Acupuncture For Pets

pets, dog, cats AP / CBS

Just like their two-legged friends, many pets find it hard to greet the day with much enthusiasm. Aches and pains can make a dog seem dog tired all the time, especially those who are getting up in years. Sure there are pills to pop, but as Serena Altschul reports, now there's an alternative that's got many pets on pins and needles.

Ten-and-a-half-year-old dog Lexi, who suffers from arthritis, is a patient of Brooklyn, New York, veterinarian Dr. Julie Morris.

"I like to use the needles that have pipettes," Dr. Morris says.

To treat chronic pain, Dr. Morris has incorporated Chinese acupuncture into her arsenal of Western techniques. It's what brought Lexi's owner Tara Ciabatarri to her door.

"From the first session, she was walking better," Ciabatarri says. "She couldn't walk half a block, and now she can walk with the other dogs."

And acupuncture's not just for dogs. It's used on horses, too, and even on pets you'd think wouldn't sit still for it, like Minerva, a cat.

"She makes the connection that somehow this is making her feel better," Dr. Morris says. "So it's unusual. It's not day to day that you get to sit here and do acupuncture on a kitty and have them just sit here like this."

Minerva may not be your typical cat. But according to Dr. Morris, the benefits she receives are common.

Here's a simplified explanation of how it's supposed to work: the needles stimulate the flow of energy, also known as "chi."

"The acupuncture points are actually, you can kind of compare them to like an electrical outlet where you're plugging in to release stuck energy or stuck chi," Dr. Morris says. "A disease state is where there's a blockage, something is stuck."

Although the Chinese have practiced acupuncture for more than two thousand years, Westerners have long been skeptical. A 1959 CBS Broadcast entitled "Inside Red China" reported the following:

"The practice is also known as needling, and although some sporadic results are claimed, it has no scientific basis."

These days, doctors at the National Institute of Health and the World Health Organization are gradually warming to acupuncture for people. And the trend is the same for animals.

"We really strongly advocate for more research so that we're really clear: does it work, which cases, how should we use it, make sure we can make the best informed decisions," Dr. Janet D. Donlin of the American Veterinary Medical Association says.

As for Lexi, her owner says there's no doubt that two and a half years of acupuncture have made all the difference in both their lives.

"She's not gonna be in any race any time soon," she says. "But still, she's much better. She's a different dog."
  • Scott Conroy On Twitter»

    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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