Cat Acupuncture - How to Know If Acupuncture is Right For Your Cat

What is cat acupuncture?

Acupuncture has been around for a long time, and it's been used in people as of late. For a long time, it's been used on animals as well, but acupuncture is simply taking a needle and putting it in an acupuncture point. These acupuncture points are learned by training and teaching about different patterns or meridians on the body that contain these points. So, if you take a needle and put it in a point, it causes a whole cascade of events to transpire. A lot of that has to do with releasing cells that can combat inflammation, fight off infection, provide pain relief, and relax muscle tissue. So, in a sense, what acupuncture can do is when you put that needle in the point, it's able to cause your own body to release its own endorphins to help control the condition that we're trying to treat.

Dr. Mitch McKee
Cupola Animal Hospitals - Berry Farms Animal Hospital

What are some symptoms and conditions that cat acupuncture may be able to treat?

The most common use for cat acupuncture is for some type of pain management, and usually, that's arthritis, back, hip, or any kind of joint disease. However, it can also be used for GI problems, or behavioral issues, and any other type of painful condition, depending upon what the cause is.

How effective is cat acupuncture?

Acupuncture can be very effective for our cats, but it's like anything else, any type of treatment that we try, or perhaps any type of drug that we try, it doesn't work for every cat, but when cats do respond, they seem to respond very well to it.

What's the typical range for the number of treatments required for cat acupuncture?

With acupuncture, at first, you have to do frequent treatments. Most often, we'll be starting with one treatment per week for four to six weeks to determine if we're going to get a benefit from it. Once we determine that we're going to benefit from it, we can start to stretch those intervals. We may go from having a session every week to every two weeks a few times, to every three weeks for a few times. Ideally, you'd like to get to a point where you're having a session once a month, but that can vary depending upon the condition and how well your cat's doing. Maybe they have to have it every two weeks. It's sort of a trial and error type thing, but you do have to start more frequently at first to determine if it's going to be helpful or not.

How will my vet diagnose the need for acupuncture with my cat?

When we're looking to use acupuncture, we usually find ourselves in scenarios where maybe we've tried other things, it didn't work for us, or perhaps we have an owner that doesn't want to use a Western medication or Western approaches. They're looking for an alternative treatment. It's usually those cases where nothing has worked or been too successful in getting the results that we like.

Are there any risks or side effects associated with acupuncture?

There's really no risk to acupuncture. We do have to be a little careful if a cat is pregnant. We have to be cautious about where we put the needles. If a cat has seizures, there are certain approaches that we want to avoid or stay away from, but, overall, it's very safe and effective.

What should I expect before, during, and after my cat's acupuncture session?

Well, it's going to depend upon the patient. I will tell you that even though cats seem to respond very well to acupuncture treatments, not every cat is going to let you do acupuncture. It comes down to your cat's personality and how willing they are to sit there through the session. We're talking about sessions that could last 25 to 30 minutes from start to finish. Some cats don't like one needle, even though they're tiny needles. Some cats just don't like the stress of being in the clinical setting and going through the whole process. If your cat is very anxious even before they get to the session, they're probably not going to do very well unless they have something to help combat anxiety.

If you have a very easy-going, laid-back cat, they're probably going to be okay, but during the session, you're typically sitting there in the exam room watching us do the treatment. There's not much going on other than the therapy itself. Afterward, what you should expect is a more relaxed patient. Maybe they take a big nap or go home and just lay low for a little bit, but what you do want to see over time is improvement in the condition we started the treatments for. Again, even though cats can be very responsive to acupuncture, not every cat will let us do it. It really comes down to having the right patient to get the best effect from the treatment.

How will I know if acupuncture treatments are helping my cat?

Usually, you're going to see some improvement in mobility. Maybe the cat is up and down more. Perhaps they feel better. The cat might not have as many GI problems or is lashing out at the other cat as they were previously. So it comes down to what your list of issues initially was and how well have they been resolved, or have they at least gotten better?

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 224-7776, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.