While I am primarily a Western cat doctor who does patient exams, interprets lab-work and x-rays, and performs surgery and dental procedures like most other veterinarians, I do have an Eastern side. One of my favorite tools for healing isn’t a drug or a surgical technique. I use the ancient Chinese art of acupuncture to help patients with arthritis, soft tissue and nerve injuries.
How does acupuncture work? How does inserting tiny needles into various locations (“points”) on a cat’s body help ease pain and speed healing? The Western medical/scientific community is starting to understand that while we talk about Qi and meridians, the ancient Chinese were actually describing circulation and physical channels containing nerves and blood vessels. Acupuncture points contain afferent nerves that are capable of transmitting signals to peripheral nerves (the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord), the spinal cord and the brain. The autonomic nervous system that regulates our unconscious nerve functions, such as breathing, heartbeat, body temperature, hormone release and blood circulation, is strongly affected by acupuncture. Acupuncture adjusts our body’s self regulation, which can improve patient circulation and organ function, cause muscles to relax, improve immune function and ease pain. Improving circulation to injured regions of the body speeds healing. Acupuncture encourages the body to change in ways that encourage healing and a return to normal function.
Most cats respond beautifully to acupuncture. They are so sensitive to it that only 10 to 15 minutes of needles are needed. I use Seirin needles exclusively because they slide in so smoothly, my patients often don’t seem to notice, unless I’m needling a particularly sensitive trigger point. Acupuncture is so much fun to do, because I often get to see results right away. While many cats only need a few treatments, some older, arthritic cats see me monthly. Their people tell me the cats start looking forward to their visits, despite the car ride. I love the way my patient’s body starts to relax as endorphins are released. If you are curious about acupuncture, feel free to ask me about it at your cat’s next exam.