Posts Tagged ‘disability’

Stop the pain! Arthritis and your animal friend – holistic medicine options

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

It’s sad to see our animal companions no longer be able to do the things they once could do as they age and grow older. All older animals have some amount of arthritis, although some have many more problems with it.

Unfortunately, Western medicine has very few options for treating arthritis and uses mostly drugs, to treat the pain. This is starting to change with some veterinarians doing stem cell and plasma rich platelet injections. However these treatments can still be expensive. Ask your vet about if these treatments are right for your dog. Some animals are not able to tolerate these drugs and many times animals are on three different drugs and it still isn’t enough.

In some animals arthritis manifests as weakness caused by the inflammation pushes on the nerves. Many dogs walk around like their feet are asleep, tripping over things, stumbling and no longer having the strength to jump into the car or onto the bed. Unfortunately because they can no longer walk as far or do as much as they used to, their muscles start to atrophy or waste away, causing a vicious cycle. As the weakness increased, they do less, which causes more atrophy from disuse, leading to more weakness and more atrophy and less activity. In the end many of these animals can no longer get up on their own or even take a short walk.

In other animals arthritis will manifest as pain, which can also prevent movement and cause the weakness/atrophy cycle. Many of these animals will become moody and withdrawn and may even snap and bite at their people out of fear of pain. It is so hard to see our friends have so much pain that they no longer want our affection.

In most animals there is a combination of pain and weakness.

Usually dogs suffer more than cats because they carry more weight and are used to daily activity. Also people often don’t notice that their cats are painful because they spend so much time sitting and sleeping

So what do we do for our friends to help them live out their old years happy and pain free?

  • Acupuncture Being an acupuncturist, I always recommend acupuncture first. Of course, this is also because I have seen how well it works in the animals I treat. I often find that if I can work with animals when they first have problems, they do so well, I only need to treat them every one to three months. Unfortunately most of the animals I see have had problems for a while and their people only learned about acupuncture when they had tried everything that western medicine had to offer. In these animals, acupuncture can still work and work well but usually treatments need to be closer together.

    It is so nice to see these animals happy and able to enjoy life again!

  • Hydrotherapy is a great option especially in dogs who have muscle atrophy. Unfortunately it cannot be done with cats, although Sheila Wells at Wellspings has told me they have worked with rabbits before. Hydrotherapy is done in a small swimming pool and involves massage and physical therapy in the water. I have seen excellent results with hydrotherapy especially combined with acupuncture. Hydrotherapy helps to rebuild muscles, increase range of motion and work out sore and sensitive areas of the body without the impact on the body of exercise on land. My favorite pool is Wellsprings in Seattle Washington. They have a great website with lots of information and photos that I love to refer people to. Click on the link to check it out!
  • herbs5

  • Herbs
    I have worked with Chinese herbs with many of these arthritic dogs and some cats. The combination of acupuncture and herbs usually helps with pain and movement and helps animals maintain between treatments. I rarely use Chinese herbs in cats because they are very sensitive to them and it is hard to medicate cats. I sell an senior dog herbal formula called Senior Dog Support, through my etsy shop, that helps with arthritis pain and improves blood circulation into the joints. Your holistic veterinarian may have something else they recommend.
  • Fish oil/ Omega oils
    The Omega 3 Fatty Acids in fish and cod liver oil actually helps decrease arthritic inflammation in dogs (not true for cats although it helps with other things). Adding a little fish oil to the diet can help many animals.My favorite brand is Nordic Naturals – Pet Cod Liver Oil . Nordic Naturals is one of the best brands for quality and they test for heavy metals and contaminants.
  • Glucosamine/MSM/chondroitin
    These supplements help to decrease inflammation and rebuild damaged cartilage. They are often sold in combination. The nice thing about these supplements is that they have few side effects and are very safe. Some animals have a wonderful response to them and some have almost no response. It usually takes a month to six weeks to see if your animal will have a positive response. Adequan, similar to glucosamine is also available in an injectable form and works better in some animals. It is also a lot easier to give to cats who are hard to medicate daily. After the initial series of injections it usually only needs to be given once a month. Adequan can only be purchased through your veterinarian. My favorite glucosamine product is Sea Mobility Beef Joint Rescue jerk treats, they work well and are very tasty. There are other good ones out there.
  • Infra-red light therapy – Infrared light helps ease the pain of arthritis in joints and increase blood circulation to the area. It is very cheap to do and can be done at home. See my article Infrared Light Therapy for kidney failure, incontinence and arthritis.
  • Chiropractics
    Many animals have subluxations of their spine especially as they age. A good chiropractor can often help with mobility and pain. I have found that chiropractic adjustments work best in animals with a very tight back and more pain then weakness. For my own cat, chiropractic adjustments have worked better than anything else we have tried and have made his life much better. Make sure you find a chiropractor who is used to working with animals and knows animal anatomy.
  • Massage/Acupressure
    Massage can help to loosen tight muscles and increase blood circulation. It also can help with pain.We know it works for us, why not for our animal friends. Once again make sure you find a massage practitioner who is certified to work with animals. I have two amazing massage therapists I work with in Seattle, Kim Rogers and Jen Streit. Kim also does humans!

