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Treating Pain in Dogs: Gus' Experience

by Dr. Rachel Addleman, DVM, DiplABVP, CVA
Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, Dr. Addleman has advanced training and Board Certification in feline medicine. She practices in Houston, Texas and can be found at AnimalFixer.com

arthritis in dogs and catsAfter pulling my acupuncture bag from the car, I walked up the driveway and decided that between the big dog Gus and me, it was Gus who stood more confidently. Even with his arthritis, it looked like I might not be able to outrun him!

I am a veterinarian and I use acupuncture and Chinese herbs to treat animals that need more than Western veterinary medicine can provide. I often travel with Linda, my assistant. She doesn’t weigh much more than Gus and she’s my mother. So, it just wouldn’t look right if she were attacked by my newest acupuncture patient.

Now, if Linda was off to Nordstrom’s and it was between Gus and her for a parking space . . . I’m pretty sure she could outwit him. Outwit the dog I mean, if he were the type to drive. Cleverness aside, I was worried.

Gus is a 15 year old chow who suffers from arthritis in his hips and knees. His back was so sore it was difficult for him to stand from a sitting position or even lift his tail to wag. He lumbered about slowly and things had gotten much worse for him recently. His once robust appetite was declining.

During his first treatment, Gus made a very convincing argument that acupuncture wasn’t for him! Gus reminded me of my own father. Not because they looked alike, of course, as Gus has lots of hair and not just on the sides of his head and back. They were similar because both Gus and my father were resistant to trying acupuncture.

Gus stood with his eyebrows arched and his hackles raised. His mother kneeled over him in her business suit. She had come home special for his treatment and explained that he should behave! His father patted his head with a thump! thump!

I inserted tiny sterile acupuncture needles to specific anatomic points by feeling the muscles and skeleton under his fur. Acupuncture needles stimulate the body causing a release of natural chemicals and endorphins. Gus didn’t notice the tiny needles going in. He just didn’t like me standing too close to him!

After a few minutes, Gus lay down, stretched out across the floor, and put his head into his owner’s lap. Gus approved! He liked the acupuncture and seemed to give a doggie grin.

Five days later Gus received his second treatment. He greeted us as we got out of the car, practically skipping over to us! He was getting up with much less effort and definitely had more energy! It was apparent he was in less discomfort and had more mobility. His parents commented that his appetite had improved. Gus only growled a little during his second treatment. Then he wagged his tail and flopped over sideways onto the carpet as if to say, “Go ahead, and treat me! I love it!"

Gus still has arthritis, but acupuncture helps him to be more comfortable. He especially likes his treatments days. Afterward his treatment, he has more energy and as I leave I always catch his boyish grin.