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Acupuncture Gaining Ground as Pet Therapy

Posted: March 5, 2009

Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, are becoming increasingly popular for pets.

After surgery for a ruptured disk two years ago, Nelly's legs remained extremely weak. She could barely move, became lethargic and lost her appetite. 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, NY.