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Veterinary Acupuncture

orange and white cat
What Is Veterinary Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body in order to achieve a healing effect.

While acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and is one of the oldest medical procedures in history, veterinary acupuncture didn’t emerge as a treatment for animals in the United States until the 1970s.

Over the last few decades, a lot of medical research has been done to understand how and why acupuncture works. This research has led to the development of medical acupuncture, an evidence-based scientific approach to this ancient technique. In Western terms, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasms, and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body’s chemicals that controls pain) or cortisol (a natural steroid).  

Both traditional Chinese acupuncture and Western acupuncture accomplish the same goals with the same techniques. Chinese acupuncture is based on the ancient study of qi, or “vital energy”, and its flow through the body. Western acupuncture builds on the techniques of Chinese acupuncture but de-emphasizes the notion of qi and utilizes an understanding of anatomy, physiology, and pathology.

Can Acupuncture Help My Cat?

Treatable conditions include:

  • Back pain (i.e. spondylitis/spondylosis and disc disease, paralysis, and paresis)
  • Arthritis (i.e. stifles, hocks, elbows, shoulders) and hip dysplasia
  • Muscle and ligament sprains/strains and spasms
  • Chronic gastrointestinal disease (i.e. megacolon, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Chronic skin conditions
  • Urinary and fecal incontinence
  • Epilepsy
  • Stress related disorders (i.e. separation anxiety, over-grooming, inappropriate urination, and aggression)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic respiratory conditions and asthma
  • Side effects associated with chemotherapy
  • End of life palliative care

What Can I Expect from the Treatments?

For the first visit, allow 45 minutes for a consultation. After a thorough review of your pet’s medical history and a detailed exam, your veterinarian will make her recommendations. For this visit, make sure to provide them with all of your cat’s medical records. If your cat has never been diagnosed with a specific condition, then it may be necessary to perform additional tests prior to starting treatments.

After the first visit, each session takes 15-30 minutes for 1-2 times per week for the first 4-6 weeks. Then, your cat will usually only need to come in for a session once per month or even bi-annually for maintenance, but this can vary. Generally, one needs to commit to a minimum of 4-6 sessions before being able to determine if the treatment is helping with the condition.

Is Acupuncture Painful?

For most pets, the insertion of the needles is virtually pain-free. Once the needles are in place, cats often become very relaxed and may actually become quite sleepy. Occasionally, however, acupuncture may cause sensations such as tingles or mild cramps which can be uncomfortable for some animals.

Are There Any Side Effects?

It is not uncommon for pets to go home from their sessions and sleep soundly for a long time. This is a good sign and shows that your cat will probably respond well to acupuncture. Don’t worry if they’re not sleepy, though. This doesn’t mean that they will not respond well. Sometimes, your pet may actually be a little more energetic than usual. This is a good sign too, but keep them quiet for the rest of the day or they may overdo it.  

Side effects are rare, but they do occur. Occasionally, an animal’s condition will seem to get worse before it gets better for 48 hours after treatment or they may become lethargic.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss whether acupuncture is right for your cat, we welcome you to schedule an appointment online or contact us directly at our veterinary clinic and boarding facility in Lake Oswego, Oregon. We look forward to hearing from you!