When I think of acupuncture as a chosen treatment whether for animals or humans I think of it in terms of pain management for an injury or the effects of another medical treatment such as neuropathy from chemotherapy, or for chronic conditions like arthritis. I was surprised and very happy to see its effects on the painful diarrhea Emeraude repeatedly experiences, stopping it immediately along with the obvious abdominal pain from her inflammatory bowel disease, and even its effect on her encroaching renal condition. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to try acupuncture for my cats though I’ve considered it through the years for other conditions.
Since Emeraude’s first acupuncture treatment at the end of July she has had three more and they seem to have helped her. And apparently she’s not at all bothered by it—as you see above she has two needles on either side of her spine, plus more you can’t see, but she’s totally entertained by the plastic and paper wrapper from the needle. Nineteen years old and still curious and playful!
Emeraude’s most critical issue was the diarrhea she developed when Lakota first showed signs of failure. She continued eating but began to have stool with a lot of smelly liquid that same weekend. I changed foods and the conditions persisted, and it didn’t seem to be food related.
Emeraude had been shy and timid from the beginning and obviously deferent to Lakota, who had the stronger and more outgoing personality of the two. She was never frightened or aggressive, but she was certainly not going to put herself in a vulnerable position by trusting me until more time had passed, not like her attention-seeking fur brother. She’d been known to vomit frequently in the past though once she’d been eating a grain-free food she’d stopped. When they arrived I began feeding them canned food with water and pumpkin added for extra hydration and also for Lakota’s constipation and Emeraude’s loose stool issues. She’d vomited a few times, then adjusted, and about four weeks went by before the diarrhea began, coincident with Lakota’s obvious failure.
Both of them had been showing signs of renal failure which cleared after they’d been here a couple of weeks, but I was still vigilant for signs of it at their age. The diarrhea was not a good sign in any case as it could be a symptom of encroaching renal failure or, because it tends to dehydrate elderly kitties quickly as well as sour their stomachs so they don’t want to eat, it can throw them into renal failure in a matter of days. In the meantime, everything she was eating was running right through her so she wasn’t getting any nourishment, and she really was becoming dehydrated.
Letting it run its course would only work for a few days, and the situation could become grave after that. Courses of treatment included therapeutic doses of subcutaneous fluids as a support, which I had on hand, but to stop the diarrhea it’s generally prednisolone or even pediatric Immodium, then tests for infections resulting in antibiotics. I usually pull out the slippery elm bark to start with, and I really didn’t want to use steroids with her. Along came Dr. Michelle with her acupuncture treatment.
Where the acupuncture came in
Acupuncture, a form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and one of humanity’s oldest healing practices, involves stimulating recognized spots in the body, most often with needles, in order to balance the flow of “Qi” through natural pathways in the body known as meridians. If you think of how the blood physically flows in the body you can also visualize how Qi virtually flows, and the consequences to the body’s health and vitality if the flow of blood or Qi is blocked. Points around the body are each associated with individual organs and the functions of those organs and bodily processes. Veterinarians are certified for Veterinary Acupuncture because the meridians and points in animals are, as you would expect, different from humans.
Dr. Michelle explained about “rebellious Qi” that was flowing in the wrong direction, and “liver Qi anxiety”, so Dr. Michelle chose to treat Emeraude for spleen Qi deficiency, commonly seen with diarrhea. She explained that in TCM the spleen causes the pure fluids that are absorbed from the stomach/intestines to raise up where it is then spread throughout the body. When Spleen Qi is low the fluids are not lifted and circulated and instead flow downward causing more fluid in the stool, i.e. diarrhea. The spleen is responsible for digestion and in general any Qi deficiency causes lethargy and dullness. In treating Emeraude Dr. Michelle tonified the spleen and also tonified Qi. By tonifying the spleen, she explained, she helped it do its job better. By tonifying Qi, she helped Emeraude have more energy and be brighter. She also did one point for the kidneys because in geriatrics, kidney energy declines.
The change was immediate, both in Emeraude’s diarrhea and in her personality. She began talking to me at that point and still does, giving me face rubs and even licking my hand. She had her second treatment about two weeks after the first, not because the condition had returned but Dr. Michelle thought she could use a touch-up. As you see at the top, Emeraude thought it was all about fun little toys!
The diarrhea returned again though, and she had a treatment about three weeks later, then again about four weeks after that, at the beginning of October, so the condition was clearing up right away and staying away longer. She developed the diarrhea again at the end of October, but it never became as bad and healed on its own after three days. She just needed enough treatments to get her energy back in order and for now can handle it on her own.
The other effect is in her renal issues, which have improved from the beginning of October and remained stable since them so her appetite is fantastic and she’s staying well hydrated on her own. So in treating the symptom, the diarrhea, we actually treated the whole system, readjusting things so the whole system is in good working order again. I’ll be keeping watch on the situation but hopefully we have it resolved for a good long time.
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