What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture needles placed at specific points on the patient

Acupuncture involves the insertion of a needle/needles at acupuncture or trigger points on the body, with the aim to help treat a disease process.

What can acupuncture be used for?

One of the most common reasons for using acupuncture is to treat long term painful musculoskeletal problems such as osteoarthritis or back pain. It can also be used to treat lick granulomas, urinary incontinence and and other conditions. When acupuncture needles are inserted various effects are triggered at that site and throughout the rest of the body. Needles are normally inserted close to a source of chronic pain, such as osteoarthritis. This chronic pain is recognised by the brain as a result of ongoing nerve activity. When the needles are inserted this creates a new stimulus which now overrides the ongoing (chronic) pain. The brain is effectively fooled into concentrating on this new, non painful, stimulus and less of the chronic pain is experienced.

Helpful local effects also occur within the vicinity of the needle, such as the promotion of healing. General effects on the body are the result of the stimulated release of substances such as endorphins. These effectively work as a form of strong natural pain relief

Needles placed in hindlimb of a cat

What are acupuncture points?

Acupuncture points used in Western veterinary acupuncture have been adapted from the human points described in Eastern acupuncture. It is not fully understood what makes these points significant but they are normally located close to nerves and nervous structures and are sites capable of stimulating the nervous system.

Needles placed at acupuncture points

What are trigger points?

Trigger points are tender points, usually felt as knots, in a taut band of muscle. They can cause referred pain. They often occur in set locations which in dogs frequently coincides with known acupuncture points.

Is acupuncture painful?

Whilst the aim of acupuncture needles is to create a stimulus that is interpreted by the central nervous system as potentially damaging, the aim is not to create a painful stimulus. The needles used are very fine and in most cases animals fail to notice them being inserted. Many animals will become relaxed with acupuncture needle insertion and may remain drowsy for up to 24hours. It should be noted that some animals may initially be more painful with their condition following a treatment, this is often an indication that they will respond well to acupuncture treatment.

Patient sits calmly whilst receiving acupuncture

 Is my pet a candidate for acupuncture?

Most dogs tolerate acupuncture very well, but the ideal candidate should be a calm individual who is happy with being handled. It is not ideal for aggressive patients. In most cases we ask owners to remain with their pets during the session which helps to keep the animal calm. Cats would need to be assessed on an individual basis.


Cats can also have acupuncture

Does acupuncture work?

The response varies. Many animals respond very well, improving their quality of life significantly. Others do not enjoy the same effects. Often we are using acupuncture in addition to medications which are no longer helping enough and we are concerned by the level of pain the pet is experiencing. In these cases owners often decide it is worth a try. Acupuncture should be approached with an open mind, and each case is assessed as an individual. Often the initial effects are short lived but tend to build up as the sessions continue, we ask owners to keep a diary to assess the response.

How many sessions would my pet need?

Initially sessions are carried out weekly for 4-6 weeks. If the animal has responded well we then aim to do top up sessions every 8 weeks, or sooner if a relapse is noted before.

How do I arrange an acupuncture appointment?

All cases are assessed individually and acupuncture is available to all our clients and those from other practices if your own vet is not trained in acupuncture.  Ian Thomas has completed the ABVA Foundation course and is happy to see clients. Alternatively we can arrange referral to someone with certification.

If you would like to see Ian to discuss acupuncture please phone our Lichfield hospital.

The cost of an acupuncture session is £46.36 incl. Vat.

Will my insurance pay for acupuncture?

Many insurance companies will now cover complementary therapies such as acupuncture or hydrotherapy as part of a treatment regime. Your insurance company can advise you.


As discussed above long-term pain as a result of osteoarthritis is one of the commonest reasons that acupuncture is performed.

Osteoarthritis is inflammation and destruction in the joints. It can develop either with wear and tear as animals age, due to a previous trauma, or sometimes as a result of a developmental condition.

The pain resulting from osteoarthritis  may be displayed in various ways. The pet may show lameness, stiffness when rising, a reluctance/difficulty jumping up and using stairs or a reduced exercise tolerance. The pain may result in a change in the animals demeanour.

Owners may often notice that they don’t want to interact with the family as much, aren’t keen to go out, become grumpy and generally loose their spark.

Traditionally we are very aware of osteoarthritis in dogs, because we actively walk them and take them in and out the car, it is easier to notice when walks are becoming slower and less enthusiastic or when we have to start lifting the dog into the car.  However recent studies have demonstrated that cats are commonly affected by osteoarthritis. The symptoms in cats are harder to spot as they will naturally reduce their own exercise. Owners should look out for changes like; a reduction in grooming, stopping jumping up to favourite hiding places/surfaces, a change in demeanour,  missing the litter tray, not going out as much and pain reactions when stroked.

There are various medications that can be used for osteoarthritis including non- steroidal anti-inflammatories like Metacam or Onsior, opiods like tramdadol and joint supplements. Often a combination of therapy is needed. Sometimes we may have concerns using these medications due to other health problems or medications may simply not be enough to try and control pain. Alternatively owners may be keen to try a non-medicinal treatment option. Acupuncture is often helpful in these situations. Hydrotherapy may also be useful and we can provide information on local hydrotherapy units.

If you think you are seeing any of these symptoms in your pet, arrange an appointment with one of our vets, you may be surprised how much we can do to help your pet in their elderly years and we certainly do not see ‘getting old’ as a disease process. Treatment of pain can often result in the return of the happy pet that you are missing.

Pool House Vets