Acupressure points are areas on your dog’s body surface. When stimulated with massage those acupressure points have a positive influence on the health and wellbeing of your dog. Here is a helpful and illustrated guide on how to treat dogs with acupressure.
Learn to use Acupressure Points in your dog!
Learn how to treat your dog with acupressure points. This basic course on acupressure for dogs will teach you the essential techniques to keep your dog fit and healthy.
What is Acupressure?
Acupressure has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. It is a form of manual stimulation used to promote healing processes, relax tense muscles and to alleviate pain. When the dog is treated regularly acupressure can play an important role in supporting treatments & medications prescribed by your vet & acupuncturist.
- Learn to use Acupressure Points in your dog!
- Preparing For An Acupressure Session With Your Dog
- Meridians & Acupoints
- Anatomy Basics
- Point Work Techniques
- Your Essential Guide to Acupressure for Dogs
Preparing For An Acupressure Session With Your Dog
If you’ve decided to massage acupressure points on your dog at home it’s important to prepare some space for the session. Consider the following recommendations when picking a location:
- Choose a space where your dog is relaxed and comfortable. Large dogs typically prefer to stay on the floor but a small dog might prefer to lie on your lap. Grab a nice fluffy blanket to make them comfy when lying down on the floor.
- Find a location that allows you to move comfortably during the session. Blood flow and the movement of your own Qi is important during this session to help with energy transfer.
- Limit distractions. Turn off the TV, put your phone on silent, and consider closing the door so that other pets (or humans) can’t interrupt the session. This also includes mental distractions – be sure to choose a time when your dog isn’t expecting food or playtime.
It’s important to pick a time where both you and your dog are relaxed. This will help you connect during the session.
Your dog may not understand what it is you are asking of them the first few times you initiate contact with the intention of performing acupressure. They often squirm and twitch, unsure of what to expect. Once they begin to understand that this is a time to relax, they will settle and may even move to help you find the points on their body that most urgently need attention!
A dog that’s ready to go for a session will often lean into the owner, lick them and settle into a comfortable position. Always allow your dog to pick the direction and position that they want to be in. If your dog gives you any signs that they do not want to participate, don’t force them.
Meridians & Acupoints
All the acupoints are located on meridians. The concept of meridians plays an important role in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). They are considered pathways that facilitate the flow of life energy (Qi) throughout the body. Constant and free flow of Qi is essential to keep the body in balance and to maintain all its functions. Stagnant Qi causes malfunction and pain.
Where there is no free flow of Qi there is pain.
List of all meridians and point charts
Click on the meridian to go to the point chart.
Illustration of 5 meridians
All acupoints are aligned on the meridians. To keep it simple, we number them starting with “01” at the beginning of the meridian. In treatment charts, you’ll find the points labelled like this:
This is point LI 04. LI stands for “Large Intestine Meridian” and “04” indicates that the point is the 4th point on this specific pathway.
In your point charts you’ll find the points indicated like this:
We’re now having a brief look at your dog’s anatomy! This short lecture will help you to find the right location of the acupuncture points.
Anatomists have developed standardized anatomical terms of location on the body. These six terms will help you locate the acupoints in relation to other anatomical landmarks.
- cranial – towards the head
- caudal – towards the tail
- dorsal – towards the back
- ventral – towards the abdomen
- distal – away from the torso
- proximal – closer to the torso
The Cun (“Body Inch”) is a measurement relative to the dogs body size. It is used to find acupoints. It’s easy to remember that the widest part of the shoulder blade is 3 cun! This is the most important measurement.
- 3 cun – widest part of shoulder blade.
- 9 cun – shoulder to elbow.
- 16 cun – center of knee joint to hock.
- 19 cun – hip to center of knee joint.
Point Work Techniques
During acupressure, you will use your hands to be aware of any changes happening in the body. These could either be an existing blockage or the free flow of Qi after removing a blockage by acupressure treatment. Learning to sense what the body is communicating takes practice. You can educate your hands by focusing on the various sensations experienced during these sessions and by learning what the sensations indicate.
