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Doing acupuncture on cats may sound crazy. After all, your furry pal can barely tolerate riding in a car, let alone somebody poking it with needles.
Yet in a feline medical first, researchers recently succeeded in using acupuncture to treat a cat suffering from limb paralysis. Could acupuncture benefit your cat, particularly if physical or emotional issues have cropped up?
Acupuncture to the Rescue
Oriental medicine, including acupuncture, has been used for thousands of years to treat ailments in people and animals. Acupuncture involves inserting tiny needles into specific points in the body called meridians, where chi -- or vital energy -- is said to flow. According to traditional Chinese medicine, when chi is blocked, the body suffers. Yet by using acupuncture on several of these meridians, practitioners say chi can be unblocked and health restored.
In the aforementioned study, researchers used acupuncture on a 14-year-old cat with disc disease. The cat showed significant improvements in posture and mobility four months after starting acupuncture. The regime involved weekly visits at first, which were later reduced to every other week. After this brief round of treatments, the feline patient was walking and running again.
"Due to the seriousness of the disease, acupuncture was the only medical option, but I didn't have great expectations for this cat," admits Keum Hwa Choi, DVM, the study’s co-author who is an assistant professor of integrative medicine at the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine in St. Paul. She had previously used acupuncture on dogs, horses, cows, rabbits and ferrets. Needless to say, the cat's response excited Dr. Choi.
Disc disease is only one condition in cats that acupuncture can help. Others include kidney conditions, autoimmune disorders, allergies, hip dysplasia, arthritis and certain musculoskeletal problems, along with some emotional issues. In most cases, acupuncture is used in conjunction with other treatments.
Cat Acupuncture Basics
If you're considering this treatment option for your cat, here's what you should know:
In the end, though, the results of acupuncture may surprise you. Dr. Van Engelenburg has seen cats that were given only a few months to live yet survived several more years after acupuncture treatments. As he says, "This noninvasive procedure could improve the quality of life for your cat and perhaps help it live longer."
Karen Asp covers health, fitness, nutrition and pets for numerous publications, including Prevention, Woman's Day, Shape, Self, Fitness, Health, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping and Natural Health. She shares her office with two cats.