Acupuncture vs Dry Needling…

Which should I choose? Maybe neither… and why you should make sure you see someone qualified.

General rant… What’s in a word, title, label..

Lots of terminology around regarding treatments and practices for animals and ourselves, confusing to say the least e.g. Physio, physical therapy, physiotherapy, rehab… not all the same. Anyone can say they are offering physical therapy or rehab; physiotherapy is a word only allowed to be used by qualified physiotherapists (animal physiotherapists minimum 4-6 years tertiary training).

It’s frustrating when clients turn up and say our dog has been having physio for 6 weeks and she’s still not walking properly… so who was the physio? Was he/she really a physiotherapist, or other? Their qualifications? What sort of rehab, for instance, was it specific for your dog’s condition or a general stretch and maybe a hot pack.

Acupuncture vs dry needling:

Generally dry needling is about putting a needle in a tight muscle to get some release from pain and spasm. Acupuncture covers holistic treatments involving years of study including eastern diagnosis, diet, herbs, moxibustion, needles, and having said that, the sort of acupuncture/dry needling you experience depends on the style, sensitivity and depth of training of your acupuncturist, whether for yourself or your animal friend.


Hydrotherapy is very popular for canines over the last few years. By definition means any sort of therapy involving water… underwater treadmill, swimming, wading, even in the bath or sink for a tiny dog… fabulous treatment but also not for every patient, plenty of contraindications. Swimming vs wading..very different exercises, targeting different muscle groups and types of rehab.

It isn’t just about throwing your dog into a neighbour’s swimming pool and hoping for the best… make sure you see someone qualified.

GPs vs Specialists

Some people don’t know there are veterinary specialists as opposed to their general practitioner vet… all good (hopefully!), but with different skill sets e.g. if your dog has ongoing issues and not getting any better, see a specialist… orthopaedic, cancer, dermatology etc.

Possibly needs surgery? It would be wise to get a couple of different opinions before committing to surgery and rehab.


Rehabvis a huge area, and such a difference depending on where you go, who you see. Most animals do need help after accidents or surgery – some vets refer straight away, others unfortunately wait until there is a problem, e.g. dog is not walking well, then they refer on. I still hear people saying “we didn’t know there was such a thing as physiotherapy/rehab for dogs…” there certainly is! And, post surgery rehab is not just crate rest and medication!

Much better to do some rehab early in the piece before bad habits and muscle wasting set in. Prehab is a great idea for people and animals – get fit and used to the exercises you will need to do before you have surgery and have much better results afterwards.


Is your dog old at 8? 12? That old table of multiplying actual years by 7 doesn’t apply anymore. It depends on the individual’s breed, history, diet, weight etc.
I love treating the oldies. It’s heartbreaking when they are ignored, and well meaning owners say “he’s too old and sore to go for a walk”. A combination of vet treatment, medication, with hands on physio, maybe some simple stretches and massage, maybe a few healthy supplements, shorter outings (not 7kms around the bay like your dog may have done when a young pup)… often gives a new lease on life. We are never too old, any of us!

Massage, soft tissue or connective tissue release, stretching…

This is another area of possible confusion – is one technique better than the other? How do I choose? When? Who? How often?… all can be beneficial, so many different types, approaches, practitioners e.g. anyone can learn massage for dogs, humans or horses… but how many practitioners can you honestly say are really good? Ask around, word of mouth – personal recommendations can help you decide on someone (as well as checking qualifications, experience).

And if you pick someone you are not happy with – physio, massage, vet, doctor… then change! It is your right to do so. When I was treating people, a few practices ago, a lady came in with chronic neck pain, she had been seeing another therapist for a year, twice a week, with no improvement… poor lady, he assured her she would get better… in my opinion, you should be seeing a glimmer of improvement after a few sessions.

Any questions?