Greta made her pain known to us in small ways.
When it was time go somewhere good—down to the park, off for a hike in Soldiers’ Delight or across the field where the deer and foxes play—Greta no longer leaped up like the puppy she still is at heart. She rose from a lying down position by propping herself up on her forelegs, then gradually getting her hindquarters to lift.
Each evening, when it was time to go downstairs to bed, Greta hesitated at the top of the stairs. She looked down. She steeled herself. Then she plunged down the stairs. In the morning, she no longer bounded upstairs. She placed one forepaw on a step, then moved the other forepaw to the next step.
She was telling us it hurt. We scheduled an appointment with her veterinarian to see what more could be done, beyond her daily Dasuquin® tablet for joint health. What about pain relievers?
“Don’t give her ibuprofen,” the doctor said. “We have doguprofen.”
I got some of the prescription ibuprofen for her, but I don’t like to take medication on a regular basis unless I really need it, and I imagine Greta would feel the same if I were her dog and she my person. Was there something else we could try?
“I’m certified in acupuncture,” he said, adding that he thought Greta would be a good candidate for the treatment. The idea took a moment to get used to, but if it works for people . . . We scheduled a session.
They put a soft quilt on the floor for Greta’s first treatment. The veterinarian got down on the floor with her and began running his hands along her hips, looking for what he identified as knots that indicated sore spots.
Greta didn’t think much of the whole idea. She tucked her tail down as far between her legs as it would go and moved restlessly as he inserted little thin needles. She trembled. The doctor inserted a needle in the top of Greta’s head.
“Now, this is calming,” he said.
Right, I thought. But within a few minutes, Greta began to relax. She sat down. Then the doctor could concentrate on her hips.
He explained that the idea was to stimulate different nerve pathways, so that although Greta would still have arthritis, she wouldn’t be in as much pain. He also explained that it would take two to three treatments before we could tell whether the acupuncture was helping.
Greta didn’t get any electrical stimulation in her first session. The second session, she got electrical stimulation, and it was rough for her. Greta couldn’t settle down. She moved around, got to her feet, turned, tried to get away from the treatment. Her veterinarian concluded that he may have gone too fast, tried to stimulate the nerves more than Greta was ready to tolerate. He made the third session more gentle. Greta appreciated that.
There was never a dramatic Ah-ha! moment. But over the weeks, Greta seemed to be doing better. She was less hesitant when she started down the stairs, and it seemed she got to her feet more easily. The veterinarian was finding fewer sore spots. We were able to begin scheduling treatments every two weeks rather than every week.
We added dogassage to Greta’s home care routine. “Just massage the muscles on either side of her spine down to her hips,” the doctor said.
I don’t know if I’m doing it correctly or how much it helps, but Greta loves it. When her masseuse gets to work, Greta closes her eyes and drifts into sensual canine bliss.
She will still have arthritis for the remainder of her life. But so what, if she can feel good enough to romp with her friends, chase her squeaky toy and play tug-of-war with her humans in the back yard. Is there more to life than that?