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But Can it Cure Pins and Needles? Acupuncture in Cats.

on August 29, 2012 - 6:23pm


We enjoyed the cat Olympics and the snippets of summer that the weather allowed us.  On a rainy August day, it doesn’t surprise me that the ancient Chinese thought that an excess of ‘dampness’ was the cause of many illnesses!  I am a Western trained vet with a very sound scientific background, trained to question and seek evidence.  The concepts and vocabulary of traditional Chinese medicine may be very foreign to my Western ears, but there is no doubt that I have helped many animals using acupuncture and am convinced it works!

Scientific interrogation of acupuncture’s efficacy is limited as you can’t conduct a double blinded, placebo controlled trial!  Practitioners of acupuncture churn out hundreds of papers with positive results whereas sceptics devise studies that show no difference between acupuncture and placebo effect.  People argue this cannot be a factor in animals, but I would say that owners who are looking for improvements in their cats will see a benefit.

The limitations in our scientific knowledge regarding pain perception and the interactions between emotion or stress and disease may be at the core of the lack of proven mechanisms for acupuncture’s action.   What I can tell you is that it can and does help with painful conditions such as osteoarthritis and will also benefit individual cats with sleep disturbances, epilepsy and certain skin problems, to name a few.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles into special foci, called acupoints to treat or prevent disease.  The points are chosen after a careful physical examination and thorough evaluation of the cat’s history and any blood or urine tests.  The points used may vary between treatments, as I will assess the cat’s needs on a particular day and will use points that are convenient depending on how the cat likes to sit or lie.

 I tend to use between 4 and 8 needles per treatment, and often use a calming point as my first ‘test needle’.  I encourage owners to remain with their cat to cuddle and reassure them during treatments and never restrain cats for acupuncture. The majority of cats tolerate treatments very well and often go to sleep during acupuncture.  In the few where needling isn’t going to work, I never persist, and will suggest a different approach to treatment – Cats are capable of being cynical about acupuncture too!

The needles are left in place for 15-20 minutes and then the cat is completely fine to go home.  Some cats experience some immediate effects, such as drowsiness or hunger.  The majority of cats that are going to respond to treatment will experience an improvement after the first or second treatment.  Treatments are given every week for 4 treatments and then tapered to monthly, depending on the cat.

If you are interested in booking your cat in for an initial assessment please contact Reception to book an appointment.  Information about acupuncture in all animals can be found on the ABVA website.