Scott Gordon

Acupuncture On A Snake? An Owl? Fort Worth Zoo Uses Ancient Chinese Procedure

From lions to flamingos, the Fort Worth Zoo has more than 500 types of animals. And just like people, they sometimes get sick.

They're getting help from a centuries-old Chinese procedure -- acupuncture.

In one case, a gray-banded kingsnake was having a problem with its eye.

Then, Dr. Tara Reilly inserted small needles into the nearby nerves.

"We were able to use acupuncture to help this snake not only to heal but also to retain its vision."

Reilly, originally from Colorado, is both a veterinarian and an acupuncturist.

"Most people call it an alternative therapy but I like to think of it as an integrative or complementary therapy,” she said.

Some critics even call it junk science or quackery.

But Reilly swears by it.

"All it is, is you're accessing the nervous system and you're accessing the blood flow and the blood system in the body in a very non-invasive route,” she said.

She also used the procedure on an owl which also had an injured eye.

"I've actually had many patients including that burrowing owl who have fallen asleep during their acupuncture treatment so it actually feels very good to them,” Reilly said.

Sometimes she also attaches wires carrying a small amount of electricity, which stimulates the nerves.

An aging Komodo dragon named "Dante", suffered from arthritis.

"He probably got another six years out of life that he otherwise wouldn't have had where he was enjoying life, happy, and diminishing pain and helping all the inflammation that comes along with arthritis,” she said.

She added the needles remain in the animals for a maximum of 20 minutes and the procedure does not hurt.

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