JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Nine-year-old Bo the beagle has a sore neck now. He hurt it while chasing a cat - typical beagle move. His owner, Sherry McKinnon, hasn't heard him bark since - not typical for a beagle.
When Bo first came to Brentwood Animal Clinic, he was five and had a herniated disc.
"He was paralyzed, he couldn't move" McKinnon said. "He was in a great deal of pain."
McKinnon calls acupuncture a miracle cure. The needles Dr. Philip Hightman places in her dog's skin, makes his tail wag.
"Without it, he would have had to have back surgery. It would have been an invasive procedure," she says.
The surgery would have been painful and expensive. But with this treatment, Bo doesn't seem to notice the needles.
And then there's another patient of Dr. Hightman's, that goes by the name Binky.
"This is Binky and Binky on July 4th celebrated his 23rd birthday and he has some back problems. He was paralyzed before, he can walk now," explains Hightman.
That's right, Binky is 23 years old! Hightman says the owner credits acupuncture treatments for keeping the somewhat curmudgeonly cat comfortable all these years. And while Binky is very vocal while in Hightman's office, the poking doesn't seem to hurt.
Each needle is placed in a specific point of the body that corresponds to a particular pain or ailment. A needle placed by Hightman at the top of Binky's head soothes him.
"Bink you're doing great buddy! This one is calming, right there."
Other patients like Miss Annie, who couldn't walk when she first came in, has also benefited from homeopathic treatment called aquapuncture. Hightman says the needle is actually a syringe that contains a natural substance that gets injected.
"She's strong in her back now and there's no pain with that," he says.
Hightman says so many of his four-legged patients do so well with the acupuncture, he winds up treating their owners, too. He says 90-percent of his human patients at his San Marco office see him after seeing the improvements in their pets at his Brentwood vet clinic.
"I think he is a healer, whatever, whether it's pets or people," says Vivienne Colver.
She's sold on acupuncture and has been seeing Hightman for 15 years. The reason, her daughter's horse named Misty.
Misty began acupuncture at age 25. She would hobble to the fence when Hightman would arrive. After acupuncture treatment, Misty would walk away without pain.
Colver's husband, son, daughter, grand kids and pets all have had acupuncture.
"It makes my life worth living because it balances my life and helps me medically. It has helped me from having to have cataracts surgery. Recently I had shingles and with one treatment, they were pretty much gone. I think that is pretty much a miracle," Colver explains.
A miracle for Colver and a fascinating career for Hightman.
"A lot of my clients come from here after their dog walks again," says Hightman. "It's Christmas every day. No one could give me a better gift than making them well. I've wanted to be a veterinarian since I was in 4th grade so this is what I love to do."
Acupuncture treatments for animals can cost $55 to $65 each and depending on the pet's need, are often done every two weeks. Hightman says what's encouraging about homeopathic treatments like acupuncture, there are no risks associated with it. So, if it doesn't work, try something else.
For more information on Dr. Philip Hightman, visit BrentwoodAnimalClinic.com.