While you may know about acupuncture being used to treat humans, did you know that this traditional treatment can also be used on animals? Our Bedford vets share some information about veterinary acupuncture and how it works for your cat.
Acupuncture For Cats & Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM)
Acupuncture is a treatment that has been used for centuries in China to relieve pain and treat a host of illnesses in people. Now vets trained in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM) offer this therapy to our animals as well.
Acupuncture for cats is performed by a trained TCVM veterinary professional and aims to treat and manage the symptoms of illnesses and disorders by inserting ultra-thin needles into specific points on the body where nerves and blood vessels intersect.
TCVM, which also includes other therapies beyond acupuncture, can be combined with conventional veterinary care to provide a more holistic, full-body approach to treating medical conditions in animals.
Animals at any stage of life from kittens to adult and senior cats can undergo acupuncture treatment for a range of health conditions. These treatments are considered a safe and effective therapy that may provide relief from the pain or discomfort associated with injury and illness.
What are the different types of acupuncture for cats?
Dry needle technique
This technique involves the use of very small sterile needles inserted at acupoints. It is the basic form of acupuncture and although basic, is very effective.
This involves the use of the same needles as dry needling but includes electrical stimulation by an electroacupuncture unit (similar to a tens unit), to provide a deeper response. Special cords are connected to the needles on the body and electrical impulses are sent through them, providing a deeper response. Some cats don’t tolerate electroacupuncture because it is too much stimulation for a sensitive feline. It is not an ideal treatment for those cats that are aggressive, extremely worked up, or intensely nervous at the veterinarian’s office.
Involves injecting a sterile liquid (often Vitamin B or the animal’s own blood) into an acupuncture point to provide a longer-lasting effect. This is a great treatment choice for cats who don’t tolerate sitting with the needles in for the whole treatment.
Involves bleeding a small amount of blood from a specific point. This is commonly practiced for excessive heat conditions.
Involves using a non-surgical laser to stimulate an acupoint. This technique is also very useful in animals who don’t tolerate needles well. It is a non-invasive procedure with no needles involved.
How is acupuncture performed on cats?
Before treatment of any kind can begin it is essential to determine the underlying cause of your cat's symptoms. Once the cause of the symptoms is known, treatment can begin to focus on the specific issue.
The aim of veterinary acupuncture is to help your feline's body heal itself by resetting the balance of energy throughout the body, known as "chi". This is done by inserting a series of fine needles into the animal's body at specific points where blood vessels and nerves intersect. Although the process is virtually painless, endorphins, which are the body's natural painkillers, are released. This process helps to relieve your animal's acute and chronic pain or discomfort.
It is also believed that the acupuncture process stimulates the release of serotonin which can help to reduce anxiety levels and generate feelings of contentment and happiness.
Other forms of TCVM can include acupressure, aquapuncture, laser energy, electrostimulation, and other alternative therapies.
What are the benefits of veterinary acupuncture?
Veterinary acupuncture and other traditional Chinese treatments are believed to produce a number of health benefits while avoiding the negative side effects that can be brought on by some conventional medications and treatments. Benefits of veterinary acupuncture for cats include:
- Stimulating the release of endorphins, which are the body's natural pain relievers, and anti-inflammatory substances.
- No negative side effects on internal organs, as can occur with some prescription medications.
- There are no adverse interactions with other medications or supplements, making acupuncture a safe treatment for animals undergoing conventional treatments.
- Acupuncture treatments are believed to create elevated blood flow and increased oxygenation as well as improved metabolic and toxic waste removal.
- Localized pain relief may be achieved at the site of needle insertion due to the relaxation of the muscles in that area.
What are some of the conditions that can be treated with acupuncture?
As with acupuncture for people, a variety of illnesses and conditions in cats can be treated and managed through the use of veterinary acupuncture. Health conditions that involve inflammation or chronic pain tend to be especially responsive to this type of treatment. Some of the conditions treated by acupuncture include:
If your cat is suffering from an injury or illness then there is a large chance that they are also experiencing some form of pain. The two main types of pain are chronic or acute. If your kitty has chronic pain then they will continue to feel the symptoms of pain for an extended period of time while acute pain usually comes on suddenly and dissipates quickly. For the treatment of pain, there will be a focus on the main acupuncture points for pain combined with a number of other points to allow for targeted treatment.
along with treatment for pain, acupuncture can also be used to address more specific concerns after the musculoskeletal system, such as muscle injuries (strains and sprains), muscle spasms, back pain, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, post-surgical pain and healing support, and more.
If your cat has experienced an injury or disorder affecting the nervous system such as intervertebral disc disease, seizures, and nerve paralysis, veterinary acupuncture may be able to provide them with some much-needed relief improving their quality of life.
The goal of acupuncture as a cancer treatment for cats is to stimulate blood flow and support the immune system, helping to naturally improve the body's ability to heal. Veterinary acupuncture treatment can be used to help relieve the side effects of conventional cancer treatments as well as treat cancer itself.
Any cat owner knows that gastrointestinal issues are common afflictions for their feline friend. Veterinary acupuncture can help relieve the symptoms associated with diarrhea, vomiting, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) constipation and more.
End of Life Care
As your cat reaches the last leg of their life you will need to start focusing on hospice and end-of-life care. Acupuncture is a great option to help support their immune systems, manage pain, and help with appetite and other issues related to aging in cats.
Chronic diseases in cats include concerns such as skin conditions, asthma, cough, kidney disease, liver disease, and hyperthyroidism. Veterinary acupuncture can be a great addition to the ongoing treatment plan for cats with these conditions. Acupuncture can help by relieving the underlying symptoms of these conditions providing relief and allowing for effective ongoing treatment.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.