What is cat acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of medical treatment that was developed in China about 2,000 years ago. It's been used on animals and humans ever since then and it's evolved over that whole time. We can and do perform acupuncture on cats, dogs, and humans. We apply our approach a little bit differently for each species, but for the most part, cats will benefit in the same ways as every other species.

Dr. Heather Burrowes, DVM CVA
Brunswick Veterinary Hospital

How can acupuncture impact the health and well-being of my cat?

Acupuncture is a way to balance the health of the whole patient. It treats the whole patient and not just the single problem that they came in with. So whether your cat is coming in for pain or kidney disease or anything like that, there is probably some way for acupuncture to complement whatever treatment they're on and provide some relief from that condition.

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

The biggest thing that we use acupuncture for in cats is pain. Cats can hide a lot of pain symptoms, and there are very limited ways that we can manage pain in cats because they don't have the best kidneys in the animal kingdom. This makes acupuncture a great option to treat pain in cats.

How effective is cat acupuncture?

Acupuncture in cats is very effective. I usually notice that my patients by their second or third session understand what we're doing, relax, and enjoy the treatment. They often feel better shortly after treatment, but we really see long term benefits that compound over time.

What is a typical range for the number of treatments required for cats receiving acupuncture?

I typically have my patients come in for three treatments spaced about a week apart. What I want to see in those first three sessions is that the patient is experiencing some improvement that the owner can see. If it is working, then we can talk about a specific patient, how far apart we want to spread more treatments, or if it was just a minor problem, if we think it's fully resolved.

How will a veterinarian diagnose the need for cat acupuncture?

Pretty much any condition that we can treat with Western medicine will benefit from acupuncture added to their treatment regimen. So no matter what we're seeing them for, whether it's pain, kidney disease, or hypothyroidism, we're always happy to talk about whether acupuncture will help that patient's overall well-being long term.

Are there any risks or side effects associated with cat acupuncture?

Side effects with acupuncture are very minimal if they happen at all. Some owners have mentioned that their pets might be very tired the day after their acupuncture treatment, but they rebound very quickly. This tends to be a temporary side effect. Other than that, side effects are really quite rare if they're reported at all. So it is a very safe modality to use.

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

When a cat comes in for an acupuncture session, I'll see them for a general exam first. We'll do our best to get them comfortable and happy in the exam room. We always have it very quiet. We use feel-away for our feline friends, and have nice soft blankets for them to snooze on. When I do an initial acupuncture appointment, I will do one or two single calming points. For cats, these are usually on their face and head. I'll make sure that my patient is tolerating the treatment before I go any further. Usually, they fall asleep, and then after about 10 to 15 minutes, we'll take the needles out, and then the owner and pet are on their way.

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

What I expect to see is whatever problem we're seeing, I like to talk about setting goals for treatment at the beginning of treatment. So if your main symptom is maybe your cat's back end is painful and they won't jump up in the window anymore, can we get them maybe jumping on the sofa and then up to the window? I want to see some improvement, and the goals are going to be different for each patient, but that is something we go over at that exam.

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