The Catupuncturist: Acupuncture in Cats
Acupuncture is the insertion of needles into specific points of the body to alleviate pain and hopefully increase the recovery rate from illness. It is thought that about 70% of human and veterinary patients may respond to acupuncture treatment. Although the technique originated in Chinese medicine, Western medicine has established the neurophysical effects of acupuncture and integrated it into treatments for chronic pain from musculoskeletal and neurological conditions.
Veterinary acupuncture started in the 1970’s. In cats it is used mainly in the treatment of chronic painful musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis. This is very common in cats, but poorly recognised by owners as cats rarely limp, they just become less active. Inability to cope with stairs, difficulty ascending onto furniture, or just increased sleeping and reduced sociability can indicate chronic joint discomfort.
Fine solid needles are inserted into chosen points to inhibit pain transmission via nervous pathways and also to stimulate pain relieving chemicals in the brain and spinal cord. Inserting needles directly into painful areas of muscle can also provide good pain relief.
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. It is more difficult to help a patient with longstanding problems in several areas than one with a recent injury in one area of the body.
Most cats 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.
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 often respond well once the needles are placed.
Treatment usually begins quite intensively, with 4 treatments at weekly intervals. We hope to see some improvement after 2 treatments and a good response after 4. If so, we might suggest a few sessions 3 – 4 weeks apart or even more.
We can use acupuncture with any other medications or diets. Treatments are usually done in consulting times with the owner present.
The initial assessment and treatment lasts 30 – 40mins. If you think your cat
may benefit from acupuncture do give the Clinic a call 01865 243000 or visit our website.
We also accept referrals from other veterinary practices.