Two-point work techniques include:
- The Thumb Technique: During this technique, you’ll use the soft and fleshy part of your thumb at a 45 – 90° angle to the dog’s body. It’s best to use the thumb technique on the trunk of the body or the limbs of large dogs.
- The Two-Finger Technique: To perform this technique, place your middle finger over your nail on your pointer finger, making a small tent between the two fingers. Then apply the soft portion of the pointer finger at a 45-90° angle from the dog’s body.
The meridians and acupoints that will be treated are just under the skin so you only need to apply gentle pressure. Extreme pressure could cause additional pain. If your dog ever shows signs of discomfort at any point, stop to apply pressure and move on to a different area.
If you are unable to feel changes in your dog’s body at first, that’s ok! It takes time to learn how to feel the sensation of moving chi and removing blockages through the hands. Simply apply gentle pressure for 1 – 30 seconds, focusing on the sensations created and closely watching your dog for any communication.
Signs that you’ve helped your dog release any blockages include release signals, such as yawning, rolling over, stretching, sighing, groaning, and passing air. Some dogs will even fall asleep during their sessions! Once your dog has shared a release signal, you’re safe to move on to another acupoint.
To work with your dog will not only help them to feel better but it can also help to build a strong bond between you. You’ll likely experience that your dog comes up to remind you that it’s time for their next acupressure session!
Chronic pain is one of the most underdiagnosed problems in veterinary medicine. Dogs are unable to verbalize what they are experiencing and it is up to us to interpret their behaviour. Just like humans, every dog has a unique pain tolerance level. What could cause one dog to shriek in pain might not even make another dog flinch. Symptoms that might indicate your pup is suffering from joint pain caused by osteoarthritis include:
- Generalized Stiffness
- Difficulty Getting Up
- Difficulty Urinating Or Defecating
- Yelping When Pet Lifted
- Crankiness/Mood Changes
- Reluctance To Play Favorite Games or To Go on Walks
- Excessive Licking Of Specific Joint
- Difficulty Finding Comfort
- Frequent Vocalising
Acupressure Points for Pain
- HT 07 – in the groove above the carpal joint.
- BL 18 – 1,5 cun away from the midline in the 10th intercostal space. (when you start counting from the last rib it is the 3rd)
- LI 04 – between the 1st (dewclaw) & 2nd finger.
- GV 14 – on the midline in front of the first (easily palpable) 1st thoracic vertebra.
- BL 23 – 1,5 cun away from the midline, between 2nd & 3rd lumbar vertebra.
- LIV 03 – between 2nd & 3rd toe.
- GB 41 – between 4th & 5th toe.
- BL 60 – in the deep groove over the hock joint.
Point Chart Pain
This guide is constantly being expanded.
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Your Essential Guide to Acupressure for Dogs
Do you want more information and more point chart for a variety of conditions?
- Emergency Points
- Enhance Performance
- Ear Infections
- Elbow Pain
- Shoulder Pain
- Hip Pain
- Knee Pain
- Back Pain
- Skin Disorders
- Chronic Diarrhoea
- Cardiac Conditions
The course is aimed at dog owners who want to improve their dog’s health and want to promote healing in conditions such as arthritis, pain, skin problems, otitis and disease of the gastrointestinal tract.
This is great! Acupressure can help to keep him healthy & fit and prevent disease.
No problem! This guide is designed for dog owners without prior knowledge.
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This guide was written and designed by Dr Felix Wilsmann. Felix is a fully certified vet with additional training in veterinary acupuncture and chiropractic care.
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Please note: This guide is intended as a source of information amongst others. The techniques described herein are meant to complement and not be a substitute for professional veterinary care or veterinary acupuncture. Any ailment, injury or change in behaviour should first be seen by a qualified veterinarian.