An elderly cat with radial nerve damage in one leg makes a full recovery thanks to acupuncture.
I discovered the healing benefits of acupuncture when one of our cats developed an injury that left her unable to use her right front leg. Kelly was one of our feral cats. She was TNR’d and spayed in the spring of 2011. By December of 2013, our own home was without an animal –Kelly was getting old and I couldn’t leave her outside for another winter, so we adopted her.
It took Kelly weeks to adjust to her new life, but she did. She moved around our home with confidence, was warm and safe, and appeared happy. But on December 19, we woke to find her dragging her right front leg – it was limp and floppy, bent under and crooked. We didn’t know what had happened, but there was no doubt she needed to be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
The veterinarian examined her and assured us nothing was broken or sprained, but she had radial nerve damage. The radial nerve runs from the shoulder down the leg. It supplies the muscles that extend the digits and supports the leg when it’s bearing weight.
All we could do was give Kelly a cortisone shot for the swelling and hope the nerve was not severed. I applied ice to reduce the swelling, then pampered her, prayed and hoped for the best.
Conventional treatment didn’t work
After three weeks, there was no apparent pain or swelling, but there was also no improvement in her ability to walk.
I called the veterinarian back to see if another cortisone shot and a splint would help. He didn’t feel anything would help. He said Kelly would get use to the deformed paw and if it caused her pain, the best thing would be to amputate her leg.
Kelly wasn’t grooming. Her breath was bad although her teeth looked good. Her eyes were runny. She had a good appetite for a small senior cat, but she drank a lot of water and urinated accordingly and her stools were on the dry side. Things were difficult for her, but she appreciated her warm comfortable home, and she was trying.
Turning to holistic help
Saddened by Kelly’s condition, I reached out for help elsewhere and found Dr. Michelle Elgersma, a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist. Dr. Elgersma felt that acupuncture would help Kelly, and was willing to make the 50-mile drive to our home every week to give her treatments.
Acupuncture is a branch of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). By stimulating organ or other bodily systems, healing is promoted. Acupuncture needles are solid, not hollow like injection needles, and they are inserted very gently and precisely according to the anatomy and condition of the patient. Sedation is not needed.
Kelly’s acupuncture treatment
Kelly’s first acupuncture session took place on January 14, one month after her injury. When Dr. Elgersma examined Kelly, she noticed her tongue was pale. She was therefore concerned about Kelly’s liver/kidney system as well as the nerve damage.
A total of 15 acupuncture needles were placed in Kelly during her acupuncture treatments (see sidebar). She accepted being held for half an hour before we removed the needles and let her go take a much-deserved catnap.
Dr. Elgersma instructed me to massage and manipulate the affected paw several times a day between sessions. There was no improvement in her paw at first, but Kelly’s eyes cleared up and her breath was better.
A full recovery
After her third acupuncture session on January 27, Kelly’s leg began to get better. She was using it to groom. She could hold it up and keep it from dragging on the ground. The paw appeared straighter.
On February 19, two months after the injury, she had improved to the point where she was walking on her right front paw again, with just a limp.
Kelly received two more acupuncture treatments in March, and by April her paw was healed and she could walk, run and climb!
I loved watching her enthusiastically playing with her toys and using her scratching posts with both paws, walking down the steps and out to the garden to enjoy the sunshine with Vinnie, another feral cat who came to live with us. I was impressed by her recovery, and by the powers of acupuncture.