Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 1, 2023 by Crystal Uys
Acupuncture is one of the branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a medical stystem that has been used to treat animals in China for thousands of years. The other three branches of TCM are herbal therapy, food therapy, and Tui-Na (massage).
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, disease is viewed as an imbalance in the body rather than a specific physiological disturbance. This imbalance is caused by either a disruption of the flow of chi (life energy) or an excess of chi in the patient’s body. Chi flows through the body through energetic channels called meridians. Along these meridians are acupuncture points, which affect a specific organ or part of the body. The fundamental principle of TCM is the concept of Yin and Yang, the complementary opposites that interact with a greater whole.
Acupuncture involves inserting very fine needles into the acupuncture points. Veterinary acupuncturist may also use aquapuncture (injecting small amounts of vitamin B12 or saline into the acupuncture points), Moxa (an herb that is lit to heat the acupuncture needles), or electrical stimulation of the needles.
How can your cat benefit from acupuncture?
Acupuncture can be beneficial for the following:
- muskuloskeletal problems such as arthritis
- neurological problems
- gastrointestinal problems
- any chronic or acute condition
- stress relief
- prevention of disease
- strengthening of the immune system
- regulation of blood pressure
- endocrine conditions
- cardiac conditions
- respiratory problems such as asthma
Are there any contraindications for acupuncture?
Acupuncture should not be used for:
- open wounds
- infectious disease
- directly on any masses
What happens during an acupuncture appointment?
The veterinary acupuncturist will take a thorough intake history. Some veterinarians may even have you fill out a questionaire before you arrive for your appointment. Since acupuncture is a holistic therapy, the initial consultation will go beyond just physical findings such as an exam and labwork, and will include questions about your cat’s habits, temperament, and lifestyle.
Most cats tolerate acupuncture well. The needles used are much smaller than regular hypodermic needles and practitioners use special techniques to minimize any pain. There can be a slight prick when the needle is first inserted, but most cats won’t react at all. Typically, needles remain in position for 15-20 minutes.
The number of treatments necessary will vary. Some acute conditions may be resolved with a single treatment. For chronic problems, a series of three to ten treatments can improve or resolve the issue. Degenerative conditions may need monthly treatments.
Acupuncture for cats should be performed by a certified veterinary acupuncturist
Acupuncture is a medical procedure and should be performed by a veterinarian. Don’t allow the procedure to be performed by someone who is only trained to give acupuncture to humans. There are currentlyt two programs in the United States that certify veterinarians in acupuncture: Chi Institute in Florida, and the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, which offers courses in various parts of the country.
I worked with a veterinarian certified in acupuncture for eight years, and the results she achieved with some of her patients were nothing short of miraculous. Arthritic dogs who had been lame and limping for months would bound out of the exam room after their treatment. A dachshund with intervertebral disc disease who was paralyzed in his hind end regained some function and mobility. Not all animals will have such dramatic results, but since acupuncture is such a gentle modality with virtually no side effects if performed by a trained veterinarian, it may be a good option for your cat.
Have you used acupuncture for your cats? Please share your stories.
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.