Doctors tout benefits of pet acupuncture

Vets say in certain cases, it can replace surgery or drugs

WINTER PARK, Fla. - We do everything we can to give our pets the best life possible. But sometimes, caring for them, especially all those trips to the vet, can be expensive.

But now, there may be a surprising way to avoid costly surgeries and pricey drugs -- acupuncture for your animal!

Local 6 was at the Veterinary Acupuncture & Complementary Therapy Clinic in Winter Park, where Miss Pearl, a six-year-old Terrier recently got her treatment.

One by one the needles went in -- head, back, legs.

Miss Pearl has bad knees, and her owner refuses to put her on a cocktail of drugs as part of her recovery.

"The scary thing about giving pain medicine to animals," says Cathy Shields, "we're not really treating what's wrong them. We're masking the symptom."

That's why Cathy brings her dog to Dr. Constance DiNatale -- a specialist in pet acupuncture.

"I'm always amazed at what it will help, and every day I learn more things that can be helped," says Dr. DiNatale.

Among those things -- behavior issues, skin diseases, joint and organ problems, even cancer.

The secret isn't the needles themselves, but how your pet reacts to them.

"This is going to make the body start healing itself by making the body produce the chemicals it needs to make the joint better," says Dr. DiNatale. "Getting muscles to relax, getting nerves to calm down. They need much less drugs, much less time on them, much less dependency."

In certain cases, DiNatale says that acupuncture can save pet owners thousands of dollars in costly medical procedures.

"Sometimes we have dogs that need knee surgery, and instead we're able to acupuncture them so they don't need the knee surgery," says DiNatale.

Today, Miss Pearl is happy and healthy, because her owner says acupuncture works like magic.

"It calms her, it relaxes her," says Shields. "I believe that it heals her body better than pain medication. It does help in the end."

Doctors say that this treatment isn't for every pet. Things like blood cancer need to be treated with chemo. And for certain joint problems, surgery may be your best bet.

But, as always, talk to your bet first before making any decision.

As for the cost -- Dr. DiNatale says that each treatment costs around $100.

Depending on your pet's condition, they can come in every week or every few months.

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