Valley veterinarian uses acupuncture to heal when other treatments fail

Many people turn to acupuncture for pain management, but did you know your pet can benefit from it too? A valley veterinarian says the ancient art can heal pets when other treatments fail.

"Charlie Brown" the Boston Terrier is a little achy, so he's come to see Dr. Eva DeCozio for acupuncture.

Dr. DeCozio is a veterinarian at VCA Apache Junction Animal Hospital. She's also a certified Veterinary Acupuncturist who integrates medicine from the east and west.

"More and more people are open to more, and more people come in asking for it, asking for alternatives, refusing traditional medicine," said DeCozio.

Acupuncture has been used on animals for as long as it's been used on humans. Dr. DeCozio says dog, cats, horses -- even turtles and snakes can benefit.

"One of the differences between human acupuncture and veterinary acupuncture is that we get bit by our patients."

Whether the patient walks on two legs or four, the treatment is the same. The acupuncturist inserts a hair-thin needle into one of hundreds of acupuncture points. Each point is located on a specific meridian - a system of invisible channels said to balance the body's energy or "chi."

While looking at Charlie's chart, Dr. DeCozio says, "He has some spinal issues so I'm gonna look for the ashi points which are not on the meridian, but around it and we're going to put needles in there."

Charlie gets needles all over his back, in his legs and in his head. Needling a sore point can be uncomfortable, but it also triggers endorphins that quickly block the pain.

14 year old Australian Shepherd "Lucky" is also here for treatment.

"Lucky has back problems.. he was actually to the point where he couldn't walk on his own.. he was knuckling.. dragging his back legs," explained DeCozio.

Anti-inflammatories don't work for Lucky. So his owner, Cole, has chosen an alternative route. Today is Lucky's fifth acupuncture session.

"Dogs with hip dysplasia often times are very painful along these gall bladder points. We know he's got back issues.. I'm still going to do gall bladder," said DeCozio.

DeCozio says, "Most of my patients after the second or third treatment are just like, let's do it.. this is awesome."

"He just goes into the zone," said Cole.

In addition to using needles, Dr. Decozio also does electro acupuncture. It sends an electrical current through the needle, which stimulates the nerve and reduces pain.

"You'll see as I turn the power up, it's going to like make him twitch faster.. see that?"

"This is extremely effective for pain. Electro acupuncture for back pain, just like people who use tens units on the outside, this is going into the body," said DeCozio.

"I've seen marked improvements.. he jumps up on the bed again," said Cole.

Charlie and Lucky left the animal hospital in a little less pain, ready to return next week to see the woman with healing hands.

"I'm far from being a master, but you know when you can make a difference in a dog's or cat's life, then it's already very satisfying and gratifying," said DeCozio.

Your veterinarian will need to examine your pet and create a treatment plan before you decide if acupuncture is a fit.

A session usually runs anywhere between $60 and $120 and lasts about 20 minutes.

VCA Apache Junction Animal Hospital
Eva DeCozio, DVM, Medical Director
17 North Mountain Road
Apache Junction, AZ 85120