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Acupuncture for Cats!
The Benefits of Acupuncture
What Diseases can be Treated?
Almost any disease can benefit from treatment with Acupuncture - some of the best known are:
What are Dr. Maloney's credentials?
Dr. Maloney is certified in Veterinary Acupuncture through IVAS.
What Should I Expect?
The initial visit usually consists of a very detailed history and the assessment of overall health, including weight and examination of any areas of concern brought up in the history - this would be similar to your regular physical examination, but with an emphasis on aspects that relate more to the Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) examination. Included in this would be an assessment of sleep patterns, times of the day when signs appear, mental well-being, preference for a hot or cold environment and energy levels and how they change with movement or rest.
We then look at the colour and texture of the Tongue and assess the Pulse quality more thoroughly than we do in a routine Western examination. We put together the pertinent history, Tongue and Pulse and also assess the body for areas that feel warm or tight and come up with a Pattern of Disease and a TCVM diagnosis. This represents the entire body's illness and health and allows us to select acupuncture points that have a long term history of treating the pattern that we find as well as tailoring it to your cat's specific pattern on that day.
Placing the Needles ....
We then place the needles, which are tiny and smooth and don't cut through tissue like a hypodermic needle does, they merely slide between the tissues and are almost painless to put in. There is some sensation when the needle gets to the proper location and this sensation is known as DeQI (the "arrival of Qi") and indicates proper placement of the needle and correspondingly good clinical effectiveness. Cats usually demonstrate this by a skin twitch in the area.
Once the needles are placed, we let your cat rest for the treatment time which is usually between 10 minutes and 30 minutes, occasionally more.
The needles are then removed which is also almost painless and your cat is able to go straight home.
The experience ....
Most cats love the acupuncture experience and relax after the first 1 or 2 needles are placed, often starting to purr or having a big sigh, some even fall asleep. We know which needles feel the best and often start with these to aid in relaxation and to de-stress them from the visit to the Vet. We let them hide under a towel, stay in their basket or just sleep on the table if that is what they want. We don't have to restrain them, merely supervise them so that they don't decide to take their needles out too soon on their own! We have also used a couple well placed needles to relax anxious cats for a regular physical examination and sometimes the results are amazing.
The Response ....
To assess how we are doing, we reassess the pulses and may make adjustments to the needles. We expect to see an immediate change in the pulse quality if we are on the right track - this is much different from Western medicine in which we often have to wait a few days to a few weeks to know if we are treating effectively. The clinical response with Acupuncture often takes a couple days to see full effects still, but often there is a measurable difference right away. The effects are also cumulative - further treatments have better and longer-lasting responses.
Your cat may also be a little sleepy when they first go home and this is normal, just a pleasant sensation of relaxation, like after a good massage.
Treatment Frequency ...
We usually expect to treat a cat 4 to 8 times for most chronic conditions on a weekly or, more often, biweekly schedule and then periodically thereafter to maintain the response, usually every couple months. In some more acute conditions we may treat more often, but then may not need to treat ongoing if the problem resolves. Occasionally, only 1 or 2 treatments are needed.
Acupuncture is mainstream now
There are many theories as to how acupuncture works and more are still being discovered. It has been remarkably well studied in the pain management realm and is considered main stream now in many human medical fields. It is rare to go into a physiotherapist now and not have at least one of the therapists trained in using Acupuncture.
How old is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is best known as dating back to Ancient China, but in fact was likely independently discovered in many cultures. The oldest recorded "Acupuncture treatment" involved Otzi the iceman found in the Italian Alps dating back to 5300 years ago who had interesting markings on him in well known acupuncture locations and in fact had radiographic evidence of arthritis in the joints underlying these markings. It is presumed they represented a form of acupuncture to relieve pain.
More of What the needle does
The needle insertion also interestingly stimulates the local nerves to send messages to the brain such as:
1) "this chronic pain is not helpful, please turn off the pain response" - this is accomplished by other nerves inhibiting pain, the release of endorphins and even serotonin into the circulation and even local effects at the spinal cord. This effect is so powerful that a degree of pain inhibition can be created at times to allow for minor surgical procedures.
2) to adjust the release of hormones at the brain level, including thyroid hormones, and pituitary hormones, etc and this likely explains some of the other effects of Acupuncture.
3) to improve the immunity - certain points have been shown to increase the white blood cell count in the body (infection fighting cells).
4) improve heart function - one point in particular has been shown to improve cardiac output.
5) another well-studied point has been shown in scientific studies to increase heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and release of epinephrine in an emergency/resuscitation situation and improve outcome.
6) improve the peristalsis - the motility in the gastrointestinal tract.
The scientific explanation
Our body has a finite number of ways to deal with an injury. "In the wild", if we had an infection or a snake bite, our body constricts the blood flow to that area to prevent the spread of infection or toxins to the rest of the body and let us survive a little longer (to reproduce and carry on our genes). This is a good short-term survival mechanism but is detrimental if all we really have is a sore knee.
There are many aspects to how acupuncture helps the body heal. Two of the more interesting ones are explained below:
1) Involves using the needle locally to stimulate the local tissue that then releases natural substances at the site of needle insertion. These substances then stimulate a variety of effects including dilating blood vessels, releasing histamine and other factors which stimulate further chemical pathways, all eventually bringing blood to the area to help heal the tissues. It is well accepted now that many chronic conditions involve a poor blood supply and healing is improved when blood is brought to the area. Blood can also be encouraged to leave an area, depending on how the needle is stimulated and how long the needle is left in, which is great for an acute injury that is swollen and sore.
2) Also, there are "proprioceptive" nerves that tell our body where the pain is located, but with chronic pain, these get "turned off" and all we know is it hurts somewhere down there. Acupuncture has the ability to localize the pain for our body and kickstart those nerves to relay the information to our brain and then allows our brain to send signals down directly to the area to dilate the proper local blood vessels and restore circulation to the chronically injured area. Interestingly, the needle does not have to be right in the area of pain but can be in a "related" area in the body (we map regions in our spinal cord) - this allows us to treat an elbow when we have knee pain and we don't have to treat right where it hurts!
The Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) Explanation
The ancient Chinese developed their own form of medicine long before there was anatomy, physiology, etc. They created a story that made sense to them to explain how we function. They looked at the world around them and used similar analogies to look at the body - creating opposites, as exist in nature - so we have hot and cold, up and down, in and out, etc. Further refinement created the Yin (which is substance) and Yang (which is function) which are also opposite but yet inter-related and together they form the Qi of the body, which is the functioning of the body that keeps us alive (think of it as food eaten to create energy, air breathed to create energy) and really correlates with organ function. The Qi must move throughout the body and support all the organs or we are not healthy. The Qi moves primarily with the blood, creating the meridian theory, which are "vessels" that deliver our energy (blood, oxygen) to our organs.
Yin and Yang must also be in balance, or we are not healthy - Yin represents moisture, coolness, substance.
Yang represents activity, function and heat so they are complementary and together create energy to live. Think of it as the activity (Yang) of digesting food (Yin).
Acupuncture is used to bring Yin and Yang in balance and all the organs in balance. It looks at the body as a whole and treats the body as a whole which is vastly different from Western medicine which looks at 1 disease as separate from the rest of the body, which, when you think about it is very limiting.
Acupuncture can therefore be very complementary to our regular medicine and help to heal the entire body so we are healthier and can withstand diseases better. It can also be helpful on its own or with Western medicine to treat acute diseases.
Contact us for more information or to book an appointment