treating doggie anxiety with acupuncture


Our five-year-old fluffy mastiff Sofa is a beloved, drooly soul, but for as long as we’ve had him, he’s had some anxiety issues. If he’s separated from us for longer than a couple days, he’s been known to actually scratch or chew himself raw — bad enough to require a trip to the emergency vet on more than one occasion. To add to his issues, he recently started to develop leash aggression after being charged by a neighbor’s dog. Our wonderful vet, Barbara Gomez DVM, has been working with us on these issues through standard means like medication and checking for food allergies. But because she’s also training for her certification in acupuncture, she offered to come over and give Sofa a session for free. Dr. Gomez says:

“Acupuncture can treat anxiety, skin issues. It can treat liver problems, kidney problems. It can treat a lot of things, and it’s good just as general health maintenance too. It’s good for arthritis and also good for digestive issues if they have chronic vomiting or diarrhea.”

Sofa seemed to think the whole procedure was pretty chill. I suspect he loved the attention, and I know he definitely could not feel the needles — no reaction to them. Afterward, he sure seemed a lot calmer on a walk — even the following day, when we tried a fairly crowded route with lots of dog interaction. Click for more on acupuncture for animals as well as a few more photos. — Mary T.


Dr. Gomez came to our house because she figured our dogs would be more comfortable there. Were they ever — Sofa was content to just lie on the floor as she inserted a needle at the back of his head and at different points down his spine.


Our younger dog, Dahlia, was interested in what was going on (meaning she kept getting in the way) so Dr. Gomez put a needle in the back of her head, too. This was pretty funny because then Dahlia was like, “Cool,” and lay down contentedly the rest of the time.


The needles are very thin and packaged individually for sterility. Sofa didn’t have a reaction to the needles at all, and the whole process from inserting the first needle to letting him rest with them in for awhile to removing them took about 40 minutes. We did hang out with him on the floor petting him so he’d stay relatively still and not dislodge any of them. That may have been his favorite part.

I asked Dr. Gomez a few questions while she was treating Sofa.

Shelterrific: What made you decide to become certified in acupuncture for pets?

Dr. Gomez: Because sometimes I think that with western medicine, we’ve done everything we can and it doesn’t work. I thought it was important to have something else to offer.

Shelterrific: Do you know of any animals who have been helped with acupuncture?

Dr. Gomez: Quite a few. There are animals that are pretty arthritic, and they really do a lot better — they’re just more comfortable and the owners perceive that they’re more comfortable. [The acupuncturist she’s studying with] has been seeing some of the same clients for years, so he must be doing something right.

One of my clients — her sister visits from New Jersey — brought her dog in during the holidays and her sister brought her little Yorkie in. The Yorkie is ancient, 17 years old, and used to like going in the car. But it had gotten to the point where she was obnoxious in the car, barking, and now they were worried about having to fly back home. So I did some acupuncture and by the time they got home to the sister’s house [in town], she said, “I can’t believe how calm the dog was in the car! I really think it helped; she just seemed so much calmer and happier.”

Visit National Geographic to learn more about acupuncture for pets.

From our partners

Oh no. My dog had separation anxiety for years and it got so bad that I had to find jobs where I could take her to work with me. The only thing that helped in the early stages was just to exercise her so much that she would be exhausted and then sleep all day. I used to take her to the cemetery and ride my bicycle around while she ran like crazy–she loved it.


I had an old dog who started to have real trouble walking as her joints weakened, and she would sometimes fall over. I got her acupuncture and it really helped. She never ran around like a puppy again, but she had a noticeably smoother gait and spring to her step.

Megan B.

I don’t know about dogs, but I cannot say enough good about *my* experiences with acupuncture. Anxiety, joint pain, thyroid issues, all much better with regular treatment! I’m glad Sofa had so much benefit from one treatment!

I also don’t know about dogs but we had to get acupuncture, or as we call it catupuncture, for our 10 year old cat because she has having a lot of health problems that our Western Science vet told us he could no longer do anything more for. The acupuncture helped soothe her internal tract and get her to stop throwing up her food way better than the steroids the western vet prescribed and she’d always come home real chill.

our friend is a vet who performs acupuncture on pets. he has great success with it. i hope sofa feels better soon! thank you so much for sharing your story.

I often refer my clients with painful pets to an acupuncturist but I didn’t know it could be so helpful with anxiety. We see a lot of anxious pets so it is good to know that there are some helpful alternative therapies. I am glad it is working for you!

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[…] are blessed with two extremely loveable yet mildly neurotic mastiffs. I’ve written before about the lengths we’ve gone to to soothe our male dog Sofa’s anxiety iss…. One huge help has been hiring someone to stay with our dogs in their home when we go out of town. […]