Sunday, May 31, 2009

Archie's Acupuncture Adventures

In late March, Archie was diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome, which, in a nutshell, means his spine is compressed near his pelvis and is causing nerve damage. It causes him pain and may lead to paralysis at some point.

Our vet, in whom I have great faith, is very holistic/homeopathic. She prescribed a natural anti-inflammatory (
Zeel by Heel, available at health food stores), a vitamin B complex for nerve regeneration, and glucosamine, which is commonly used for arthritis. I discontinued the Zeel after one month, as it may cause liver damage; and Archie seems to be managing well without it.

Our vet also recommended
physiotherapy, and Archie has had one home visit appointment. I need to book a follow-up. In the first appointment, we learned several stretches and massage techniques. For our second visit, I need to purchase an exercise ball (yes, that kind).

One thing our vet didn't recommend was canine acupuncture. The first people to suggest acupuncture were my friends Chloe and Jane. They were very familiar with canine acupuncture as their vet - Dr. Nairn at Westward Animal Hospital in Saskatoon - practices it. When another friend suggested acupuncture as well, I gave Westward a call.

I was told that Archie would have an initial consult appointment, to determine whether acupuncture was a feasible treatment for him. I assumed Archie would have a checkup and Dr. Nairn would talk to me about the treatment, before deciding if we would go ahead and do it. But, at our first appointment, Dr. Nairn was ready to insert the needles. Poor Archie!

Archie is my Mexcian jumping bean - the only time he sits still is when he's sleeping. He is also quite timid in new situations. It took quite awhile for Dr. Nairn and me to calm Archie down enough to insert the needles; and then we needed to keep Archie still for 5 minutes. Much easier said than done. Dr. Nairn had to keep adjusting the needles.

After the needles were removed, Dr. Nairn asked me to email him, and let him know how Archie was doing over the next few days. If we saw an improvement, we would continue with the acupunture.

The first thing I noticed was that as soon as we got home, Archie had a nap. At 5:00pm, which is hugely out of character for him. Dr. Nairn later told me that most pets do sleep after a treatment, but he has no idea why.

The next day, the first thing I noticed was that Archie was just FULL of wiggles. My "Mr. Wiggles" was back! I actually started crying. I hadn't realized he wasn't wiggling for me, until I saw him do it at long last.

The second thing I noticed was that he was sitting on the couch in a way I hadn't seen him do in a long time - actually standing on his hindpaws with his front paws on the window sill to look out.

The last - and most important thing - was that he curled up in a little ball that night to sleep. For the past few months, he had been sleeping s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d right out and would change positions several times during the night. His usual way of sleeping was to curl up into a ball and maybe reposition his head once during the night. When I saw him sleeping this way again, I knew the acupuncture had made a tremendous difference for Arch.

Dr. Nairn says that Archie should be treated once a week for a month; then once every 2 weeks for about 3 months; then once a month for about 8 months. If after a full year of treatment, he is still fine, we will discontinue it until he has "episode" and needs help managing his pain.

This past Thursday, Archie had his fourth treatment. He gets to skip a week now, and goes back again on June 11th.

The second and third treatments, in particular, were bad and I believe they caused Archie a lot of pain. I try to justify that by saying 5 minutes of pain makes him feel better for a whole week, but it's still hard to knowingly subject your pet to a painful procedure.

But, this last treatment went swimmingly. It could be that Archie is just more used to the whole shebang; or it could be that the pain from the needles is lessened as his overall pain decreases. Dr. Nairn inserted 6 needles in Archie's pelvic area and then we gave Archie rubbies for 5 minutes. Archie was in heaven. He kept leaning his head up and back trying to smooch up Dr. Nairn, who finally gave Archie a kiss. Aw! Kisses and acupuncture - now that's holistic!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jazzy Tags - 7 Paws up!

Well someone has a birthday coming up, namely Mr. Gabe-o, who will be hitting the big "5" next week. We do very much celebrate birthdays here, with a bbq steak (no bones!) and gifts. Gabe's had the same leash since 2005, and his tag is looking pretty scratchy (he's on his second one in 3 years) so I figured a perfect gift would be a new collar and leash set and a new tag.

Modern Dog magazine has several ads for online stores that specialize in dog tags. I checked an "artisan" dog tag store, only to see that their handmade tags run at $30-$50 USD. *ahem* a little too pricy for me. Moving along ... I checked out The photos of their tags looked "okay" and the price was reasonable ($13.99 USD, no shipping charges), so I decided to give them a try.
The only shape tags come in is round, but they are stamped with a simple picture on the front - you can choose from 13 designs, 9 colours, and 3 tag sizes. Okay. Choosing was actually pretty easy. The website suggested the medium size tag would be appropriate for "most" dogs. For Gabe, I chose the bone design with a red background - I like red on him; and the bone is no-brainer. It's like his personal logo. I also ordered a tag for Archie, for his birthday in August. His has a green background to contrast nicely with his red fur; and his design is a fire hydrant because ... well, I'm sure you can figure that one out.

I used PayPal to pay for the tags late on May 19th; and on May 20th received an email saying I would get the tags in about 7 days. Voila, May 27th, they are in my mailbox - from the USA, yet.

These are beautiful tags - much nicer than they look on the jazzytags website. The tags are stainless steel, large and heavy - almost 1/2 oz, to be precise. They're about the size of a toonie and twice as thick. Everything is perfect. The colours are vivid; the designs are clear; the engraving is a good size (and no errors).

Considering that the tags from the vending machine at PetSmart run at about $10, jazzytags is certainly competitively priced, but offering a much nicer quality item in the end.

Gabe and Archie give them 7 paws up. They deducted 1 paw because the engraving may be difficult to read in certain lighting (this is where the tags at the PetSmart vending machine get a bonus point). But, this is a small issue - with luck, no one will ever *need* to read their tags to return the boys home to me. Check out the next time your furkid needs a tag.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Introducing .... Gabe 'n' Arch!

Okay, so Gabe and Archie are my beagles. It's always "Gabe 'n' Arch" - never "Arch 'n' Gabe" - 'cause Gabe came first, two years before Archie. But, in this picture, Arch is the little red guy on the left, and Gabe is the bigger dark guy on the right.

I am one of those "crazy" pet parents you hear about. My boys have their own dresser and each have a drawer with sweaters, t-shirts, rain jackets, and winter boots. They have a dog "castle" outside to use as a look-out point (it's designed specifically for them to hop on the roof). I cook them homemade dog food from fresh beef and vegetables every weekend. I bake them cookies. I take Gabe to a "swim and trim" program at the local canine pool; and Archie goes for physio and acupuncture treatments. I gave out 22 calendars at Christmas last year; it's a charity calendar for Beagle Paws rescue and Archie is Mr. May.

My name is Jacki and I am a crazy pet parent.

But, you know what? I don't think I'm that crazy. Archie freezes up when it's terribly cold, thus the sweaters and boots. Gabe was overweight and developing arthritis, thus the swimming. Archie has allergies, thus the homemade food. Arch also has cauda equina syndrome, thus the physio and the acupuncture. Every bit of my craziness has a reason, and I'm betting there are plenty of other so-called "crazy" pet parents out there who aren't so crazy after all. You're just doing the best you can for your four-legged family members.

That's what this blog is about - my search for solutions, my trials and errors, my pet-parent goofiness, as I try to keep Gabe 'n' Arch happy and safe.