Pet Care Corner: What To Do For My Sweet Dog
By Dr. Beth Jones and Dr. John Faherty
When the owner of Spirit called, she was very worried. Spirit is a seven-year-old Flat-coated retriever who suddenly seemed to not be able to walk. Her veterinarian felt that Spirit had injured her low back, probably a disk injury. She was given medications for pain and inflammation and told that it might be useful to have a consultation with an orthopedic veterinarian if the medications did not do the trick.
Sally is a sweet dog with a smile. Even while walking with a profound limp, dragging one paw a bit, and having significant trouble getting up after lying down, she would, of course, wag her tail and couldn’t wait for attention. We evaluated Spirit and felt she had surely injured a disk in her low back.
Disk injuries are extremely common in dogs, as in people. As we age, the disc tends to dehydrate somewhat and the torques of life and running with sharp turns (you know, fetching and agility dogs racing around the courses) can stress the joints enough to cause micro traumas to the disc so that over time it protrudes into the weak areas. Often there is a small amount of arthritis in the joints around the disk involved and suddenly one day the wrong movement is just too much.
Chiropractic care was extremely helpful. One thing to keep in mind: we are not forcing a joint, or vertebra, back into alignment per se, rather helping to normalize motion as much as possible to allow the healing capability of the tissues and begin the rehabilitation process. Spirit was adjusted weekly for two weeks and the owners were given stretches and some therapies to use at home. As the inflammation subsided due to less stress on the areas involved, the pain lessened and Spirit was able to do more and more and now you would never know there was a problem. Spirit visits Dr. John on a regular basis just for maintenance. Still has that smile too.
The traditional approach using prescription meds is often very effective in pain and inflammation control. It does not address the neuro-musculoskeletal component of the problem, however. I find the combination of acupuncture and chiropractic to work so well together for these types of problems and love to work with veterinarians who are skilled with acupuncture and other so called alternative therapies.
And that’s where I (Dr. Beth Jones) come into the picture! As a veterinarian who provides alternative treatments for dogs and cats, I know we are fortunate in the Asheville area to have some great alternative choices for our pets’ healthcare. Chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, herbal medicine, physical therapy, and overall holistic wellness consultations are all available and provided by trained and licensed professionals. Like Dr. Faherty, I also see patients with disk disease who experience symptoms from minor pain to paralysis. Intervertebral disk disease is very common in small breed dogs with long backs, most notably dachshunds. That is where my tale begins (no pun intended).
Jackson was a black and tan dachshund with a reputation. Well before his back problems, he was a “take no prisoners” kind of patient. I always heard him before I saw him. When he entered the clinic, he gave a warning bark and a show of teeth to anyone who dared enter his personal space. On this particular visit, however, he wasn’t barking. He had just returned from the emergency clinic with a grave prognosis.
I entered the room and found Jackson unable to use his hind legs. His mom told me through tears that the emergency vet had diagnosed Jackson with a slipped disk, and that he needed a very expensive surgery to correct his condition. Without the surgery, she needed to consider putting Jackson to sleep. While I agreed with the doctor’s diagnosis, I suggested we try acupuncture, strict rest, and pain medication. Surgery was out of the question for this family, so she agreed to let me try.
After two rounds of acupuncture and a night of cage rest, I found Jackson standing up in his cage. Not only was he able to walk, but I was his friend for life. His mom’s decision to bring him to me quickly played a big part in his recovery. He came in regularly for his “spa treatments,” and when he was ill with a bellyache, I was the only one he allowed to get close enough to give him his necessary treatments. He lived for years after his initial back problem, and most of his life was pain free.
As someone who practiced traditional veterinary medicine for almost twenty years, I have a great appreciation for the doctors, medicines, and diagnostic capabilities that are available. However, sometimes when we think we are at the end of the rope, we can make that rope a little longer with alternative treatments like acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments. That’s why John and I love what we do.
Dr. Beth Jones and Dr. John Faherty provide acupuncture and chiropractic services at Animal Acupuncture and Pain Relief Clinic at 959 Merrimon Ave. Asheville, NC 28804. Dr. Beth can be reached at 828-450-0851, and Dr. John can be reached at 828-712-8017.