    Acupressure works with the acupuncture points and helps decrease pain and relax muscles.

    There are many great books on acupressure and massage for animals. Here are a few
    The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure
    Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure
    The Healing Touch for Dogs: The Proven Massage Program for Dogs, Revised Edition
    The Healing Touch for Cats: The Proven Massage Program for Cats, Revised Edition
    Four Paws Five Directions: A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dogs

  • Reiki/Bowen/Polarity/Craniosacral and other energy therapies These therapies help stimulate the body to heal and can decrease pain and improve quality of life. Since there is little regulation of these therapies it is important to get a referral before seeing someone. This is especially true of Reiki since there are so many people who practice it. A good practitioner can make a huge difference in an animal’s quality of life.

It is better to do one thing and stick with it than to jump around between therapies. Often times animals will began with me doing acupuncture and herbs and then we will add in other therapies as needed. If I can’t help an animal with acupuncture I will refer them to another practitioner to try something else. Don’t make too many changes all at once in an old animal’s life. Go slowly instead.

Cappy’s story

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

I came upon Cappy’s story recently and his human mom, Lindsey gave me permission to share his story and the new blog she set up to help with his care.

From Cappy’s blog
Cappy is about 1 year and 6 months old. He is a beagle, possibly pure bred, but we are not sure. Cappy came to us from D.A.W.S. in Connecticut, USA. D.A.W.S. obtained him from a rescue organization in Ohio that had raided a puppy mill and saved many dog’s lives in that raid, not to mention the future puppies that could have been tortured. D.A.W.S specializes in taking animals out of the mid west where there is an overwhelming amount of puppies due to these puppy mills. They found a family of Beagles, a mom and her 3 girls and 3 boys, that they wanted to get a home for out here in Connecticut.

My husband and I are big time animal lovers and activists in animal rights and especially pet’s rights. We had just purchased our first home and already had 6 cats, but I knew it was time to get a dog. I had always had dogs growing up, and my husband NEVER had a dog. We searched and ads for weeks debating over whether or not it was the right time for us. I finally, on a whim, put in an application for “beagle puppies.” There was no picture or anything, but I knew about beagles and their personalities, and I knew that a beagle was the perfect size dog for us. Not too big, but not a yippee small dog. Big enough to scare away an intruder, but small enough to lay on the couch and take everywhere.

So my husband and I anxiously waited to hear from D.A.W.S. and over the weeks, we were hearing from out friends, family, and our vet that they were calling for a reference. Of coarse they all gave us a good reference, WE LOVE OUR ANIMALS!

We finally got the call that we were approved for a beagle puppy and we were SUPER excited! We had to wait till Friday (we got the call on a Monday) to go meet out little puppy, but in the mean time, they asked us which one we would prefer. We told them that we didn’t really care, but I would like to have a tri-color. They had 2 boy black and white beagles, 1 boy tri-color, and 3 girl tri-color beagles. When I told them that I wanted a tri-color, they said “Perfect, because that is who we have left.”

We arrived at the animal shelter on that Friday excited to meet out new little guy. It was the LONGEST 1.5 hour drive ever. When we arrived, we told the lady at the window that we were here to meet the beagle puppy. The lady looked and us and said:

“Well, I have something to tell you before you meet this little puppy………”

A million things ran through my head – “was he psycho, food aggressive, did he hate other dogs?” Just about EVERYTHING except what was actually wrong with him.

