VETERINARY ACUPUNCTURE: Needles, Herbals and holistics, Oh My! Why veterinary acupuncture is not as scary as some owners may fear.


Needles are painful, right?! Well, the long and the short of it is, no.
When used in the context of acupuncture, the result can be relief.
Surprised? Well, animals don't lie and they can’t hold a poker face.
For the vast majority of patients, after the first needle is placed the
animal takes a deep breath, head lowers, small animals sometimes
lay down and anxiety melts away.

How does it work?

Acupuncture uses a thin, sterile needle to activate a specific point
on the body. This causes micro trauma at the acupuncture point
which induces a small, controlled inflammatory response. The
inflammation stimulates local blood flow and recruits hormones
and cells to initiate healing.
Needling helps return the nervous system to its "normal" level of
activity to decrease pain and/or restore basic body functions.
The effect is decreased pain, reduced anxiety, increased levels of
endorphins, and normalized autonomics (involuntary nervous
system that regulates all bodily activities).


What can it treat?

What can’t it treat might be the shorter answer! Used by traditional Chinese veterinary medical practitioners for over 3,000 years, the practice is well honed. Acupuncture seeks to correct the underlying imbalance. Old dog? Acupuncture is great for arthritis. Separation anxiety? Acupuncture may be the only real treatment option. Diabetes? Absolutely acupuncture helps. Herniated disk/ general pain? Incredible results, without the side effects. What can I expect? Your veterinary acupuncturist will first want a detailed history. I take this time to acquaint myself with the animal, time to get a feel for the animal’s demeanor (“constitution” in traditional Chinese medical terms). I check for local trigger points, if it is a horse, I used a needle cap to scan for diagnostic points. A good acupuncturist will always look at the tongue and feel for pulses. This gives additional information about the disease state/ imbalances occurring internally. From the history and exam, the acupuncturist chooses points to best elicit healing from the 2 animal. How long the problem has been going on is a good indicator of how many sessions will be needed to see results. Acupuncture has no side effects and is extremely safe in the hands of a certified veterinary acupuncturist. There are so many instances where conventional medicine fails to treat our animals adequately. Over-medication instigates a cascade of unwanted symptoms and ultimately our animals suffer. Acupuncture uses the animal’s own body for healing. And that is the best medicine of all.

Article written by Dr. Julie Vargas, DVM Dr. Vargas is a certified veterinary acupuncturist working in the Lexington, KY area. For more information visit Feel free to contact her with questions at