ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Taking the Mystery Out of Hypnotherapy
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
Acupuncture Eases Breast Cancer Treatment Side Effects
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Fall Sports Peak Time for Lower Leg Damage
Extra Pounds in Mid-Life Affect Later Mobility
Too Few Screened for Abdominal Aneurysm, Study Says
CANCER
Papaya Could Be a Cancer Fighter
Supplement Hampers Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Seaweed May Help Treat Lymphoma
CAREGIVING
With Age Comes Greater Risk of Hypothermia
Early Exercise Boosts Outcomes for ICU Patients
Mom's Smoking May Lead to SIDS
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
DIABETES
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
Drug May Not Help Diabetes-Related Eye Damage
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
DIET, NUTRITION
Go Healthy, Not Hungry for Holiday Eating
To Feel Better, Low-Fat Diet May Be Best
Iced Teas Pose High Risk of Kidney Stones
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Hairspray Exposure Ups Risk for Birth Defect in Sons
Household Chemicals May Affect Cholesterol Levels
EYE CARE, VISION
Eye Test Could Spot Diabetes Vision Trouble Early
Glaucoma Associated With Reading Impairments in Elderly
Americans Losing Sight of Eye Health
FITNESS
MRSA Infections Can Bug Fitness Buffs
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
Antioxidants Blunt Exercise Benefit, Study Shows
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
Want Sun Protection? Wear Red or Blue
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
U.S. Spends Billions On Alternative Medicine
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
Fructose Boosts Blood Pressure, Studies Find
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
Quick Orthopedic Repair Can Save Young Shoulders
MEN'S HEALTH
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
MENTAL HEALTH
Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Teen Internet Addicts More Likely to Self-Harm: Study
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
SENIORS
Seniors Who Volunteer May Live Longer
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
Tai Chi May Help Ward Off Knee Pain in Seniors
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Vitamin D Deficiency Puts 40% of U.S. Infants and Toddlers At Risk
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
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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