Despite our efforts to give our dogs the best possible care, diet and exercise, life can throw a few unpredictable curve balls that puts them out of balance.
I know this only too well these past six months as my lovely little Papillon Rupert has been challenged with a number of minor, yet concerning health issues – everything from flea allergies, yeast overgrowth and more recently, a back problem.
Many of the conventional treatments for these health issues would typically involve a combination of toxic pesticides (to rid the fleas), cortisol medications (for the scratching) and other anti-inflammatories (for the back problem). There are times when any or all of these treatments may be essential to prevent your dog’s suffering or in life threatening situations. But they can also contribute to further in-balance or mask what is actually going on in your dog, so when faced with this collection of health issues, I was determined to try other less impactful options to help Rupert regain his equilibrium.
“Listening” to your dog
I like to think I’m pretty attuned to my dogs’ health and wellbeing, but it can be challenging with some health problems as dogs can often be quite stoic.
Initially I thought Rupert’s lack of energy, limited interest in favoured activities like his daily walk or playing with his toys, and reluctance to interact were due to the irritation he was experiencing with the flea allergy (not to mention being subjected to my various attempts to rid him of that affliction with a range of low-tox remedies!).
But something was very different this time. Typically when Rupert has been a bit “off colour” and exhibited similar behaviours, they have generally passed within a a day or two, with Rupert returning to his usually bright and sprightly self. Despite the more obvious discomfort of his flea allergy, I sensed there was more going on for Rupert than just a passing bug.
Getting to the back of the problem
I sensed there was more going on for Rupert than just a passing bug.
In addition to his drop in energy and interest in play, Rupert started displaying some more obvious physical signs that something was causing him grief. He became increasingly stiff in his movements, had spots of quite intense heat in various parts of his back, and he developed high sensitivity to touch on his lower back.
Time to go to the specialist!
As Rupert’s symptoms were becoming more intense and prolonged, it was clear that we had moved beyond the stage of home remedies and so it was time to take Rupert to the experts. In the past at this point, I would have gone straight to my regular vet; the usual treatment recommended being a round of anti-inflammatories. But this time I was eager to explore other treatments that placed less stress on other parts of Rupert’s system, and so I sought the services of a qualified holistic vet specialising in acupuncture and chiropractic treatments.
Finding a practitioner that you are not familiar with can be daunting. I was fortunate to have had a referral from one of the participants attending one of my holistic health seminars recently, who spoke highly of a specialist she had used for her dog’s back issues. Nothing beats a good referral! And so I found myself making the trip from my place in the city out to Geelong to visit Dr Kim Lim at Geelong Creatures Comfort.
Dr Lim assessed Rupert and found that he had some vertebrae that were likely to be the cause of his issues. She confirmed he had quite a bit of tension and heat in his back. The treatment Dr Lim gave Rupert involved a combination of therapies including:
- some minor adjustments using an Activator instrument, which is a small, hand-held device that gives a light impulse force to the spine to help restore motion to the specific vertebra or joints. (This device does make quite a loud noise and I was impressed that Dr Lim took some time to get Rupert accustomed to the noise before using it on him);
- acupuncture to support energy flow; (there is evidence that acupuncture can stimulate the release of neuro-chemicals such as endorphins to help relieve pain, and anti-inflammatory hormones into the bloodstream).
- Craniosacral Therapy (also known as CST), which is another type of energy treatment that involves gentle hands-on healing to help “reset” the central nervous system, support its regulation and self healing.
I had little personal experience with these therapies up to this point, with the exception of acupuncture, but I had read and researched them to consider what risks if any there would be for Rupert, and was interested to observe the outcome.
To be honest, my expectations of any significant change were not that high, especially after one session. But I have to say, I was literally amazed at the difference in Rupert after the treatment; he was noticeably walking with his head held higher and a greater ease to his gait. When we returned home that day, Rupert did appear a little tired but after a few days of taking it easy, he returned to his usual sprightly self, eagerly taking his walks and indulging in “zoomies” in the park (you know that crazy zig-zag sprint dogs do in the park when they’re super excited?). He was much more interactive with us and his appetite for play has come back – to the extent that his monkey tug toy is in need of substantial repair! I’m pleased to say that he’s maintained this level of wellness nearly two months after the treatment, and it has put him in a much better position to respond to treatments for the skin issues I have been dealing with since his flea allergy (more on that in a future post….!).
To be honest, my expectations of any significant change were not that high, especially after one session. But I have to say, I was literally amazed at the difference in Rupert after the treatment
Trust your instincts and your relationship with your dog
Nobody wants to see their dog suffering with even the most minor condition. The frustration I have felt trying to both figure out what was really ailing Rupert and then subsequently deciding how to best support him has been challenging and at times tested my commitment and confidence in holistic health.
But as I reflect on the experience, it has been a valuable reminder for trusting my instincts and truly appreciating the importance of observing and knowing what is “normal” for my dogs. It has also exemplified that there is no “magic” one-size-fits-all formula for treating our dogs – trial and error can be part of the holistic way as is seeking professional help at the right time to minimise harm and suffering for your dog.
Taking a risk approach to any new therapies for my dogs (whether conventional or complementary) has definitely helped me make important decisions about their health care. I value both research and information from trusted sources and referrals as an important part of that process.
It has also piqued my interest to learn more about how crucial spinal alignment and health is to the overall health and wellbeing of our canines. I’ll be dedicating a future story on this fascinating topic, looking at how spinal alignment can be thrown out of balance, different options to treat back issues including more details about the treatments I’ve mentioned in this article, and ways to maintain your dog’s spinal health throughout his life.
If your dog is experiencing any significant health symptoms (vomiting, chronic diarrhea, obvious pain and lameness, loss of appetite and so on), I strongly urge you to see your vet as soon as possible and have the number of your closest emergency vet on hand.
Many thanks to Dr Kim Lim BVSc of Geelong Creatures Comfort for permission to reference Rupert’s treatments with her and for permission to use the associated photograph. Dr Lim also has a great blog on her site covering holistic health topics. Contact Dr Lim at https://geelongcreatures.com.au/
Sources used to help inform this article:
da Silva MD (et al) 2015, “IL-10 cytokine released from M2 macrophages is crucial for analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture in a model of inflammatory muscle pain.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24961568