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!