Sticking a cat with needles might not seem like the best method to treat chronic pain, but Dr. Karas says acupuncture can be very useful. Chronic pain is a disease of the central nervous system, and acupuncture works by stimulating the nervous system and helping to restore the normal firing patterns of the nerves.
To be effective, Dr. Karas says acupuncture must be performed weekly or every other week for at least three to five sessions, and then as needed, which might be monthly or quarterly.
How successfully acupuncture relieves pain sometimes depends on the cat’s personality, however. Cats who are unhappy being taken to the veterinary clinic may be so stressed by the visit that they receive less benefit from the treatment. Dr. Karas says those cats may do better with a home visit from an acupuncturist, if that can be arranged.
To successfully treat chronic pain in cats, it’s important to set reasonable, concrete goals that are specific to each cat and to have a realistic expectation of response time. It can take four to six weeks to see a response to therapy. Chronic pain takes a long time to develop and a long time to resolve, Dr. Moses says, adding that the best defense against debilitating chronic pain is prompt and aggressive treatment of acute pain.
Most important, don’t be satisfied with just assuming nothing can be done to help your cat’s quality of life. With patient, multi-faceted management, your cat can be back up walking, running, jumping, climbing stairs and playing.