I Was Skeptical About Accupuncture for Dogs, and Then I Tried It

Louie is being treated for anxiety with acupuncture. (Photo by Karen Dibert)

Louie suffers from anxiety. Looking back, I realize that my French Bulldog has always suffered with this, but it’s gotten worse with age. Since he’s just 2 years old, I’m a bit worried about what this will mean for his future.

Louie has always been attached to me, which is how I tripped over him as a puppy and broke his leg. He was at the vet frequently for X-rays and cast changes, and he came to love the clinic since the staff fawned all over his cute little self. Being a healthy dog, he’s not been to the vet very often since then and has come to the point where he shakes in fear when he’s there.

It’s not a lack of socializing that makes him afraid at the vet clinic. Louie and I often attend pet conferences, expos, and events, meeting dozens of dogs and hundreds of people in the course of a weekend. He did well at his first event but is getting more anxious with each one. He is stressed a little too much to eat well or to relax enough to enjoy treats.

The super-fine needle is not much thicker than a hair. The thicker, spiral end is the grip. (Photo by Karen Dibert)

It’s come to the point where Louie needs help. My vet recommended acupuncture as a drug-free treatment for anxiety. I’ll admit to having mixed feelings about this option, which involves using needles to unblock/rebalance your chi/energy flows. While I’m not anti-drug, I do like drug-free alternatives when they’re available. I will fully admit, however, to skepticism about the treatment. I’m not sure how inserting needles into my dog can do a whole lot of good. I figured it was at least worth a try, and even a minimal improvement would be better than none at all. We could treat with medication from there if needed.

At Louie’s first appointment, he was shaking from anxiety while in the waiting room. It was the same in the exam room, coupled with full-body stiffening when he heard a dog barking. My vet gave him an initial exam to get a feel for how to treat him and decided to start with a low-dosage treatment of just three needles. These were strategically located at acupoints to target anxiety. I asked my vet when I could expect to see results, and as we were talking about how different patients respond in different ways, Louie stopped shaking and his eyelids started to droop. We were both impressed with this drastic change, just five minutes into a 15-minute session. She asked me to document how long the change lasted, and we both hoped to get two to three days of a less-anxious Louie.

These needles are for arthritic pain in Louie’s previously broken leg. (Photo by Karen Dibert)

The differences I noticed at home were subtle, but huge. Louie no longer lunged between me and our other Frenchie, Jill, when I reached to pet her. He seemed genuinely happy that she was getting attention, too. At an event over the weekend, he ate dog treats offered to him by booths handing out samples. He hadn’t been relaxed enough to snack at an event in over a year. At one point, I even left him with my daughter while I walked away, and he didn’t stress at all. That was two days after treatment.

One week later, we returned to the clinic for a second treatment. Louie pranced into the waiting room, jumped onto the bench beside me, and checked out the other dogs with interest. In the exam room, he greeted the vet with a smile (he doesn’t have a tail to wag) and got up to sniff her box of needles. She didn’t even have to ask how long the previous treatment lasted; she could see the ongoing results. Louie fell asleep on my arm during his second treatment, and we even added a second set of needles to treat his previously broken leg for arthritis pain.

Louie was napping during his acupuncture session. (Photo by Karen Dibert)

Needless to say, I am a firm believer in acupuncture after seeing Louie’s reaction to treatment. I am loving that a drug-free alternative has such a dramatic and long-lasting effect on him, and will be continuing this in the future as needed.

Let’s hear from you, readers. Have you tried acupuncture on your pet? Share your experiences in the comments.

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