I feel I have failed my dog because I didn’t immediately recognise her pain.

But I’m making up for it now! Did you know dogs can have acupuncture too? Well, they can. And I have found it to be very beneficial in my desi dog Charlie’s treatment plan for arthritis and spondylosis. Even though we live in a very remote place, we are lucky enough to have an ‘Alternative Vet’ who brings the vet to your door. She offers treatments in her van, including Bowen therapy and acupuncture. During my research about canine arthritis, I discovered that acupuncture can help relieve the associated pain in canines, as well as humans. So, I decided to book Charlie in for some sessions.

The Alternative Vet

Firstly, the appointments I’ve had with the alternative vet have been worth the money just for the advice and conversations I’ve had. When I visit the other vet here (there isn’t much choice), I often feel rushed and unable to ask more in-depth questions. These appointments have given me tips and resources for helping Charlie with her disease. I am still in the early stages of understanding her conditions and pain levels, but with resources like Canine Arthritis Management, I am a bit better informed. 

The Doggie Acupuncture


So, what about the acupuncture? Well, it was a strange experience the first time — giving Charlie over to the vet and being unable to enter the van with her due to covid restrictions. I felt a bit nervous. And the report afterwards was that Charlie had not been too relaxed either! And she especially did not like it when a needle was placed close to her bum (she has residual trauma from thermometers!!). The vet advised me she’d be thirsty so should drink plenty afterwards, and that she could be dozey. She was indeed dozey! I couldn’t quite believe how relaxed she was, and this has been the same after every session. 



What does acupuncture do for dogs?

There are several reasons why acupuncture is effective — it helps blood circulation, stimulates the nervous system and relaxes muscles, which all give the body a better chance of healing. It is also said to have anti-inflammatory effects. 

Of course, it is always a little hard to tell what the effect of any treatment or medicine is on your pet. But what I can tell you is this — the vet has assured me that from the first session, when Charlie winced as she placed needles near her left hip (which is her problem one), Charlie has hardly winced at all in subsequent sessions. Charlie has become more and more relaxed with each session, and even lay down in the last one — a great sign. I can also tell you that combined with daily supplements and a pain relief medication, the acupuncture has transformed Charlie back to her fun-loving, playful, mischievous self. It has brought my dog back to me after a very painful period of her life.

How many acupuncture sessions are needed?

The recommendation would perhaps depend on your dog’s condition, but Charlie was given one session per week for 3 weeks initially to see how she got on. After these first sessions, the vet recommended dropping to once per month because the disease is not yet advanced. She said this may be worth accelerating as the disease progresses. 

Quality of life

Through my recent discussions with the alternative vet, I began to realise the severity of canine arthritis. I remember when Charlie’s x-rays came back earlier this year and the relief I felt that she ‘only’ had arthritis. I was thinking she may have had a neurological condition, or cancer. Cancer is always alarming to us because we associate it so strongly with death. However, arthritis is an extremely painful condition, and most vets will tell you that ultimately it will result in you making the decision to euthanise. I cried when I found this out. Of course nothing is a foregone conclusion, but just hearing the words that I would have the responsibility to make that decision landed like a dagger in my heart. 

I was again reminded of this as I went to have Charlie’s liver and kidneys checked the other day. By the way, this is something that is highly recommended if you’re giving daily pain meds. The vet mentioned in no uncertain terms that we were aiming for quality of life NOW, rather than longevity. Someone tapped the dagger further in. 

We all know our pets will leave us one day, but I feel like every time it catches me unawares. I’m aware of the years passing but somehow still think of her as a young dog. She’s now entering the senior phase of her life and as I look at her every day, I feel a gut wrenching pang that she won’t be with me for the entirety of my life. So I tell myself to play that extra minute or two with her, let her have some extra sniffs on the walk, pay for her acupuncture, and show her I love her every chance I get. Arthritis runs in my family too, so I am no doubt headed for a similar fate. I hope I can still talk to Charlie, wherever she is, when it happens and tell her now, now I feel her pain.


Get our best articles straight to your inbox. 

Subscribe to The DARling below:

About the author

Vaila Erin is a writer, lover of animals, and a bit of a nomad. For her, life is about stories — observing yourself and others so that you can laugh, cry and entertain each other with its absurdities. Connect with her at vailaerin.com or via LinkedIn.