Acupressure Techniques for Dogs with Arthritis

Updated on February 28, 2016
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Dr. Mark is a small animal veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

Acupressure is probably older that 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 you are willing to learn how and find out where it needs to be applied, it is an effective alternative technique that can even be done at home to control the pain your dog feels when affected with arthritis.

Old dogs may gain arthritis relief from acupressure.
Old dogs may gain arthritis relief from acupressure. | Source

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?

  • If a dog does not like the needles used during acupuncture, this is a great alternative therapy.
  • 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.

Can I Try at Home?

This can be done at home, but I cannot guarantee results if you are not following a chart. So if you would like to help your dog, I recommend that you purchase the chart from Amazon or some other source. 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, of course).

  1. Have her 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.

An acupressure chart for dogs.
An acupressure chart for dogs.

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.
  • The Tellington touch may be helpful in behavioral conditions.
  • Massage is useful in some conditions, like arthritis.
  • Hydrotherapy has a lot of benefits for dogs with arthritis, too.
  • Trigger point therapy is a Chinese method comprised of physical therapy that addresses painful areas of muscle, and is most likely to benefit dogs with lameness.
  • Chiropractic care is available in some areas too, and several dog trainers recommend this method.


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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Dr Mark


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        Sarra Garrett 5 years ago

        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

      • DrMark1961 profile image

        Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        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.

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        Sarra Garrett 5 years ago

        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.