acupuncture for dogs
October 28, 2005 8:23 PM   Subscribe

Experiences with acupuncture for your doggie, in particular an older companion with arthritis?

My 10.5 year old Basset Hound Lou (still kicking!) has added arthritis to her current list of maladies. I have one acquaintance who used acupuncture on her dog, to good effect. I am interested in hearing more opinions. Did it make a difference? Did your dog freak out the first time or first couple times? How frequent were your treatments? How much did they cost? I am pretty sure my dog's oncologist can recommend a good canine acupuncturist, as she is a big believer in natural/holistic treatments as a supplement to hard science. Thanks in advance for replies. Shane, still have the biscotti signal? :)
posted by vito90 to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
Acupuncture? Please...
posted by phrontist at 8:43 PM on October 28, 2005

While I'm not as skeptical of acupuncture as some, I'd be careful about "alternative" medicine when it comes to pets. There's a lot of crazy ways to waste your money and a lot of sleazy people trying to take your money.

Still, according to Wikipedia, "acupuncture is more effective than placebo acupuncture in relieving pain caused by osteoarthritis" so there's at least some science to back up its effectiveness.

So, armed with a strong dose of skepticism, I'd start with the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (which seems to be the main trade association for veterinary acupuncture practitioners) and go from there.

Please make sure to ask any potential vets for names/numbers of current clients you can call and check the local BBB to make sure you're not getting scammed.
posted by jacobian at 11:24 PM on October 28, 2005

We've had success with this stuff: Our dog gets about 4ccs I think, and while she's still stiff at times, she's much happier and has taken to playing with the younger dogs again. It's been so effective I might start taking it myself. One caveat: be careful with shiping and don't order it from a discount place because it loses effectiveness if it gets left in the sun for a long period. We keep it in the fridge.
posted by fshgrl at 1:17 AM on October 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

I have a 14 year old lab with plenty of arthritis, and in the last four years we've tried lots of different things to keep her happy and comfortable. The worst options in terms of results have been any oral steriod, like Rimadyl. It works some, but makes her VERY moody and causes her to lose weight. The best options, and what we use:
**She swims every day. She's a lab, it's light exercise she loves, and there's no pressure on her joints. Even though we're in Houston, sometimes it's too cold to get in the pool with her, but she still pads around the perimeter two or three times and then she gets out. The down side is that our whole house smells like old, wet, dog, but that will end soon enough. (You may want to walk your pup slowly around the block every day.)
**We used to go to a vet who did accu for her, but I learned the spots pretty quickly, did my homework, and now I needle her about twice a week. (You can buy the needles online.) She's always completely quiet when I do it, usually falls asleep, and shows a marked improvement for the two days following. It's not a miracle worker, she's still a really old dog, but it DOES help significantly, and helps humans with arthritis as well. Go to the expensive vet in your town, and ask him/her to show you their accu license. They depend on repeat business and know if you don't see results you won't come back. By the way, you'll need to go about once a week, and it is costly, around $100 a session. I've known five or six dogs who've had accu and none have freaked out, though sometimes their owners who don't like needles get pretty nervous.
**We give her liquid glucosamine and dark, leafy greens with her food every day, and some type of fish every couple of days. (Seafood makes me gag so that's my girlfriend's job.)
**We make sure she has a comfortable place to rest, on the floor, in most rooms. She can't climb so nothing with a high lip or on a platform.
**We love on her a whole lot, because it makes all of us feel better.

Sorry to write the essay, but I hate it when people who haven't tried things just diss them without thinking about the potential positive effects. Accu has worked for me, for my pets, and I wouldn't use it for a head injury or anything, but it is very effective for many chronic health problems. It doesn't have to be expensive if you are willing to learn to do it yourself, even if you just learn to massage the points and do accupressure.
posted by pomegranate at 5:19 AM on October 29, 2005

The worst options in terms of results have been any oral steriod, like Rimadyl.

Rimadyl isn't a steroid, it's an NSAID (NON-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). That said, there's been a lot of controversy over Rimadyl and there are other drug options for pain relief (Metacam, Tramadol, Deramaxx, etc.).

My take on acupuncture: it's in the "can't hurt to try it once/might help" category. I have seen horses seemingly improve after acupuncture, and I personally experienced an improvement in TMJ symptoms after acupuncture, but even so, I remain relatively skeptical about it and I certainly wouldn't use it as the ONLY pain treatment. Given Lou's other diagnoses, I would definitely look at anything "alternative" as an adjunct therapy, not as an "instead of". Arthrtitis is painful (in addition to other things which could be causing her pain), dogs tend to be stoic (by the time you can see they're hurting, they're normally REALLY hurting), and if you know she's likely to be in pain, she NEEDS to be medicated. Quality of life should be your priority here, not quantity.

I would take her to acupuncture once, see how she reacts, if she tolerates it well, by all means add it to her other therapies (which, as I hope I've made clear, should definitely include analgesic medication), if she doesn't tolerate it well, forget about it. I see no reason to put her through something which really distresses her for questionable benefit. You could also look into finding a canine massage therapist. Keep her lean, exercise her as much as she can comfortably handle, look into supplements like glucosamine/chondroitin which might help with her arthrtits, and love her.

That said, I'm thrilled to hear that Lou's still kicking, give her a scritch from me.
posted by biscotti at 6:54 AM on October 29, 2005

I don't know anything about acupuncture, but I think you're smart to try non-drug therapies first. I've heard Rimadyl has worked miracles for a lot of dogs, but it gave mine gastrointestinal bleeding within the first day or two of taking it.
posted by walla at 7:31 AM on October 29, 2005

My elderly lab had problems with stiffness and dizzyness - the accupuncture was tremendously helpful, and didn't seem to bother her at all. Another dog in previous years had the same problem and we used more traditional medications. It seemed that the accupuncture was effective much more quickly.
posted by korej at 9:41 AM on October 29, 2005

I have no first hand knowledge of this, but a good friend's lab suffered with arthritis. She found accupuncture to be very helpful. Helped that dog to live to 14 years before other maladies caused too much pain for her human to see her in.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:21 PM on October 29, 2005

Since you're in Seattle, I recommend Dr. Richard Panzer at Peaceable Kingdom Animal Clinic.
8346 28TH Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98117-4517
(206) 784-8187

He was recommended by our regular vet, and Sara (our bassett) did seem to do well under his care.

Good luck!
posted by luneray at 12:23 PM on October 29, 2005

Oh and I forgot to mention that we give our ancient Lab a baby aspirin at breakfast and again at dinner. Thanks Biscotti for reminding me!
posted by pomegranate at 12:42 PM on October 29, 2005

Thank you to everyone for the helpful comments. Her next chemo session is Monday, I plan to bring up the topic with her oncologist to get her opinion.
posted by vito90 at 8:09 PM on October 29, 2005

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