“………….. He is missing his front right foot.”

cappy1My husband and I both at the exact same time, in the exact same way said “We’ll take him!” without even ever seeing him! The lady was relieved that we didn’t care about his little missing foot. So we went into the back where they took him out and let us play with him.

He was the best puppy I have ever met. He was only 4 months old and he was so well behaved. He wasn’t all nippy like most puppies and he wasn’t all that excitable even though he was locked in a kennel for most of the day. He also came when we called him. Oh, by the way, his name was Skittles when we met him, but over the long run, it did not suit him well.

We fell in love instantly, but had to leave him. They told us that we had to come back next weekend because he still needed to get neutered. It was a LONG week. I had to have surgery just a few days before we went to pick him up, and I was worried about having a puppy in the house while I was recovering.

So 3 days after my surgery, we went to pick him up. We were so excited that week that we went out and spent $500 on crap. We had every type of puppy toy, collar, leash, bed, bowls, food, blah blah blah.. We were going to be new parents!!
We arrived to get him and it all happened so fast that before I could realize what was going on, we were in the car on our ride home…


So THAT, my friends, is the story of how we got Cappy!! I will be posting another post SOON to tell you about his first day home!

We created this blog because Cappy’s peg leg is getting the best of him. We were told by the vet that we were going to have to do something eventually to absorb the impact on his bone in his right front leg. Since there is not ankle there to absorb the shock of running (and Cappy LOVES to run) we need to have a custom fitted silicon sleeve made for him.

Lindsay is working to get a hosted blog up for Cappy where they can have a store to help support the care he needs. If you want to contact Lindsay, she is at lindsay (at) webdesignforidiots (dot) net . And please visit Cappy’s blog.

Sometimes three legs are better than four

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

maggieyoungMaggie tries really hard to be a good guard dog. When you come to the door of her home, you can hear her barking in a strange muffled way, which makes you wonder until the door is opened and you realize she has a teddy bear in her mouth. That being said Maggie loves people and once she meets you she is all smiles, teddy bear or no teddy bear. Maggie has a way of smiling with her eyes that just draws people in.

When I meet Maggie she had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma or bone cancer in one of her front legs. At the time her family were exploring options to treat her but one thing was almost certain, regardless of treatment, in a year she would no longer be with us. Bone cancer has a very poor prognosis, usually causing death within three months with no treatment and within 6-12 months with aggressive treatment.

I could tell when I met Maggie’s family how important she was to them. Her family lived in a wonderful older home with one of those grand living rooms and they really liked having photos of those they loved in this space. When I walked in I immediately noticed that there were as many photos of Maggie and the kitties of the household as there were of the human family members. Her family told me how difficult it was for them to have Maggie sick because their previous dog had died of lung cancer and now Maggie also had a cancer that usually spread to the lungs.

We talked for a long time about the options that were available for Maggie. They had already seen an oncologist and had set up appointments for radiation and chemotherapy but they really were hoping for some way for Maggie to completely beat the cancer.

I always like to give people hope and tell them that not every animal follows the textbooks and that acupuncture can sometimes dramatically change the course of an illness but at the same time I try to be realistic. I explained that we could probably double Maggie’s time here and make her feel better but that it would be unlikely that we would completely get remission. I remember looking at this beautiful dog so full of life and her family who loved her so much and thinking that it was so tragic that she would not make it to old age.

As time passed Maggie did not get sick but she did become incredibly painful because of the tumor in her leg. I would show up to treat her and she would no longer get up most of the time. When I looked in her eyes, I saw so much pain. I felt so bad that not even the strongest drugs we had and the acupuncture could keep the pain away for her.

Amputation became the only option to stop Maggie’s pain but what a difficult decision. I saw her family struggle with the decision of what seemed like a major mutilation of her body to them. Maggie had lived almost a year with the cancer at this point and by everyone’s assessment she was supposed to be gone by now. Was it worth doing an amputation only to have her die a few months later?

