At the Cat Clinic, we incorporate acupuncture into our normal western medicine approach.
The technique originated in China and other Eastern cultures thousands of years ago, treating mainly human patients, but also animals to a limited degree.
Veterinary acupuncture started developing in the 1970’s. Since then it has become a well recognised form of treatment in many different species.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a very holistic approach, trying to find balance between physical, emotional and spiritual factors. Practitioners use Chinese herbal remedies, and interpret symptoms of illness according to ancient Chinese thinking.
However, now western medicine has scientifically investigated and demonstrated the physiological effects of acupuncture, and has integrated it into treatments of acute and chronic pain from musculoskeletal and neurological conditions.
How does it work?
The use of fine solid needles inserted into chosen points can inhibit pain transmission via nervous pathways and also stimulate pain relieving chemicals in the brain and spinal cord. Also, inserting needles directly into painful areas of muscle can give analgesia locally.
Could my cat be helped?
Acupuncture is commonly used for-
Pain relief and healing post surgery
Typically we might use acupuncture to help with pain relief and healing after orthopaedic surgery.
Pain relief and healing post injury
Recovery from a road traffic accident or severe trauma.
Treatment of chronic osteoarthritis.
Many elderly cats experience chronic nagging pain from osteoarthritis. They tend to suffer in silence, becoming less active, less interactive, and reluctant to be handled.
They rarely limp, as often both legs are affected. Owners may notice stiffness after lying down, and inability to jump up or manage the stairs as before.
These cats often struggle to groom themselves, so a matted coat or over long nails are sometimes seen.
Chronic pain is slower to respond than a recent onset problem, but we have had many old cats benefit from ongoing acupuncture. It is especially useful in those cats who cannot have the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs due to other illness.
Is it safe?
Acupuncture is a very safe treatment when administered by a trained practitioner. Side effects are rare but do exist. The cat’s condition can seem worse for 48 hours after the first treatment. Others may feel lethargic for 24 hours after treatment.
However, most animals tolerate the needles very well and become quite relaxed once needles have been placed in position. Some humans report tingling, numbness or cramps, and we should assume such symptoms may occasionally occur in our cats too.
It is thought about 70 % of human and veterinary patients may respond to acupuncture treatment. Acute short term pain responds much more quickly than chronic pain, as we might predict.
What happens during a session?
Your cat would be booked a 30 minute appointment during normal surgery hours. The owner and I usually sit on the window seat away from the examination table, where the cat can sit on a blanket or in the bottom of the cat carrier. Often watching passers-by can take the cat’s mind off what the vet is doing!
Treatment is tailored to the individual, so may involve just a few needles placed for a few minutes. Cats with a lot of painful trigger points may receive more needles and they may be left up to 15-20 minutes. The cat’s temperament can also influence how much treatment is attempted. However, even naughty cats can often respond well once the needles are placed.
We usually begin quite intensively, with 4 treatments at weekly intervals. It would be hoped to see some improvement after 2 treatments and a good response after 4. If so, we might go to a few sessions 3-4 weeks apart or even more.