Does an Acupuncturist Help a Canine With Fear & Anxiety?

Acupuncture involves the use of needles to help calm your pooch.
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Acupuncture is an alternative medical treatment that originated in China more than 2,000 years ago for humans. Acupuncture now serves many pets. Acupuncture is a "whole body" form of treatment whose procedures can be included as part of a plan for dealing with behavioral issues, including fear and anxiety and the problems they promote. Used in conjunction with behavior modification techniques and positive training methods, acupuncture might help.


During an acupuncture treatment, a veterinary acupuncturist inserts small, thin needles into specific points on the pup's body to induce a calming effect, according to the Montrose Animal Hospital & Pet Hotel website. In theory, acupuncture is used to balance your dog's life force, referred to as his "qi," and promote the healing of his mind and body. In practice, acupuncture treatments may lead to the release of hormones in Rover's body that make him feel good, including endorphins and cortisol. While research into the reasons why acupuncture makes a pet or even a person feel better is limited, the procedure may also increase blood circulation and body temperature, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Fear and Anxiety

A dog can develop fears and phobias due to improper socialization, past trauma or too-early weaning. While some fears are specific, such as those related to thunderstorms, fireworks and certain people or animals, others may be generalized. The anxiety generated by your pup's fears can lead to behavioral issues, such as destructive scratching or chewing, inappropriate elimination, and the harmful licking and biting of his own body, warns petMD. Some fearful dogs may become aggressive, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. While acupuncture won't cure your fearful pup, it could reduce his overall stress level and help reduce compulsive behaviors, advises "Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat."

The Acupuncturist

Before seeing an acupuncturist, bring Rover to the vet to rule out an illness as the trigger for his fearful behavior. Your vet may recommend an acupuncturist or may have a veterinary acupuncturist on staff for you to consult. You can also find an acupuncturist through the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association or International Veterinary Acupuncture Society websites. Acupuncture sessions usually last 45 to 60 minutes and it may take three to four sessions before you notice any results. Unfortunately, this therapy isn't appropriate for all dogs. If your anxious pooch won't sit still for the acupuncture session or attempts to ingest a needle, you may need to seek an alternative treatment.


Acupuncture doesn't work on all dogs and may not help yours. It's not necessarily effective on its own. Use acupuncture along with reward-based behavior modification techniques to reduce your dog's reaction to the stimuli that are causing his fears. A certified animal behaviorist can help with behavior modification, especially if your pup becomes aggressive in fearful situations. You can use other therapies, such as calming medications and herbs, synthetic pheromones and massage, along with acupuncture when dealing with a fearful dog to improve his condition. Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by an experienced veterinary acupuncturist, according to the "Merck Veterinary Manual."