Monday, November 7, 2011

Does acupuncture really help cats?

Eamon the cat finds the flash on the camera a little distracting.

As I look for new ways to deal with Eamon's pain that don't involve large amounts of prednisone, one option keeps coming up again and again: acupuncture. Experts suggest that acupuncture can truly help cats overcome pain, and people who perform the treatments on cats claim that the cats tolerate the procedure without complaint.

In traditional acupuncture, practitioners use very tiny needles in a series of pressure points to release tension and balance the flow of energy. In veterinary medicine, the same needles are used, but those needles are usually only inserted in the area that's causing the animal pain.

In Eamon's case, he'd have needles in his back and his hips, while he'd probably have no needles in his feet or head. In about six sessions, he'd probably be done with the treatments.

In the Portland area, these treatments can cost quite a pretty penny, and I'm not ready to jump on the bandwagon without a few conversations with actual cat owners. Cats are masters at disguising their pain, so I am skeptical of idea that the cats actually improved from the sessions. Did their clinical signs get better, or did they just bury their pain so the sessions would stop?

It's hard to say, but there are some effective ways to do your homework.

Some veterinary acupuncturists allow you to attend sessions with client pets. You can come into the exam room and watch the procedure performed on another pet, and you might see the changes for yourself. I've heard reports of people watching pets fall asleep during their sessions, and that's bound to be convincing.

Others allow you to call people who have used the service. You can ask these former patients about their experiences and the benefits they've seen, and you won't have the acupuncturist monitoring the talk. Those clients could help you to make a good decision.

Or, you could simply pay for just one session and see what happens. Most allow you to go just once as a trial, with no obligation to take on more sessions. If you head to just one, you could get all the answers you might need.

What will I do? I'm not yet sure. But I'll keep you posted!