While you may know about acupuncture being used to treat humans, did you know that this traditional treatment can also be used on animals? Our Rock Hill vets share some information about veterinary acupuncture and how it works for your cat.

Acupuncture For Cats & Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM)

Acupuncture is a treatment that has been used for centuries in China to relieve pain and treat a host of illnesses in people. Now vets trained in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM) offer this therapy to our animals as well.

Acupuncture for cats is performed by a trained TCVM veterinary professional and aims to treat and manage the symptoms of illnesses and disorders by inserting ultra-thin needles into specific points on the body where nerves and blood vessels intersect.

TCVM, which also includes other therapies beyond acupuncture, can be combined with conventional veterinary care to provide a more holistic, full-body approach to treating medical conditions in animals.

Acupuncture can be used on animals of all ages, from kittens to adults and senior cats, to treat a variety of health issues. These treatments are regarded as safe and effective therapy that may provide relief from the pain or discomfort caused by injury or illness.

What are the different types of acupuncture for cats?

Dry needle technique

This technique involves the use of very small sterile needles inserted at acupoints. It is the basic form of acupuncture and although basic, is very effective.


The same needles are used as in dry needling, but an electroacupuncture unit (similar to a tens unit) is used to provide a deeper response. Special cords are connected to the needles on the body, and electrical impulses are sent through them, providing a more profound response. Some cats do not tolerate electroacupuncture because it is too much stimulation for a sensitive feline. It is not an appropriate treatment for cats who are aggressive, extremely worked up, or extremely nervous at the veterinarian's office.


Involves injecting a sterile liquid (often Vitamin B or the animal’s own blood) into an acupuncture point to provide a longer-lasting effect. This is a great treatment choice for cats who don’t tolerate sitting with the needles in for the whole treatment.


Involves bleeding a small amount of blood from a specific point. This is commonly practiced for excessive heat conditions.


Involves using a non-surgical laser to stimulate an acupoint. This technique is also very useful in animals who don’t tolerate needles well. It is a non-invasive procedure with no needles involved.

How is acupuncture performed on cats?

Before treatment of any kind can begin it is essential to determine the underlying cause of your cat's symptoms. Once the cause of the symptoms is known, treatment can begin to focus on the specific issue.

The goal of veterinary acupuncture is to help your cat's body heal itself by resetting the balance of energy throughout the body, known as "chi." A series of fine needles are inserted into the animal's body at specific points where blood vessels and nerves intersect. Endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, are released despite the fact that the procedure is virtually painless. This procedure aids in the relief of acute and chronic pain or discomfort in your animal.

It is also believed that the acupuncture process stimulates the release of serotonin which can help to reduce anxiety levels and generate feelings of contentment and happiness.

Other forms of TCVM can include acupressure, aquapuncture, laser energy, electrostimulation, and other alternative therapies.

What are the benefits of veterinary acupuncture?

Veterinary acupuncture and other traditional Chinese treatments are believed to produce a number of health benefits while avoiding the negative side effects that can be brought on by some conventional medications and treatments. Benefits of veterinary acupuncture for cats include:

  • Stimulating the release of endorphins, which are the body's natural pain relievers, and anti-inflammatory substances.
  • No negative side effects on internal organs, as can occur with some prescription medications.
  • There are no adverse interactions with other medications or supplements, making acupuncture a safe treatment for animals undergoing conventional treatments.
  • Acupuncture treatments are believed to create elevated blood flow and increased oxygenation as well as improved metabolic and toxic waste removal.
  • Localized pain relief may be achieved at the site of needle insertion due to the relaxation of the muscles in that area.

What are some of the conditions that can be treated with acupuncture?

As with human acupuncture, veterinary acupuncture can treat and manage a wide range of illnesses and conditions in cats. Inflammation and chronic pain are two common health conditions that respond well to this type of treatment. Acupuncture can help with the following conditions:

Pain management

If your cat has an injury or illness, there is a good chance that they are in pain. Chronic pain and acute pain are the two main types of pain. If your cat has chronic pain, it will experience pain symptoms for an extended period of time, whereas acute pain usually occurs suddenly and dissipates quickly. For pain treatment, there will be a focus on the main acupuncture points for pain, as well as a number of other points to allow for targeted treatment.

Musculoskeletal conditions

along with treatment for pain, acupuncture can also be used to address more specific concerns after the musculoskeletal system, such as muscle injuries (strains and sprains), muscle spasms, back pain, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, post-surgical pain and healing support, and more.

Neurological diseases

If your cat has experienced an injury or disorder affecting the nervous system such as intervertebral disc disease, seizures, and nerve paralysis, veterinary acupuncture may be able to provide them with some much-needed relief improving their quality of life.


The goal of acupuncture as a cancer treatment for cats is to stimulate blood flow and support the immune system, helping to naturally improve the body's ability to heal. Veterinary acupuncture treatment can be used to help relieve the side effects of conventional cancer treatments as well as treat cancer itself. 

Gastrointestinal disorders

Any cat owner knows that gastrointestinal issues are common afflictions for their feline friend. Veterinary acupuncture can help relieve the symptoms associated with diarrhea, vomiting, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) constipation and more.

End of Life Care

As your cat reaches the last leg of their life you will need to start focusing on hospice and end-of-life care. Acupuncture is a great option to help support their immune systems, manage pain, and help with appetite and other issues related to aging in cats.

Chronic diseases

Skin problems, asthma, coughing, kidney disease, liver disease, and hyperthyroidism are all examples of chronic diseases in cats. Acupuncture can be a valuable addition to the ongoing treatment plan for cats suffering from these conditions. Acupuncture can help by alleviating the underlying symptoms of these conditions, allowing for effective ongoing treatment.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat in pain following an accident? Acupuncture may be a good addition to their recovery plan. Contact our Rock Hill vets today to book an acupuncture appointment for your pet.