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!


Sharingjoy said...

What stretches were suggested for Archie? My 11 yr old beagle just injured himself as he slid down our 3 floor stairs one after the other on his butt. He hasn't lost use of the rear legs, he just doesn't have full control. I have taken him to two Vets and to one acupuncturist. None has suggested stretches, but I feel they could help him.
I have noticed he's not doing his long morning stretch as usual.

Jacki said...

Hi sharingjoy - I'm sorry to hear about your beagle and I hope you *both* feel better soon.

The physiotherapist showed me a few different stretches:

1. Archie needs to sit on a sofa, or an armchair - something soft and comfy with good grip. I stand directly in front of him. I use a treat and wave it in front of his nose. Once I have his attention, i pull the treat back towards myself, so that he has to stretch forward to reach it. 5-10 reps/day.

2. "Cookies to hips" starts the same way. Instead of pulling the treat towards myself, I swing it out to the side a bit, and then past his head and towards one hip, so that he turns his head and "upper body" to the side, to follow the treat. Then I move the treat back to his front and around to his other hip. Do this five times a day.

3. Tail pulls. I sit behind Archie and put one hand on his back, just above his tail. With the other hand, I pull on the base of his tail as hard as I can :-S This is a hard one for me, but he doesn't mind at all, and the physiotherapist said most dogs like it. This stretches his back.
We do this twice a day, 5 reps each time.

4. There is another stretch that didn't work out for us. I am a little hesitant to describe it, 'cause it's hard to do and I don't want anyone getting injured. But basically, stand behind the dog and slide one forearm under his belly, by his back legs. If you do that, you would be able to lift his hindquarters off the floor using that forearm. Position your other hand palm up, fingers spread on his chest between the two front legs. So, both arm and hand are under him. Use your forearm to lift his hind legs off the floor, just an inch or two, and pull them towards you, while your other hand is pushing his chest forward - so you are sort of stretching him out like a slinky. Archie would twist his hindquarters sideways and use his hind feet to push against my leg and I would let him go, afraid that the twisting would hurt his back. When I told the physiotherapist this, she told me to discontinue that stretch.

Massage is really important too. Start gently and work up to a deeper massage. Archie had very noticeable hard lumps that we were able to massage away. The physiotherapist said also to watch his reactions, and when you hit a spot that is obviously painful, then you can spend more time on that spot and be more gentle. We had to do 5-minute massages twice a day. Archie did not like massage for 2-3 days after each accupuncture treatment - too painful.

Sharingjoy said...

Thank you for all the info! I am on my way home now to try these. I was informed this morning that Shadow is now whining when he moves, so it's getting worse. I booked him another treatment for tomorrow morning. I just know it will improve over time! the power of positive thinking to the rescue.
thanks again!

Jacki said...

sharingjoy, I think about you and Shadow all the time. I hope you both are doing well. Healing thoughts speeding your way~~~~~