dog with osteoarthritis

Acupressure & Canine Osteoarthritis

How Acupressure Can Help Osteoarthritis:  Sammy was a high energy canine just a year or so ago. Now he gives Ali a mournful look before he tries to jump in the car when heading out for a hike. Ali has noticed that Sammy isn’t jumping onto her bed at night anymore; he prefers to sleep on his own bed on the floor. At 10 years old, Sam is telling Ali that his joints hurt.


When dogs are suffering from osteoarthritis, their joints hurt. They are experiencing the deterioration of the cartilage that creates a smooth, gliding surface and loss of the synovial fluid that lubricates these joints in their limbs. Inflammation sets up in the joint when there’s less cartilage and synovial fluid. Between inflammation and the rough opposing bones rubbing against each other with every flexion the animal is in pain.

Arthritis is usually the result of repetitive wear and tear. Other causative factors can be joint instability, genetics, trauma, infection, birth defect, and disease. Studies have shown that 20% of dogs experience arthritis before the age of seven, while after the age of seven the chance of arthritis shoots up to 65%. German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers are the larger breeds which tend to be prone to arthritis. Dachshunds, because of the conformation of their joints, are fourth on the list of dogs prone to arthritis.

Decreased activity is the first tell-tale sign of arthritis. Other general signs include stiff movement, swelling of the joint, heat in the joint, lack of joint flexibility, lameness, and obvious discomfort when being touched. Additionally, animals experiencing the pain of arthritis often exhibit behavioral changes such as irritability as well as changes in their grooming habits. Dogs and cats can differ in how they show signs of their discomfort.

Integrative Approach

There are many possible health issues one or two of the signs of arthritis can indicate. It’s wise to have your holistic veterinarian assess your pet’s specific condition. If osteoarthritis is indicated, your vet may suggest a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication to help reduce your pet’s pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin are gentler and often recommended as supplements to slow the degeneration of cartilage in the joints. There are other herbal remedies and vitamins known to stave off inflammation and slow deterioration. Your veterinarian can help you decide what’s best for your animal.

You can help your dog by offering her an acupressure session two times per week. Specific Acupressure points can reduce inflammation and supply necessary nutrients and energy to the joints to enhance flexibility and movement. By gently applying finger-pressure on the “acupoints” listed in the acupressure session for osteoarthritis below, you can effectively lessen the pain your dog is experiencing and improve his quality of life.

Acupressure Session
Because your pet is in pain, using the soft tip of your index finger lightly is best. Acupoints are located just beneath the surface of the animal’s skin, so there’s no need to press deeply. In Chinese medicine there’s a phrase, “Don’t spank the crying baby.” In other words, when there’s a place on the animal’s body that hurts, you have to be careful not to cause more hurt. The acupoints selected for this general acupressure session help mitigate pain and the progression of joint damage.

Bladder 11 (Bl 11) is known to nourish bone health throughout the dog’s body. It is called the “Influential point for bone," and is located in the soft tissue in front of the scapula off the dog's spine.

Canine Arthritis and Acupressure
Next use Gall Bladder 34 (GB 34). It benefits the joints throughout the body, especially the joints of the hind limb. It is located on the outside (lateral side) in the middle of the animal’s hind leg just below the stifle joint (knee). If that joint is painful, work off-body by holding your hand, palm down, over the stifle joint. 

The last acupoint is the Bai Hui point right in the middle on top of the sacrum. Dogs love this point when you scratch it. This point sends healthy energy along the spine and down the hind limbs, and reduces pain and supports well-being.

By offering this acupressure session twice weekly along with following your veterinarian’s recommendations, you can help your four-legged friends enjoy their lives with you and you with them!