Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Dog is a Hippie

Recently, my dog was diagnosed with a pretty common back disorder called Intervertebral Disc Disease. The standard treatment for this is strict caged rest (must be penned/kenneled 24 hours a day, except to go outside) and, eventually, a costly surgery.

As with most dog owners, my dog is more than just my pet, he's my buddy. My furry child. He was a rescue dog and shows his gratitude to us everyday with tail wags and the happiest disposition of any dog ever. Not to mention, he's cute as shit. No, seriously, look.

See how freaking cute he is?! Jeez. I can hardly stand it.

Anyway, obviously he is awesome enough to warrant doing whatever we can to make sure he's a happy and healthy little thing. After a couple different "episodes" where he really had some trouble with his back, I decided it was time to find out our realistic options. They were as follows: Keep your dog caged forever and on strong pain meds or surgery that can cost up to $10,000 and might or might not cure the issue and could potentially leave your dog paralyzed. I didn't like either of those options, really, so the research weirdo in me came out. I research everything, literally everything, before I make a decision. Restaurants, neighborhoods, phones, food, shoes, doctors, cars, even flowers. Anything that I can research before I take action, I do. Fortunately, this is one of those things that makes sense to research and there was a lot of material on the subject. It seemed that every website had two different options: medical and surgical. The medical options included pretty much everything we were already doing and they didn't seem to be doing a whole lot to cure the cause. Then I started coming across websites that strongly recommended veterinary acupuncture. Yes, seriously. The more I researched it, the stronger the evidence that acupuncture is one of the most successful treatments for IVDD. I was sold. I asked our vet for her opinion and she offered an emphatic, "Go for it! And let me know how it goes!" Apparently she had been looking for a good homeopathic vet for her own animals and was hoping we would be a guinea pig for her! About an hour after that appointment, our vet called with a referral from another doctor in our usual clinic for a vet that offered acupuncture and a more holistic, eastern approach to veterinary medicine. I made an appointment immediately.

We arrived at the clinic and were quickly taken to the scale to weigh the little guy (which he promptly peed on, awesome) and then to the exam room. After some questions with the vet tech, our "hippie vet" (as I'll call her for ease of reference) came in and asked some more questions, looked at the forms I had filled out and started checking out the little guy. I'm pretty sure he thought it was just a massage and went along with it pretty well. We talked about what Chinese sign we thought he was (she thinks he's a fire because he's feisty and wants attention, I think he's an earth because he's loyal and will do anything to please me and his dad, yes, this was an actual conversation about my dog) and where he might have chi stagnation based on his pain and diagnosis and what Chinese herbs might be helpful to be able to get him off the heavy standard prescriptions he was on. And I asked about surgery. She noted that if a dog can still walk and act like a freak like mine, surgery should be a last resort. Man, was I relieved. After about 20 minutes of preliminary checking, "hippie vet" went and got her acupuncture needles and started working.

They start with a point on the head in between the ears called the "Sedation Point", which is exactly what is sounds like, just sedates the little guy a bit for the rest of the procedure. Then she went to town. Apparently I'm terrible at holding my dog down so someone can put needles in him that he totally doesn't want, so after about 5 attempts to put in the third or fourth one, they took him into the back so a nurse could help her. According to "hippie vet" I was distracting and he did great once he was out of the room with me. She brought him back to me with about 15 needles in all in different parts of his body. Quite a few in his back where the pain and issues are and a few in his legs for balancing points and other notable places in Chinese medicine that I don't remember what they're called. He literally laid down at my feet and it was like he was taking a nap!

You can see a couple of the needles in his black fur if you look REEEAAALLLYYY closely. I'll also point out that my little guy has NEVER, ever since we've had him, laid down with his back legs under him like that (aka like a normal dog). He always laid with them splayed out on the sides of him, which people would always remark on. I never thought anything of it, but now it makes a lot of sense. At that point, I was a believer in acupuncture. One treatment and he's already showing progress just in that one small thing.

The vet and vet tech both noted that he would probably just crash once we got home. Of course, once we got there, I realized the vet was right. He is a fire. Instead of passing out, he started trying to do laps around the house and stalk and tackle his toys. My little guy was back. Of course, one of the things medical journals will note is that when a dog starts feeling better from acupuncture they'll start acting like a maniac because they feel so much better, which is precisely when you have to get them back on lock down so they can actually heal. Remorsefully, I put him back in his play pen (yes, we keep him in a play pen for his caged rest) and he eventually settled down.

One treatment in and the little guy is already showing progress. I'm sure he'll still have his bad days down the road, but hearing the good news about probably not needing surgery for a while, if at all, was definitely a positive. He'll start on his Chinese herbs next week as we phase out the strong prescriptions and hope to have the old Doodle back in no time!

I highly recommend acupuncture as a relatively inexpensive treatment for almost any "major" malady in a pet (our treatments are about $60 each and we will need 8-10. This is compared to major surgery which would include two $2,000 MRIs and a surgery that can range anywhere from $1500 - $4000) . Granted, we're only one treatment in of 8-10 and possibly more in the future, but the holistic approach to the pet's well-being is something you won't find anywhere else. Will a holistic vet immediately force you to take your dog off drugs? Never. Will they force you to never do surgery? Absolutely not. They just consider the animal as a whole and consider internal problems that can be solved to fix the underlying issue. I hope that as we go along with his weekly/semi-weekly treatments we will be able to have a normal dog again soon.

*If you live in Charlotte, Animal Medical Hospital is a wonderful place where everyone seems to have a genuine interest in the well-being of your pet.
** I apologize that this was not a normal post in line with the rest of the blog, I just really wanted to share the benefits of holistic veterinary medicine from a personal perspective. I know a lot of people won't agree with this post, but it's something I really believe in.

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