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Acupressure Techniques to Help a Dog With the Pain of Arthritis

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

Acupressure can help some older dogs deal with the pain of arthritis.

Acupressure can help some older dogs deal with the pain of arthritis.

What Is Acupressure?

Acupressure is probably older than acupuncture, but it is still uncommon in the US and not used much in dogs. It uses the same principles as acupuncture, stimulating the ch’i points along the dog's meridians to establish a correct life energy.

If a dog does not like the needles used during acupuncture, acupressure is a great alternative therapy. If you are willing to learn how and find out where it needs to be applied, it is an effective technique that can even be done at home to control the pain your dog feels when affected with arthritis.

How Does It Work?

  • According to Chinese practitioners, acupressure works by re-establishing ch’i and returning a proper balance to the body's yin and yang.
  • According to practitioners in the West, it presses muscles and enhances the body's self-healing by aiding relaxation and improving the performance of the circulatory system. They also believe that muscular stimulation of acupressure reduces muscle spasms and aids in healing.

What Can It Be Used to Treat?

  • In some cases, acupressure can be used for chronic pain and stiffness from lameness, back pain, and all forms of arthritis. (As can acupuncture, another alternative to help a dog with arthritic pain.)
  • It can also be used to increase strength and speed up healing of a damaged area, like a wounded leg.
  • Chinese practitioners also believe it can improve the function of some organs.
An acupressure chart for dogs.

An acupressure chart for dogs.

Can I Try Acupressure on My Dog at Home?

This can be done at home, but I cannot guarantee results if you are not following a chart. (This is the chart that I have used, and learning by using the book might take a significant amount of time.) It is fine to use the chart and learn the technique on your own dog. You are not going to harm her, even if you do not do things correctly (it will not help if you do things wrong, of course).

How to Practice Canine Acupressure at Home

  1. Have your dog lay on your lap (or on a soft blanket on the floor, if she is a bigger dog). Calm her down before starting.
  2. Use the chart to figure out which areas you want to stimulate, and then find that spot with your fingers.
  3. Use a single straight finger to apply pressure to that spot. You can apply pressure to the spot for about ten seconds, but if your dog tenses up or yelps, you need to stop.
  4. If the spot you need to stimulate is very tense, you can massage it for a few minutes before applying pressure. Be sure to keep track of the area you are treating, and evaluate any changes on a daily basis.

How Often Can My Dog Be Treated?

You can use it every day if you need to. Do it as often as your dog will allow you to work with him. One of the great things about the therapy is that it can be done at home.

Are There Alternatives?

  • Acupuncture is the alternative therapy with the most supporters. In order to be successful, it should be performed by a skilled practitioner. It is not something you should try at home.
  • Tellington touch may be helpful in behavioral conditions.
  • Massage is useful in some conditions, like arthritis.There have been many good anecdotal reports of acupressure and massage being used together.
  • Hydrotherapy has a lot of benefits for dogs with arthritis, too. I encourage clients to take their dogs swimming on nice days.
  • Trigger point therapy is a Chinese method comprised of physical therapy that addresses painful areas of muscle, and it's most likely to benefit dogs with lameness.
  • Chiropractic care is available in some areas too, and several dog trainers recommend this method.
Help your pup deal with painful arthritis and regain mobility.

Help your pup deal with painful arthritis and regain mobility.

Does Acupressure Really Work?

There is no proof that acupressure works. However, there is no proof that it is effective in humans, either. If your dog suffers from a medical condition that is not responding to therapy, you can try this. Try several alternatives to help your pup.

More About Canine Arthritis


Lane, D. M., & Hill, S. A. (2016). Effectiveness of combined acupuncture and manual therapy relative to no treatment for canine musculoskeletal pain. The Canadian veterinary journal = La revue veterinaire canadienne, 57(4), 407–414.

Alimi, O. A., Abubakar, A. A., Yakubu, A. S., Aliyu, A., & Abulkadir, S. Z. (2020). Veterinary acutherapy in management of musculoskeletal disorders: An eye-opener to the developing countries' veterinarians. Open veterinary journal, 10(3), 252–260.

Jeong, J. H., Song, J. Y., Jo, H. G., Kim, J. M., Yoon, S. S., Park, C., Kim, S., Roh, S. S., Lee, B. H., Yang, C. H., & Kim, H. Y. (2013). Simple acupoints prescription flow chart based on meridian theory: a retrospective study in 102 dogs. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: Where do I get the dog chart?

Answer: It is available on Amazon. All you have to do is click on the link above and it will take you to that site.

© 2012 Mark dos Anjos DVM


Sarra Garrett on November 09, 2012:

I am a firm believer in animal therapy for children and adults and have seen animals work miracles and teach the meaning of love where love has never existed before. We owe it to our dogs to take care of them and ease their pain as they ease ours. Thank you Dr.Mark1961

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 09, 2012:

Thanks Sara your comment is really to the point. Acupressure, Tellington touch,and massage therapy all help us as well as the pet. That is one of the benefits that everyone needs to take advantage of. Even if someone does not agree with alternative therapy and chooses to put their dogs on steroids and anti-inflammatories, acupressure can still help them and us.

I am so glad to see you on here, and hope you are doing okay, wherever you are at this point.

Sarra Garrett on November 09, 2012:

Awesome article! I have 5 dogs 2 of which are 15 years old. They are blind and going deaf and of course are arthritic. I give them total body massages every night and they absolutely love it and seem to be more agile for a while. All my dogs love their massages. It helps them and it's animal therapy for me.