Dr. Arielle Herndober, CVA, CVSMT, CCRP
ACUPUNCTURE FOR DOG ARTHRITIS
WHAT IS ARTHRITIS?
Arthritis is a painful condition that affects approximately 20% of adult dogs. Arthritis can be mild and only cause subtle changes to your dog’s behavior or may be debilitating resulting in significant limitations to their mobility. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage within one of your pet’s joints is damaged. This cartilage can be damaged secondary to:
High impact, repetitive movements such as fetch
Cranial cruciate ligament injuries
Inflammatory conditions such as immune mediated arthritis
Eventually as the cartilage breaks down, the joint can become inflamed and painful, resulting in changes to your pet's mobility and quality of life.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF ARTHRITIS IN DOGS?
Most commonly, older dogs are affected by arthritis, however young dogs can also be affected. Since arthritis most commonly occurs in aging patients, it is common for owners to attribute the signs of arthritis to part of the aging process, whereas their pet may actually be experiencing pain.
Stiffness upon rising.
Pet’s who seem to be moving slow and stiff after laying for an extended period of time
Pet’s with arthritis may have a subtle limp after activity or may have pronounced limping on one or several legs. The limping may be more pronounced after they have been sleeping and then resolve. However, anytime a pet is limping, it is a sign that they are experiencing pain.
You may notice that your pet stands with a hunched back or holds one of their legs out to the side when standing.
Changes in temperament
Pet’s who are in chronic pain may resent being petted in particular areas. They may growl or attempt to bite or snap when moved or touched. Pet’s with changes to their behavior or new signs of aggression should always be evaluated for pain.
Difficulties jumping up on the couch, bed or car can be a sign of pain. Your pet may also be reluctant to go up and down stairs or stop or sit on their walks. You may also notice that they are sleeping more than usual or less enthusiastic for their walks.
Pet’s with arthritis often over groom, chew or lick the painful areas. If licking or chewing is excessive they may develop hair loss or skin conditions due to the chronic irritation.
Arthritic pets can develop muscle loss due to lack of use of the affected leg. Muscle loss in the leg will give your dog’s leg the appearance of being thinner than the other.
HOW CAN ACUPUNCTURE HELP MY DOG’S ARTHRITIS?
While acupuncture does not have the ability to heal arthritic joints, it can do a great job of relieving pain and improving your pet’s overall mobility. By inserting the thin acupuncture needles into various acupuncture points in your pet’s body, acupuncture can:
Release endorphins which are the body’s natural pain relief hormones
Loosen tight and achy muscles surrounding your pet’s joints
Improve the blood flow and promote circulation
Reduce your pet’s dependency or dose of chronic medications
WILL MY DOG STAY STILL FOR THE ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT?
Yes! In fact most pet’s will stay still for their acupuncture treatments! The needles are thin and push the skin apart rather than cutting through it so there is little discomfort associated with the treatments. We aim to create a soothing and calm environment to set the mood for the treatment so that dogs are relaxed and calm even before the treatment starts. If needed we utilize licky mats with frozen peanut butter, treats and friendly pets to help keep your pet still and calm for the duration of the acupuncture treatment - however we find that most pet’s can’t even stay awake to finish their licky mat - within 10 minutes or so of starting their treatment, they doze off as they are so relaxed! Typically the needles are left in place anywhere from 15-25 minutes - just the right amount of time for your dog to rest and recharge!
HOW MANY ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENTS WILL MY DOG NEED?
Since arthritis is a chronic condition, most dogs need to come in once weekly for 4-6 weeks before we consider reducing the frequency of their treatments. For some senior dogs with multiple joints affected by arthritis, we continue to see them on a weekly basis to help them manage their pain. For dogs who are less severely affected by their arthritis, we can usually reduce them to once monthly treatments for maintenance and they are able to maintain their mobility between sessions. It’s important that clients commit to continuing with their dog’s treatments, even when they seem to be feeling better as it’s easier to keep them comfortable when we see them on a regular basis.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS TO GET MY DOG STARTED WITH ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENTS?
Acupuncture in dogs (and humans for that matter) can be aggravated by cold weather! As winter quickly approaches in Chicago, now is the time to schedule your dog’s acupuncture consultation at Healing Tails. During your pet’s initial consultation we will do a complete review of their medical history and complete a thorough physical exam to ensure that they are a candidate for acupuncture treatments. The initial consultation is approximately 1 hour long and we will discuss treatments and a plan of care, in some cases we will have time to complete their first acupuncture treatment during that time.
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Dr. Arielle Herndobler is the owner and founder of Healing Tails, a clinic located in Chicago focusing on physical rehabilitation, acupuncture and chiropractic care for pets. She is certified in acupuncture, certified veterinary spinal manipulation therapy (chiropractic) and physical rehabilitation.