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Complementary Therapy Options Available at Cat Hospital of Chicago

Cat Hospital of Chicago is pleased to announce the addition of acupuncture and therapy laser treatments to our care options. More and more these days, we hear about "alternative" or "integrative" medicine being used to treat a variety of problems in people which complement modern, Western medicine. This is also becoming true for veterinary medicine. For many people, the thought of these treatments may seem like "witch doctoring" or "hocus pocus." However, there are numerous studies that demonstrate patient benefit from both acupuncture and therapy laser therapies. Cat Hospital of Chicago is pleased to offer these integrative medicinal therapies to enhance our patients' quality of life and healthcare in a dog-free setting.


What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific areas ("acupoints") on the body with very fine needles. There are at least 360 classical acupoints, and additional ones have been defined over the years. When acupoints are stimulated, the body reacts with a complex cellular and nervous system response that involves the brain, the spinal cord, and blood vessels. This initiates the release of neurotransmitters-endorphins, serotonin, and other chemicals' that are beneficial to the body's normal function. One can affect pain control, inflammation, and more delicate biochemical processes, depending upon which neurotransmitters are released.

Do cats really tolerate acupuncture?

Yes, they do (though some patients do better than others!). It is usually not painful to have acupuncture needles inserted in the skin, but a mild tingling, warmth, or prickling sensation may be felt. In general animals tolerate treatments very well and many fall asleep during treatment. Feel free to ask our staff about patients they have seen being treated with acupuncture. If an animal indicates discomfort with a needle's placement, that needle is immediately removed.

What problems can be treated with acupuncture?

Acupuncture may be used to address a variety of medical complaints ranging from bladder disorders, neurological problems (such as seizures, weakness, or paralysis), as well as gastrointestinal, dermatological, and emotional conditions (anxiety, aggression): to name just a few.

  • Skin, eye and ear problems (such as allergies, asthma/cough, infections, chronic itch, upper respiratory disease, sinusitis, uveitis, or auto-immune disorders)
  • Digestive problems (including inflammatory bowel disease, chronic constipation/megacolon, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.)
  • Kidney and liver diseases
  • Neurological problems (such as paralysis, stroke, weakness, epilepsy, or vestibular disease)
  • Immunodeficiency (such as FIV, chemotherapy-induced immune suppression, or recurrent infections)
  • Behavior problems (depression, anxiety, etc.)
  • Endocrine/glandular diseases including diabetes, overactive thyroid
  • Pre- and post-operative pain management and healing
  • Musculoskeletal issues (sprains, strains, back pain, arthritis, muscle weakness)
  • Bladder problems including cystitis
  • Appetite stimulation, nausea control
  • Fatigue, general well-being
  • Age-related change, end-of-life care, chemotherapy/cancer support
  • Heart problems and hypertension
  • Respiratory disease such as asthma, bronchitis


What if my pet has cancer, how can acupuncture be used as treatment?

The primary goal in helping a cancer patient is to improve their quality of life whether that means chemotherapy, surgery, or simply palliation/hospice care. Treating an animal with cancer often improves their overall condition, which includes making them feel better and making them more able to resume their function within the family. Acupuncture has been used successfully many times to help cancer patients enjoy a substantially better quality of life than they had before beginning treatment. If your cat is having surgery or chemotherapy, acupuncture can be used to control pain, speed healing, or control against the side-effects of chemotherapy.

How often and for how long is a patient treated with acupuncture?

This depends on the condition being treated. Every animal is a unique individual. Some respond faster than others. In general, the more chronic a problem, the more therapy it will take to achieve improvement or resolution of the problem.

A typical patient might be an older cat with chronic lower back pain due to a condition called spondylosis, who has problems getting around and may be described as "sleeping more," "not jumping as much," or simply "getting old." Such a patient will probably need 5 or 6 treatments at weekly or twice-weekly intervals, followed by tapering toward a maintenance schedule of acupuncture every few months. Improvement will probably begin to show after the second to third treatment.

Another typical patient would be a young cat with a bout of inflammatory bladder disease (cystitis). Although this cat may be as uncomfortable at the outset as the spondylosis cat (discussed previously), he will probably only need 2 to 4 treatments at twice-weekly intervals. Improvement will probably begin to show after the first treatment.

Acupuncture sessions usually range from 20 to 60 minutes. An initial veterinarian consultation of about 45 to 60 minutes is generally required (most definitely if the acupuncture is being prescribed for a chronic condition or this is a second opinion). During this first session, your cat's Western medical history, as well as his/her Chinese medical evaluation is performed. We may make recommendations for dietary adjustments or Chinese herbals if this is appropriate in your cat's case, depending on your interest. The total number of acupuncture treatments is dependent on the nature, severity, and duration of the disease or condition. One treatment may be enough for an acute condition. A series of 3 to 10 treatments, usually about 1 to 2 weeks apart, should be expected in more chronic conditions. Many times, “tune-up” acupuncture sessions are scheduled every few weeks to months after the initial series to maximize the benefits of acupuncture.

Therapy Laser

What is a therapy laser?

A therapy laser is a medical laser that uses light energy to stimulate healing and/or reduce inflammation. It is a newer tool that is being used in human medicine by many physical therapy centers and sports teams to help get injured athletes back onto their feet more quickly. These medical therapy lasers are also starting to be used in chronic pain settings such as the treatment of fibromyalgia and arthritis. They can help reduce post-operative and/or post-injury swelling and edema. The medical therapy laser can also help wounds heal more quickly.

Aren't lasers dangerous? Won't it burn?

Lasers can be dangerous but there are nearly as many different types of lasers as there are wavelengths of light. Some lasers can cut or burn, some lasers are comparatively weak. The therapy laser works in the 860W range of light which is best absorbed by mitochondria (the energy center within cells) and causes them to increase their metabolism. This will improve blood flow to an area, draw in healing chemicals, clear fluid/swelling, and even cause the death of certain bacteria.

Most cats really enjoy the feeling of gentle warmth, often stretching with pleasure, though some more painful patients may initially limit how long we can treat them. Very rarely, patients with severe chronic pain may seem worse after treatment -for these patients, we will adjust future treatment. All people in the room must wear safety goggles while the laser is being used. In some cases, even the cat may need to wear an eye shield!

What can be treated with the therapy laser?

  • Joint or muscle pain from acute injury or chronic degenerative conditions (sprains, trauma, arthritis)
  • Wounds
  • Ear infections, gingivitis, abscesses
  • Surgical incisions
  • Abdominal inflammation or discomfort (bladder pain/cystitis, pancreatitis)
  • Nasal congestion and Asthma (in some cats)
  • Allergic or inflammatory skin diseases


How long does a therapy laser treatment take?

Treatments can be as short as a couple of minutes or as long as 20 minutes. Most can be performed as outpatient technician appointments, though the laser therapy must be prescribed by the doctor. Generally, it will be recommended to schedule sessions twice weekly initially and then wean down from there. Some patients may only need a total of three or six treatments; some may need to come in monthly for maintenance treatments. These can usually be scheduled as outpatient technician appointments. Multiple treatment packages are available at a discount; please ask us for a quote.

Can the therapy laser be used to treat cancer?

No, the therapy laser is not a surgical laser, and should not be used to treat cancers as it stimulates increased cell activity which causes cancers to grow. Surgical lasers can be used to perform surgery to remove cancerous tumors.

Where else can I get information on therapy lasers?

Here is a link to additional information on therapy lasers:


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