Just as for our other pets, acupuncture can be used to both prevent and treat disease in cats. Dr. Lindsey Harris is an experienced veterinary acupuncturist (certified since 2005) who instructs in acupuncture at the Chi Institute of Chinese Veterinary Medicine, which is widely known as the leading institute training veterinarians in acupuncture. Acupuncture can be performed either using needles or a laser for a completely pain-free experience.
How do you do acupuncture on a cat???
Although it may seen unlikely, it is really not that hard to do acupuncture on cats. When they are treated in their own home, with respect for their individual needs, minimal restraint and their owner there to reassure or distract with a toy, many cats tolerate acupuncture.
When needles are used, a minimal number of needles is used and the cats do not have to remain completely still while the needles are in place. The needles are very short and fine, once they are positioned, the cats rarely realize that they are even there. Acupuncture causes release of pain-relieving and relaxing endorphins, which can cause the patient to become drowsy and sometimes even fall asleep during treatment.
For cats that will not tolerate needles, the good news is that NYVAS can perform laser acupuncture instead of needle acupuncture. This completely avoids the use of needles and is a completely pain-free experience. The tip of the low-level ("cold") laser is held to each acupoint for a few seconds and treatment can be completed within a few minutes. This is a great option for cats that dislike needles or will not remain still while they are in place.
Does acupuncture work on cats?
Fortunately, cats are generally very responsive to acupuncture and generally improve faster than dogs. There are many scientific studies showing effects from acupuncture in cats, because they are often used as an experimental animal in which to investigate the effects and mechanisms of action of acupuncture. Studies using cats have shown that acupuncture affects blood pressure, blood flow to the brain, gastrointestinal motility and plasticity of the nervous system, among other effects. Clinical studies of actual feline patients treated with acupuncture show that it is effective for many conditions, such as spinal disc disease.
Is acupuncture safe for cats?
When administered by a licensed veterinarian who has special training in acupuncture, acupuncture is a very safe therapy and problems are very rare. Cats enjoy grooming and so it is important to always watch a cat closely while acupuncture is performed, to be sure that they do not lick and inadvertently swallow a needle. They can be distracted with a toy or if they do not see the needles, they often become drowsy during the treatment. When laser acupuncture is performed, no needles are used and the treatment is completely non-invasive, avoiding any potential for these problems.
We've tried everything to help our cat and it hasn't worked; is it worth trying acupuncture?
Yes, many of Dr. Harris's clients are those who have tried every possible conventional medical treatment to help their cat, without success. Although it is better if acupuncture is used earlier in the course of a disease rather than as a last resort, even these cats often respond dramatically to veterinary acupuncture. Although there is of course no guarantee of results (as with any medical treatment), a combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tui-na (massage) and food therapy can benefit many diseases and often really improve a cat's quality of life.
How should I prepare my cat for an acupuncture house call treatment, and is there any aftercare required?
There is very little preparation required before Dr. Harris arrives to treat your cat. When treating cats, the most important thing is that they are in a peaceful, familiar and calming environment, without distraction by other people or animals. While it is important that there are no distractions and that your cat can relax, if he or she is more comfortable in the presence of other (calm) cats or other pets, that's fine. Please stop by your regular veterinarian and pick up a copy of your cat's medical record before your appointment.
There are no aftercare requirements when your cat has been treated with acupuncture. Your cat may be drowsy or less active for 24 hours after treatment; this is completely normal and shows a response to the acupuncture.