ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
Insight on Herbals Eludes Doctors, Patients Alike
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Rheumatoid Arthritis Hits Women Harder
Winter Is Tough on Feet
Improved Hip Implants Can Last 20 Years
CANCER
Yoga May Bring Calm to Breast Cancer Treatment
Vitamin D May Improve Melanoma Survival
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
CAREGIVING
Study Casts Doubt on Influential Hospital Safety Survey
Robots May Come to Aging Boomers' Rescue
Tainted China Formula Caused High Rate of Kidney Stones in Kids
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Smog Tougher on the Obese
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Gum Disease May Reactivate AIDS Virus
DIABETES
Fish Twice a Week Cuts Diabetics' Kidney Risks
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Findings Challenge Tight Glucose Control for Critically Ill Patients
DIET, NUTRITION
Low-Fat Diet Does Little to Alter Cholesterol Levels
Milk Destroys Antioxidant Benefits in Blueberries
Herb Shows Potential for Rheumatoid Arthriti
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Global Warming May Bring More Respiratory Woes
Hurricane Threats: Time to Batten Down the Hatches
Cats Can Trigger Eczema in Some Infants
EYE CARE, VISION
It's a Whole New Outlook for Cataract Patients
Americans Losing Sight of Eye Health
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
Almost Two-Thirds of Americans Meet Exercise Guidelines
Vigorous Treadmill Workout Curbs Appetite Hormones
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
Eat Light - Live Longer
Cocaine Spurs Long-Term Change in Brain Chemistry
Internet Program Helps Problem Drinkers
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
Arteries Age Twice as Fast in Smokers
Obese People Seem to Do Better With Heart Disease
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
Protect Your Kids From Swine Flu While at Camp
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
MEN'S HEALTH
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
The Unmedicated Mind
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
SENIORS
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Steady Weight Gain Boosts Late-Life Breast Cancer Risk
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
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Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch

Things were looking grim, but then a concerned friend took the 10-year-old to an acupuncturist, who treated her three times in half-hour sessions.

"Almost immediately after the first treatment, Nelly's energy went from zero to 100," recalled that friend, Annie Washburn, who works as a community organizer in New York City. Nelly became more mobile, ate more and resumed regular bowel movements. "She bounced back in a way that seemed miraculous," Washburn said

It's a story that might be familiar to people who've benefited from the ancient healing technique. But Nelly, who lives with Washburn, is a frisky, fluffy bichon frise.

"I'm not really into alternative therapies, that's not my thing," Washburn stressed. "But this was really unbelievable."

Dr. Leilani Alvarez, the veterinary acupuncturist who treated Nelly, confessed that even she was once a bit skeptical of what acupuncture could do for four-footed patients.

But hundreds of successful cases later, "it's far surpassed my expectations," said Alvarez, who practices animal acupuncture and traditional veterinary medicine -- often in combination -- at Katonah Bedford Veterinary Center in Bedford Hills, N.Y.

Alvarez noted that many of the referrals she gets are for animals that have not fared well with conventional drugs or other Western medical approaches. In one case, a woman brought a beloved, aging dog to Alvarez's clinic after a gradual weakening of the dog's hind legs had led to fecal incontinence.

"As you can imagine, not many owners can tolerate that for very long," Alvarez said. All the usual treatments had failed to work, and the woman was distraught, even considering euthanizing her pet.

That didn't happen. "I started acupuncture on that dog, and after just two treatments, the fecal incontinence resolved," Alvarez said.

Experts point out that animals have been treated with acupuncture therapy from the very beginning. In fact, Chinese records that go back thousands of years describe the use of healing needles on horses and other livestock.

One common myth: Many people believe that patients must "believe" in acupuncture for it to work, ruling out its use in animals.

"But actually, it doesn't require any higher brain processes to function," Alvarez said. "It simply works because of what it stimulates physiologically in the body when you insert a needle into these points that have been studied for thousands of years."

The points, referred to as loci, represent important locations for nerves and blood vessels that, when manipulated, somehow aid healing, experts say. Acupuncture works in humans, horses, dogs, cats and other mammals "because all our bodies share similar features," explained Dr. Mark Crisman, a professor at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine who specializes in treating larger animals, such as horses.

Over time, he said, veterinary acupuncturists have created "transpositional maps" that shifted the well-known acupuncture points of the human body to animals. This wasn't always easy. "Obviously, horses don't have five fingers like people do," Crisman said. "So, the experts took the points that were equivalent to points on our hands and transposed them around the hooves."

Today, Crisman teaches a certifying course at the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, which lists more than 2,000 members worldwide, with hundreds practicing in the United States. Two other centers -- one at the Chi Institute in Florida and another at Colorado State University -- offer degrees in the practice.

Crisman said that veterinary acupuncture has proven effective in healing or easing the symptoms of arthritis, acute injuries, hip dysplasia, respiratory disorders, immune system ailments and a host of other problems. It appears to work on a wide range of livestock and household pets, even creatures as small as gerbils and birds. Some specialists have used acupuncture to enhance the fertility of Kentucky racehorses, Crisman said.

A small minority of animal patients balk at the idea of having needles poked in them, the experts said, but most actually appear to enjoy their treatments. That may be because acupuncture seems to release natural painkillers called endorphins.

"Usually by the second or third treatment, they will just lie down, ready for their treatment," Alvarez said. "I have one cat that's known in the rest of the practice as a rather fractious cat. But this cat will literally purr during his treatment."

Both Alvarez and Crisman stressed that while acupuncture sometimes works well on its own, it is often best used alongside Western medicine. "If you have an infection, for example, and perhaps the infection is a result of poor circulation to that area, then you can improve the circulation [with acupuncture] and use the antibiotics to kill the bugs," Alvarez said.

According to the experts, pet owners who decide to seek out an acupuncturist should make sure the practitioner is certified by one of the three U.S. centers, guaranteeing that the person has undergone the required months of rigorous training.

For her part, Washburn worries that too many pet owners don't recognize acupuncture as a potential treatment option.

"I sometimes see people on the street with a dog that's wobbly or it looks like it's limping, an older dog in pain," Washburn said. "I always tell the owners that they should try it. They probably think I'm crazy. But I'm fully convinced that it extended the life of my beloved pet."

- E.J. Mundell

More information

The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society has more on veterinary acupuncture.



SOURCES: Mark Crisman, D.V.M., professor, clinical services/medicine, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Blacksburg, Va., and certifying instructor, International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, Fort Collins, Colo.; Leilani Alvarez, D.V.M., Katonah Bedford Veterinary Center, Bedford Hills, N.Y.; Annie Washburn, New York City

Last Updated: March 03, 2009

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Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Contributed Photo

Annie Washburn & Nelly