Like most big old dogs 12 year old 97 pound Norbert suffers from arthritis.
Luckily Norbert's arthritis is not completely debilitating, but recently his dad and I have noticed increasing stiffness when he gets up from a lying down position, slowness on the stairs, and some reluctance to jump in the bed. Since our home is a typical urban house with steps in both the back and front entrance, as well as steep indoor stairs to the second floor I new we had to do something. Norbert is already on Glycolex 3 and fish oil for his arthritis as well as numerous other supplements. He has tramadol, a low dose pain medicine for his bad days, and we tried Cosequin, but saw no positive effect. Since I prefer to keep things as natural as possible for my pups I was reluctant to turn to Rimadyl. Rimady has quite a few side effects, including a potential for liver problems, and while I think its a very useful drug when used properly I want to delay using it regularly with Norbert for as long as possible. That's what lead me to consider acupuncture.
To use a bad metaphor, the debate about acupuncture in the scientific community is a prickly business. Many human doctors, patients, holistic vets and pet owners owners swear by it as a treatment for arthritis, spinal problems, hip dysplasia, allergies, gastro-intestinal disorders, and faulty immune systems. The theory is that acupuncture helps by releasing endorphins, the bodies natural pain killers, as well as relaxing stiff muscles, boosting the immune system and increasing body fluid circulation.
There are many anecdotal reports of dogs improving measurably on an acupuncture regime, but little hard evidence. What scientific research there has been done with acupuncture and humans is confusing and contradictory. Some studies that compared real acupuncture to "sham" or false acupuncture had patients in both groups reporting improvement, which lead some researchers to conclude any benefits experienced after acupuncture are a result of the placebo effect. However, other researchers interpreting data from the same studies concluded that acupuncture does offer real benefits.
Deciding that acupuncture couldn't hurt, and might help, we decided to give it a go with Norbert. We a made a consultation appointment with Dr. Healey at the Ridgewood animal hospital in New Jersey. Dr. Healey looked Norbert over thoroughly and determined that most of his problems lay in hips. After examining him she felt he was a good candidate for acupuncture and we decided to try four weeks of sessions to see if he would improve. Dr Healey explained that in her experience 25% of patients experience major improvement, 50% some improvement, and 25% get no benefit at all. I left her office cautiously optimistic that acupuncture would help Norbert.
Norbert's first treatment was fairly uneventful. As usual he was a bit nervous being at the vet but all of the staff at Ridgewood are lovely and kind, and Dr. Healey is clearly a genuine animal lover. The tiny needles were insulted in Norbert's head and along his back and hips and left in for a few minutes. Other then his nervousness he appeared to be in no real distress. He received a generous helping of liver treats from Dr. Healey and left the office in a good mood.
Three days later his dad and I were convinced acupuncture works. We noticed Norbert jumping in the bed with greater ease and engaging in a rollicking game of chase the pug with Weasley. Right before his second appointment he jumped up on his back legs to place his front paws on his Dad, something he hasn't done in years because it hurts his hips. During his second appointment he seemed a bit less nervous, the liver treats sure don't hurt, and Dr. Healey declared that his tongue was a better color and the tightness in his hips had lessened.
He bounded out to the car after his appointment. We plan to continue weekly for two to four more weeks and then switch to bi-weekly and go from there. This experience has left me a total acupuncture convert, and more impressively Norbert's somewhat skeptical scientist Dad is convinced as well. If your pup also suffers from the pain of osteo-arthritis don't hesitate to give acupuncture a go.