Amputation is one of the hardest decisions for an animal’s human companions to make. So many thoughts go through their mind. Will they still be whole? Will they want to be alive with only three legs? Will they still be able to do the things they love? Will they understand why I did this or hate me for taking away a part of their body?maggie

One day Maggie got up and when she stepped down on her front leg it broke right in two. The cancer had weakened the bone so much that it could no longer support her weight. At this point it became a much easier decision to make and Maggie had the leg amputated almost immediately.

With three legs, Maggie may not be able to go for long walks like she used to and the stairs are sometimes hard for her to navigate but Maggie greets each day with a playful spirit and a happiness to be here. She loves to greet neighbors who walk by and many people in the neighborhood know her as the dog that cancer could not take.

These days I do not treat Maggie as often and our main concern is keeping her legs healthy so she can continue to get around. I feel like coming to treat Maggie is like seeing an old friend.

She rolls over on her side after the needles are in and I stroke her belly and neck. If I stop for even a moment she lifts her head to look at me with those big eyes, “please don’t stop.” There is a familiarity and a comfort in visiting Maggie and it feels like I have been included in her special family of people who she shares her happiness, love and the journey of her battle with cancer.

When I stopped by Maggie’s house this week she bounced over to greet me with a tennis ball in her mouth and than run to the other edge of the yard to pick up another one. She raced around with the two tennis balls and a big smile, “look what I can do.” As I walked up to the door she bounced up and down next to me, “mom, look who’s here, look who’s here!”

It has been almost two years since Maggie lost her leg and close to three since she was diagnosed with cancer. This happy golden retriever with the sparkling brown eyes has beaten the odds.

2/17/2011 Update. It has been over two years since I wrote this and Maggie is still cancer free and doing well!

1/18/12 Maggie sadly passed away a couple days ago. She was almost 13 years old and it had been almost six years since her cancer diagnosis. We are all grieving for her, she was very loved. Please visit Maggie Rose a beautiful poem written in honor of Maggie by her human father.

Return to Integrative and Holistic Methods for Treating Cancer in Cats and Dogs

Nick has the most beautiful toes

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

nicktoe2Nick has the most beautiful toes. They are white as snow and super fuzzy and every time I see them I just want to touch them. Of course he hates that. Part of the reason that his toes are so beautiful is that he doesn’t walk on them. Five years ago a car hit Nick and his pelvis was badly broken. After consulting with a surgeon, who was quite certain that there was no permanent nerve damage, his family decided to do the difficult surgery to put his bones back together. As he healed it became apparent that there was something wrong with Nick’s nerves and he was not able to control his legs or support his weight below the knees.

This doesn’t stop Nick from getting around however. He just pulls himself with his front half and bulging biceps and lets the back half come along. If you try to catch him it becomes clear that he can move incredibly fast and can even scale a fence. His litter box is a little shorter than the normal ones but he uses it like a normal cat and is clean and proper. Although he can’t jump he is able to pull himself up on furniture or use stairs to reach where he wants to be.nick1

If you ask Nick, he’ll tell you he’s just fine and wonder why you are looking at him strangely. After a moment though he will decide that you must be admiring his beauty. He is a beautiful cat with perfect stripes and deep big eyes. He wears his confidence well and is clearly the keeper of the house making sure that no other cats are allowed in.

I met Nick while treating the two dogs of the house and we had no intention of treating him initially. He of course thought this to be plain wrong, after all the cat is clearly the most important member of the house. One day while I was there he walked over and grabbed my box of needles between his front feet and stared at me, “excuse me but you seem to be forgetting the cat.” From that point on he started getting acupuncture treatments as well but only if he was given proper notice. If he was not told the day before that I was coming for his treatment he would disappear or hide under the bed.

Shortly before I started coming to his house he started to push off on one of his back legs which was amazing considering how much time had passed since his injury and the fact that he had shown no improvement up until that point. We started off treating him to try to encourage this improvement but also had the added benefit of getting him off of the steroids that he had needed for a very itchy neck. He’s still a little itchy these days but only to the point that he really, really likes it when you rub his neck. Which by the way helps to keep him still while he has needles in.

nickcloseWhile most people who don’t know Nick would see him as disabled, in Nick’s mind he sees himself as perfect and whole. He doesn’t dwell on the past when he could use his legs normally and jumps into life with excitement and attitude. Sometimes I wonder if Nick is here to teach us all that being whole has nothing to do with the physical body and all about the way we see life.