Feline Acupuncture


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, in some form, has been around for thousands of years, acupuncture first emerged as a treatment for animals in the United States in the 1970s. Over the last few decades, much 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 and in Western terms, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, and relieve muscle spasms, and, cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body’s pain control chemicals) or cortisol (a natural steroid).  Both Western and traditional Chinese 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 deemphasizes the notion of qi and instead utilizes an understanding of anatomy, physiology and pathology.



Is Acupuncture Painful?  Is it Safe?

For most dogs and cats, the insertion of the acupuncture needles is virtually pain free. Once the needles are in place, most animals become very relaxed and many become sleepy. Occasionally, however, acupuncture treatment may cause some sensations, described as tingles or mild cramping in humans, which can be uncomfortable for some animals.  Side effects are rare, but they do occur. Occasionally, an animal’s condition will seem to worsen for 48 hours after treatment or an animal may become sleepy or lethargic after treatment.

How often is treatment needed?

The length and frequency of treatment depends upon the pet’s condition and the method of stimulation chosen. Treatments generally take 15 -30 minutes. Frequency is generally 1 -2 times weekly for the first 4-6 weeks and then often is tapered off to once month or even bi-annually for maintenance. This varies with the animal and the condition being treated. Generally, one needs to commit to a minimum of 4-6 visits prior to determining if the treatment is helping with the condition.   Depending on the condition and how they have responded, we will work out a plan that usually involves tailing off the treatment so that the effect is maintained for as long as possible.

How do I get started?

For the initial appointment, please allow 45 minutes for your consultation. After a thorough review of your pet’s medical history as well as a detailed exam, Dr. Barkley will make her recommendations for treatment. Please be sure to provide any medical records, including lab work and imaging that have been done as a diagnosis is recommended prior to treatment with acupuncture. It may be necessary to perform additional diagnostic testing prior to beginning treatment if these have not already been done. Subsequent appointments will generally take 15 to 30 minutes.

It is not uncommon for pets to go home and sleep very soundly for a long time. This is a good sign and shows that your pet will probably respond well to acupuncture. But do not worry if they are not sleepy – this does not mean that they will will not respond. Sometimes your pet may seem a little more euphoric than usual; this is also a good sign, but keep them quiet for the rest of the day or they may overdo things.  Most of the time they accept the fine needles very well and often become relaxed and sleepy during the treatment.  It is uncommon for animals to need to be sedated. This would only usually happen if they were so painful that any touch or stimulus causes them pain. Perhaps surprisingly, cats and even rabbits often accept acupuncture treatment very well.


Treatable Conditions:

  • Back Pain e.g. spondylitis/spondylosis & disc disease, paralysis and paresis.
  • Hip dysplasia and arthritis e.g. stifles, hocks, elbows, shoulders.
  • Muscle and ligament sprains/strains and spasms.
  • Chronic gastrointestinal disease – megacolon, constipation, diarrhea.
  • Lick granulomas and other chronic skin conditions including atopy.
  • Urinary and fecal incontinence.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Stress related disorders e.g. separation anxiety, over-grooming and inappropriate urination and aggression in cats.
  • Chronic Renal Failure.
  • Chronic respiratory conditions/Feline asthma.
  • Side effects associated with chemotherapy
  • End of life palliative care

Author: Cat Care Professionals