Feline Fine: Acupuncture in Cats, Part Two

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Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.


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Hi, I’m Dr. Lauren! Read my introduction to learn more about me and my two adventurous cats, Pancake and Tiller.

I first encountered acupuncture in cats while working as a veterinary technician. One of the vets I worked with in Alaska used the technique on multiple species, to help with arthritis issues. I was interested, but never really delved into the process until much later. In vet school, we were very lucky to have the late Dr. Bruce Ferguson, a pioneer in veterinary acupuncture from Chi University in Florida, and I was privileged to spend time learning from him, in great detail.

This led to a few externships where I participated in feline acupuncture. I was amazed to find cats sitting in their bed, in the exam room at a clinic, calmly purring for an acupuncture session. And their owners sat, singing the praises, and how it improved their cat.

And that’s how I found myself, sitting with an acupuncture needle in my own foot at a veterinary conference a few weeks ago, wondering, could I help patients, too? What benefits did acupuncture have?

In this article, I’ll look specifically at that with regard to cats, and how it may help your favorite feline to feel fine (or feline fine, to play on the words!).

  • Missed part one? Click here to read the first article in this series!

Acupuncture needle in my foot- it helped!
Acupuncture needle in my foot – it helped!

The Use of Veterinary Acupuncture

Acupuncture has a history of originally being used in working or production animals—basically the animals that had a higher monetary value in society. So horses were a common acupuncture patient, far before cats and dogs. Today, things have changed, and even pet chickens have been known to receive acupuncture.

There are lots of reports and publications about the use of acupuncture in humans and animals, and you may be surprised at the variety of medical conditions in which acupuncture treatment may complement traditional Western medicine. They include but are not limited to:

  • Arthritis
  • Chronic skin issues
  • Acute respiratory collapse or CPR
  • Feline hyperesthesia
  • Gingivostomatitis
  • Rectal prolapse
  • Dental pain
  • Anesthesia
  • Osteochondrodysplasia
  • Fever
  • Cryptorchidism
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer adjunct
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Urinary Incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Chronic otitis

Acupuncture needle (circled) compared to a pen for size.
These little needles can potentially make a big difference: Acupuncture needle vs pen for size comparison

So, if you sign your cat up for acupuncture, what can you expect?

  • Many acupuncture treatments are around 20 minutes or so, but can vary. Theoretically, even stimulating a point for a very short time may have marked benefits
  • Generally, expect a first visit to be longer, as it will include history, exam, and planning for the treatment. Treatment may or may not happen on the day.
  • Most acupuncturists recommend weekly treatments, less commonly twice weekly. Rarely would they occur more often
  • Expect to see full effects of the treatment after a month; don’t dismay if you don’t see anything immediately after the first one (though some patients will respond very impressively)
  • Many courses of treatment will enter a maintenance phase once the cat is doing well; this may mean acupuncture every 2-4 weeks, or less.
  • Check your country’s laws for who can perform veterinary acupuncture as well; I generally recommend using one of the professional organisations to find members that are certified or approved to practice on animals.

In the final article in this series, we will take a more in depth look on how acupuncture is actually believed to work, in general, and in some of the specific conditions.

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