Although there is much more to be learned about the effects of acupuncture, we do know that stimulating specific points with acupuncture needles can help the body heal itself by affecting physiologic changes.  

What are acupuncture points? 

Acupuncture points have been demonstrated to be areas where nerves enter tissue planes or where the nerves themselves divide. In the skin, these points represent areas of low electrical resistance and high electrical conductance. Deeper within the point, there are accumulations of free nerve endings, small blood vessels, lymphatics, and tissue mast cells. 

What does stimulating an acupuncture point do?

By stimulating these specific points, we cause activation of the inflammatory cascade, release of mast cells, changes to blood and lymph flow, and conduction of nerve impulses. Local response spreads throughout the central nervous system to cause biochemical changes throughout the body. 

Does acupuncture hurt?

No, acupuncture does not hurt. However, the goal of stimulating an acupuncture point is to create local tissue trauma (initiating the inflammatory cascade). This local stimulation produces a response called the “De Qi” response, which means “the arrival of Qi.” In Chinese Medicine, Qi represents energy. Humans undergoing acupuncture therapy can simply tell their acupuncturist what they feel. In veterinary medicine, we have to look for signs that De Qi has been achieved. Animals can show subtle signs (twitching skin, licking lips, a change in breathing pattern) or more dramatic signs (a yelp, looking back at the needle, shaking head or body) depending on the level of energy accumulation at that specific point and how sensitive the animal is.

Can acupuncture make my pet’s condition worse? 

Initially after treatment, patients may appear worse. This is because energy and blood flow is moving, which can be somewhat uncomfortable. Acupuncture cannot hurt a pet or make their condition worse. 

How long will it take before I see results? 

It depends. Some animals will show improvement after their first treatment. Others may take several sessions to show improvement. We ask that you commit to several treatments to decide whether acupuncture is a beneficial treatment option for your pet. 


Kenzie, pictured above, is receiving acupuncture treatment with Electrotherapy stimulation for rear leg lameness. Follow this blog for updates on Kenzie’s treatments & results!

Emily Falk, DVM