It has been approximately four months since Maestro was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and Inter-vertebral Disc Disease. His arthritis medication has been helping with the inflammation and pain management. The laser and infrared therapy have prevented things from getting worse. However, Maestro still has a pronounced limp due to his back issues and frankly, I don't like the idea of him taking barbiturates. I couldn't help but feel that we could do better. Dr. Maya at the Bridlewood Veterinary Clinic had mentioned a while back that Maestro would be a good candidate for veterinary acupuncture. Our first appointment was last week with Dr. Mark, Maestro's first vet (lucky guy, he has three).
The first thing Dr. Mark said is that Maestro needs to come off the medications. No argument from me! The pain inhibitors in Western medicine contravene the effects of the acupuncture, he explained. Since he recently had a dose of medication, the effects would be minimal this time round.
Well, Maestro was prancing around my students and I for two days afterward and moving like a puppy. He was more alert than he has been since being on the medication. If that's "minimal", I look forward to seeing how he does once I've weaned him completely off the Western medication.
The limp is more pronounced again, so I can see what the vet meant about the Western medication clashing with this ancient Eastern treatment. Maestro is alert enough to refuse his usual dose of Gabapentin. It's as if he's telling me to speed up the weaning process.
A Look at a Canine Acupuncture Treatment
Dr. Mark first examined Maestro from head to tail. He asked me some questions about what happens when the medication wears off. There were probably a few more questions, but that was the main one.
Next, he brought out the acupuncture needles. They were inside little straws. With a quick little movement, they were inserted at specific points, starting with one on his neck and one along his lower spine:
In the above photo, you can tell that there's some tension in his back with the way he's curved. Through it all, Maestro didn't flinch. Oh, he was frightened when we first arrived, but he didn't whimper, shudder, flinch or stink (dogs really do smell when they are frightened).
Now, I am in the process of weaning him off the medication so that he can fully reap the benefits of future acupuncture treatments. He will continue to take his Robaxin, but the anti-inflammatory and pain medications will be replaced by acupuncture and natural supplements and herbs.
First, he will have weekly appointments. These will gradually decrease in frequency to tune-ups on an ad-hoc basis. Dr Mark informed me that the end result is that Maestro will be pain free, alert, feeling better and "more puppy like". Healthier than he's been in years, I'm sure.
About Canine Acupunture
It may seem like a new concept, but it really isn't. In their article, "Acupuncture for Dogs Gaining Acceptance", Dr. Susan Thorpe-Vargas and John. C. Gargill report that the first animal to be treated using acupuncture was an elephant in India approximately 3,000 years ago.
Veterinary acupuncture was used more extensively up until the 1940s, when people turned to prescription medication to treat their ailments and those of their pets. This jives with my question to Dr. Mark about whether he treats many pets using acupuncture. He told me that more pet owners get prescription medication for their pets' ailments because it's easier.
There is a lot of information available on acupuncture and how it works. To paraphrase, I'd say that it's a complementary therapy that involves inserting small needles at specific acupuncture points to stimulate the central nervous system. The result is that the treatment kick-starts the body's ability to heal and restores the ying and yang of the patient.
Here's a neat news clip that I found, in which a vet goes into more detail about how canine veterinary acupuncture works and the various conditions it can treat:
If Maestro's first experience is any indication, that one acupuncture treatment did more to treat his limp caused by his back issues than everything we've done up to this point. The laser therapy prevented things from degenerating, but I feel that now, we will see an improvement in his condition.
I firmly believe that it's the arthritis medication that's keeping him in stasis. My students and I want to see him improve. Never mind that, I'm sure Maestro wants to continue going on many more adventures - without the aid of medication or a doggie stroller.