Beyond 9 Lives: Chinese Medicine Can Help Pets Too

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Though relatively new to the West, traditional Chinese treatments such as acupuncture have been used to improve the health of humans and animals in the Far East for thousands of years. At Just Cats Clinic we are very excited to announce that one of our full time veterinarians will be starting the Chi Institute’s program to become certified in veterinary acupuncture.

What is “traditional Chinese medicine?”

Traditional Chinese medicine is based on Daoist philosophy, which sees the body as a microcosm of the larger universe around it. As such, practitioners believe that the forces and laws that govern the external environment also regulate the body’s inner workings.

Diseases are the result of imbalances inside the body, and diagnosing them requires identifying the underlying pattern of said imbalances. Because the body is an interconnected system of functions, a disease and the disharmony that causes it have to be treated together. This is the reason why the term “holistic” is often used in reference to traditional Chinese medicine.

There are four branches of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine: herbal medicine, food therapy, Tui-na (a type of massage) and acupuncture. The practice of using Chinese herbal medicine can treat a variety of diseases and most herbs can be compounded in easy to administer forms.

Food therapy tailors diet and food ingredients based on each patient’s need to prevent imbalance with in the body. Tui-na, a form of Chinese medical massage, targets different acupoints in the body to promote circulation and correct imbalances. Acupuncture stimulates the healing process by using tiny needles to normalize nerve functions and circulation. The needles are inserted into different acupoints on your cat’s body, depending on which particular ailment is being treated.


Though the thought of sticking needles into your feline friend may send shivers down your spine, acupuncture is actually a painless experience for your kitty. When a properly trained acupuncturist inserts the needles, they do so in such a way that no pain signals are sent to your cat’s brain. As a result, the process is so relaxing that your cat may even fall asleep during the treatment.

How can acupuncture help your cat?

Used in conjunction with existing Western treatments, acupuncture can be a great, non-invasive way to improve the health of cats suffering from long-term pain, arthritis, asthma, allergies chronic kidney disease and a host of other ailments.

It can also ease the discomfort associated with the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy in felines undergoing cancer treatments. In addition, acupuncture can relieve the pain and stiffness that older cats often feel, increasing their quality of life, boosting their energy levels and hopefully adding years to their lives.

When looking for a veterinary acupuncturist, always make sure they are a licensed veterinarian and that they have had formal training in veterinary acupuncture. While acupuncture is incredibly safe, it must be done by a practitioner that has completed training to ensure its being done correctly.

One of the most recognized programs for acupuncture is the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. It involves a rigorous program with hands on training with certified acupuncturists, class room hours with small student to teacher ratio, and an examination process. The Chi Institute is also endorsed by the China National Society of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.

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