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It may seem strange to think of our pets undergoing a treatment such as acupuncture, particularly if you’re the owner of a mischievous canine or feline that struggles to sit still for long. But just like in humans, this alternative therapy can be used to treat a surprising number of different conditions in animals, from osteoarthritis to incontinence. By naturally stimulating the body’s healing mechanisms, acupuncture promotes feelings of intense relaxation and well-being, so it’s easy to see why this feel-good therapy is quickly becoming a popular treatment in veterinary medicine.

Why acupuncture?

Acupuncture has been part of traditional Eastern medicine for thousands of years, and is a widely recommended form of therapy which corrects energy imbalances within the body to promote natural self-healing. The practice involves inserting needles into specific points on the body to alleviate pain and speed up recovery. Over the years, acupuncture has grown in popularity, and is now used extensively in veterinary medicine.

Most commonly, acupuncture is used in the rehabilitation of pets following orthopedic or spinal injuries, or in the treatment of chronic pain or musculoskeletal disorders. However it is also used to treat a wide variety of illnesses and conditions, including respiratory, digestive, and reproductive problems, and is an effective drug-free alternative or accompaniment to many conventional medicines.

What is acupuncture used for?

Acupuncture has been proven to treat a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis, intervertebral disk disease, or traumatic nerve injury
  • Respiratory problems, such as feline asthma
  • Skin problems such as lick granulomas and allergic dermatitis
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea
  • Selected reproductive problems
  • Chronic pain conditions
  • Slow-healing wounds and scar tissue pain
  • Incontinence
  • Behavioral problems

The growth of veterinary acupuncture

There is evidence of the Chinese practicing acupuncture on army horses as far back as 2000 BC. By the 17th century, the study of veterinary acupuncture had reached Europe, and the practice rose in popularity in the US during the 1970s.

The lack of side-effects and the inability for acupuncture to react adversely with other medications and treatments has contributed to its increase in popularity over the years, and it has now become a widely recognized form of veterinary medicine. It can be used as a standalone therapy or in conjunction with other treatments, and is suitable for juvenile, adult and senior pets. Under the Trupanion Recovery and Complementary Care Rider, hydrotherapy is included if recommended by your veterinarian and provided by or under the supervision of a qualified professional. 

The self-healing therapy

The primary benefit of acupuncture is the holistic nature of the treatment and its ability to encourage your pet’s body to heal itself. The treatment stimulates the release of your pet’s own pain relieving and anti-inflammatory hormones, and improves blood circulation, oxygenation, and the removal of metabolic wastes and toxins.

Acupuncture is virtually painless, and very few pets require sedation during treatment. In fact, the relaxing, feel good nature of acupuncture means many pets quickly know what to expect from the treatment and may even look forward to upcoming sessions.

Types of treatment

Veterinary acupuncture can take a variety of different forms besides needle insertion. Alternative treatments include:

  • Acupressure: a non-invasive treatment that involves applying pressure to acupuncture points instead of inserting needles into the skin.
  • Acupuncture point injection: a treatment that involves the injection of various substances, such as homeopathic remedies, into the skin at acupuncture points. 
  • Moxibustion: a therapy that is often used to treat joint stiffness and muscular soreness by applying heat to acupuncture points to stimulate blood flow and relieve pain. 
  • Electrostimulation: the application of an electric current to acupuncture points. This type of therapy relaxes spasming muscles and can help repair nerve damage.
  • Laser: a treatment that uses laser energy instead of needles to stimulate acupuncture points. This is a great alternative for pets who have an aversion to needles. 


Acupuncture can be combined with most conventional and alternative therapies and most pets, particularly those with chronic pain conditions, respond well to the treatment. It’s also one of the safest veterinary treatments available when practiced correctly, however it should never be administered without proper diagnosis by a licensed veterinarian. Your pet’s progress should also be monitored regularly by a veterinary professional, as the pain-relieving effects of acupuncture may mask symptoms and can delay healing if your pet becomes too active during rehabilitation.

Upgrade your pet's policy

On top of our standard medical insurance coverage, we offer a special Recovery and Complementary Care Rider at an additional cost, which covers you and your pet for a whole range of extra treatments and procedures to make sure your animal stays as healthy as can be. As well as acupuncture, this package includes veterinary recommended chiropractic treatment, behavioral modification, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathy, and rehabilitative therapy.

The use of these additional treatments in conjunction with more traditional practices can help to nurse your feline or canine friend back to health and comfort more quickly. From effective pain relief to promoting healing and recovery, the therapies under the Recovery and Complementary Care Rider aim to bring your pet back to health as rapidly, safely and effectively as possible. 

Veterinary acupuncture is included in our Recovery and Complementary Care Rider.

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