Dr. Felicity Talbot met Oscar, a dachshund, about five years ago.
Oscar's owners, Brenda and Dan Digeon of Zephyrhills, had brought him to Florida Veterinary Specialists, a referral and emergency center in Tampa.
It was one final desperate attempt, before they put him to sleep: Two years earlier the Digeons came home and found Oscar paralyzed. He had surgery, and seemed to be fine for a while. But now he had three ruptured discs in his neck, and was in a lot of pain. This time doctors said they couldn't recommend surgery, and that putting him to sleep might be the best option.
Someone suggested acupuncture. The Digeons were familiar with the procedure — on humans. Acupuncture on a dog seemed unusual, but they were willing to try it.
"At that point we would have tried anything," Brenda Digeon, 32, says. "We would have taken him to China if we thought there was a miracle cure there."
For Oscar, 12, acupuncture turned out to be that miracle cure. After some treatments, he bounced back, Digeon says. "It saved little Oscar's life."
Results aren't always so dramatic, of course. Acupuncture doesn't necessarily cure problems, but it does reduce pain and help control certain conditions, says Talbot, a certified acupuncturist and rehabilitation practitioner with Florida Veterinary Specialists.
It's especially helpful for older pets, or pets of any age with back problems or arthritis, says Talbot, whose clients include dogs, cats and one squirrel.
"It doesn't need to be a last-ditch effort," she says. "Starting earlier can really help with the quality of life of your pet."
Ester Venouziou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.