammation and pain.


Arthritis, or joint inflammation, can occur at any life stage (juvenile, adult, senior) and creates a variety of physiologic changes that create pain.

Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)

DJD is the progression of arthritis where joint surfaces become irregular, leading to decreased range of motion and increased pain.


Surgery, car accidents, animal fights and falling are forms of trauma that cause inflammation and pain.


Cancer can promote tissue swelling or enlargement of organ systems leading to pain, nausea, decreased appetite and lethargy.

Metabolic Disease

Kidney and liver failure, pancreatitis, feline hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, hypothyroidism, and diabetes mellitus cause nausea, appetite and energy changes.

You can read the full article about veterinary acupuncture on PetMD.

So does acupuncture really work on dogs and cats?

Yes! This article on Petful discusses how acupuncture has been validated by science to work on the brain and nerves to actively change the way pain and other signals are transmitted. Acupuncture in pets can release endorphins and help block pain signals, meaning that it actually works and isn’t just anecdotal. There’s even the full study about how science was able to use MRIs to show that acupuncture really does work.

Are you ready to see just how does acupuncture work on dogs and cats yourself? Schedule an appointment today for your pet and Dr. Walker can help their healing!