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3 Signs Acupuncture is Working for My Dog

2017 January 21
Wires and needles cover this Beagle undergoing acupuncture treatment.

Beagle hooked up for electroacupuncture

Wait, What? Acupuncture for Dogs?

First, yes. Dogs can get acupuncture. They usually like it very much for a few very good reasons. One reason is, acupuncture is relaxing. Another reason is, acupuncture causes natural painkillers like opioids and enkephalins to be released in the body.

“About one-third of my doggy acupuncture patients fall asleep during the treatment,” says Doc Truli, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist.

Why are we doing acupuncture on dogs???!

Some medical conditions respond very well to acupuncture treatments (pain, arthritis, inter-vertebral disc disease). Imagine no drug side-effects. Imagine not having to medicate your pet! Imagine unexpected positive results when Western medicine reached its full potential and your dog still is not cured (collapsing trachea, bloody diarrhea). Some patients can be treated without pharmaceutical medications. Some dogs respond better to acupuncture than other treatments you have tried. Some dogs have no other options and acupuncture helps them feel less pain. There are countless reasons to consider acupuncture for your dog.

How Can I Tell If Acupuncture is Working?

“Acupuncture is results-based medicine. You can see if your dog is walking farther, eating better, coughing less. Sometimes, we can see evidence the treatment is affecting the dog during the acupuncture session,” says Doc Truli.

A good sign scuypuncture is working is a big yawn.

Big Chihuahua Yawn after Acupuncture!


Yawning is a sign that the patient is releasing Stagnation. In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine theory, pain is caused by Stagnant energy, or Stagnant Qi. There is a tight, stuck, dysfunctional feeling that the body interprets as pain. The acupuncture treatment enhances blood flow, increases capillary permeability, stimulates Beta-endorphin relaxation hormone release, and triggers natural opioid release in the body. Some of this effect is triggered plainly by the microtrauma caused by the fine, thin sterile FDA-approved medical device called the acupuncture needle.

Tru Tip:

As FDA-approved medical devices, acupuncture needles in America are sterile, single use devices, even for animals!

The healing process is triggered to start anew at the needle insertion point. But the effect goes far beyond an explanation of local trauma. The brain stem, nervous system, fascia planes, and brain itself are also known to respond to the acupuncture needle insertion at designated acupuncture points. Some studies have shown the effect travels faster than the speed of electricity or nerve impulses!

Tru Tip:

Randomly selected spots on the body not located at acupuncture points cause a placebo effect in 1/3 of patients, which is about the known extent of the placebo effect caused by drug therapy.

During acupuncture, 1/3 of cats and dogs will get a dripping nose from beta endorphin release (relaxation)

See the clear drop below the nose?

Nose Dripping

The nose dripping clear fluid during acupuncture treatments is a sign of the relaxation of Beta-endorphin release. Beta-endorphins are the natural chemicals in the body responsible for an “exercise high” when you have been working out and you feel really energized, light, and happy from the work-out. Your dog can get that feeling from an acupuncture treatment.

“We can see the acupuncture working,” says Doc Truli,”If the dog falls asleep, yawns, or the nose starts dripping clear fluid, we can objectively see an immediate effect of the treatment.”

Doc Truli stays with her patients throughout the treatment session. She can hand-manipulate needles, plan therapeutic Tui-na medical massage, or adjust Herbal Medications and Physical Therapy recommendations based on the patient’s response to the acupuncture treatment.

What Is a Typical Successful Acupuncture Treatment Progression?

Plain Old: Problem Fixed

Needles and wires cover this little Terrier mix dog for her electro-acupuncture neck treatment

Missy-Dog Acupuncture for Cervical Disc Disease

Sometimes, the treatment success kicks in after the first, second, or third treatment. Missy, a tiny terrier mix was paraparetic (very weak, on her way to being paralyzed) from the neck down when Doc Truli treated her. Missy was also under the care of a board-certified veterinary neurologist who recommended acupuncture to enhance Missy’s treatments. Her people were carrying her outside to go to the bathroom and hand-feeding her. The medication kept her neck pain from a slipped disc under control, but she was facing major physical therapy to try and recover. The neurologist prescribed 4-6 weeks of strict cage rest.

After her first acupuncture treatment, she felt a little pain relief and could walk a few feet and them would freeze and could not decide of she should risk trying to sit down without hurting her neck. Pretty typical for a slipped disc in the neck. Western Medicine training teaches that Time is a great asset to healing neck disc disease in dogs.

The second acupuncture treatment one week later gave amazing results. Missy could run and play and bark and spin in happy circles 30 minutes after the treatment. Missy’s mom texted Doc Truli:

Picture text reads: Dr Truli!!! MIssy is doing amazing! You are truly (yes a pun) a miracle worker!...It really is a 180! She is so happy but I don't want her to over do it...Are you sure you can't fix me?

Doc Truli’s text received in the car on the way home from the house call.

The picture reads:

“Dr. Truli!!! Missy is doing amazing! You are truly (yes a pun) a miracle worker!

“Why thank you. Video, please.”

“Yep she’s resting now. I’ll send one shortly.”

“I’d love to see. She responded so well to the deep hip and shoulder treatment.”

“It really is a 180! She’s so happy but I don’t want her to over do it”

“Good instinct.”

“Are you sure you can’t fix me?”

This is ONE WEEK after meeting Doc Truli. After diagnosis by a neurologist, immediate surgery recommended and declined by the family, and a prediction of 4-6 weeks of rest needed for any kind of recovery. This type of case progression happens with acupuncture treatment. Veterinary acupuncturists are taught to tell you to expect 3-8 weekly treatments to see results. Missy may not be typical, but she is not unusual. Acupuncture really helps and you can see the results for yourself!

Tiny soft terrier stands and looks up because she can! Her neck can move, yay!

Thanks, Doc Truli!

Dr. Truli serves the Greater Tampa Bay, Florida area for house-call consultations and treatments. If you cannot travel to Tampa Bay, you can find a veterinary acupuncturist worldwide through the Chi Institute referral service. To make an appointment with Dr Truli in Florida, call (877) 378-7854.


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