Animal Acupuncture: Holistic therapy for pets


“I see the limited therapeutic options for animals when standard treatments don’t work. Acupuncture is natural, and there are no major side effects or interference with pharmaceutical prescriptions.”

Veterinary acupuncturist Sharlene McInnes Wallace is based in Wellington, New Zealand. Having initially studied acupuncture for humans, McInnes Wallace was inspired to return to her first love – working with animals. In theory, she says the energy channels of humans and animals are very much the same.

“Obviously, the anatomy and pathology are different, but it’s basically the same relay channels. At this stage, I predominately treat cats and dogs… however I am trained in treating a variety – horses, birds and even turtles! I really look forward to encountering other species.”

Acupuncture is a therapy of energizing and balancing the body. It encourages any living creature’s biological inclination toward healing.

In her own practice, McInnes Wallace treats animals with muscle strains, arthritis, anxiety, allergies, knee sprains, hypothyroidism, digestive problems, immune system related conditions, and behavioral issues.

“There are interesting effects from treating anxious kitties. Prior to treatment they were more interested in running away from me; but post treatment, they become quite inquisitive and often a lot more interested in engaging with me.”

Following an acupuncture treatment, an animal’s reaction is often very much the same as a human client.

“Quite frequently, after treatment, animals will sleep. This is good; acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural healing mechanisms. As with humans, I always say give it opportunity to take effect. One treatment will not suffice to cure a chronic condition that’s resided for years, but it’s a step in the right direction for human or animal recovery.”

McInnes Wallace says the benefits of acupuncture take the form of natural pain relief and anti-inflammatory actions. The treatment works with afferent nerve fibres – message pathways of the nervous system – which instill a calming effect.

One of the main concerns of pet owners is any potential discomfort for their animal.

“The needles I use are extremely fine and painless, I needle my own pets and theres zero chance of me doing this if pain is involved. My own pets have received quite a bit of Acupuncture over the years, when feeling unwell. Predominately viral infections – I have found acupuncture very helpful in dropping a fever and giving the immune system a boost.”

As far as getting her furry clients to stay still for a treatment, McInnes Wallace says every case is different.

“Some patients are a lot more compliant than others. Dogs are generally easier to work with than cats. Dogs can be restrained on a lead, if necessary. I normally get the owner to hold the cat if they’re a wee bit wiggly. Too many restraints, from my perspective, is counterproductive to the therapeutic benefits of acupuncture.”

McInnes Wallace says the concept of acupuncture as a successful complimentary therapy for pets is spreading.

“There are referrals coming in from colleagues within the human acupuncture community. People are surprised when they hear the common conditions I encounter. Educating people on what acupuncture could do for their pets, is key, [explaining how] acupuncture can step in where veterinary pharmaceuticals may have failed.”

She says there is such a joy in veterinary acupuncture, especially having the opportunity to treat the often-underestimated correlation between the physical and emotional states of the animal.

“The great thing with animals is the sincerity. They genuinely just want to get better; they don’t have the very complex emotional thought patterns that humans can have – that has the potential to hinder recovery and reduce the efficacy of acupuncture. They don’t over think the treatment; they just let it take effect.”