"Echo" is a pretty & perky pup (who is pretty-perky!) 11 year old mini-schnauzer from Sun Prairie, who I met on an evaluation for a head tilt and stiff gait. Echo is a muscular little girl, she loves to chase little critters and is very animated. Initially she was bred to be a show dog, born in Oregon, and nearly was flown to Australia for showing, but at the last minute the Aussie's changed her mind, and eventually was united with her family and forever home and she gets to bask in the limelight at home!
Last year, she was diagnosed her with a bone spur in her hip joint via X-rays & the family was told she would be on lifelong anti-inflammatories for pain control. In time, she developed a head tilt, her opposite elbow was bowing out, and she was not acting comfortable, even with the addition of a second pain reliever. Medications can carry side effects, especially long term, and the family wanted to see if there were other options besides these pain relievers. On initial exam, I could feel a lot of tightness in her neck and back, especially on side where she tilted her head. She also had hypertrophy of the left deltoid muscle- where her left elbow was bowing out. Her neck range of motion (ROM) was also severely decreased to the left. We did massage, focusing on her spine, neck, and hind legs and formulated a plan of ROM exercises and gentle massage that the family could do on a daily basis. Yesterday, Echo made the long trek from Sun Prairie for laser and acupuncture. Normally I do all of these therapies in home, however with the family being so far away, they offered to come up~ What a treat! After a week of guided home bodywork, she looked noticeably better and her head tilt was decreased. The family said she really enjoyed her therapy at home too! The family noted, however, that as she gets older, she does get startled more and seems to tense up easily, and is also more stiff in the mornings. After re-evaluating her muscles and gait (something that it important for me to do at every visit), I preformed acupuncture to help relieve pain in the back and hips, as well as neck and surrounding muscles. Acupuncture can help to break down muscle knots, increase natural endorphins, and improve circulation Echo, who is quite active, was very content eating homemade dog treats from my friend! Next I used laser therapy while the acupuncture needles were placed, on her tight muscle groups, while massaging the opposite muscle group with my left hand. Initially the acupuncture needles stood upright in the muscles, but by the end of the session, the needles relaxed and began to lie more parallel to the body- showing that the muscles had relaxed. Echo looked GREAT after the therapy yesterday- and her neck ROM afterwards was nearly back to normal! I love that feeling that I get after a good massage- light, airy, relaxed, and limber like Gumby! Hopefully that is how she felt :)
Our plan is to continue in home body work exercises- I adjusted some of the exercises for the family, and will likely do acupuncture and laser sessions every 1-2 weeks for a few more weeks. Since she is getting older, she will likely continue to have some stiffness (bah humbug aging!), and she will probably need "maintenance" sessions to loosen up those muscle groups that she tends to develop tenseness in. We are also trying to transition Echo onto a natural anti-inflammatory that also contains joint supplements and is safer long term. Just like us, it is a good idea to have veterinarian prescribed pet anti-inflammatories on hand for when needed, but it is also so important to address the bigger issue and not mask it. Some pets need these anti-inflammatories long term to be comfortable: Every situation is different and multi-factorial; It is so important that as pet lovers, we are not ignoring signs of pain in our pets. Laser, acupuncture, and massage are fantastic integrative, safe ways to augment pain control naturally and address muscle tension, etc. In cases like Echo's by addressing the primary painful areas, working through secondary muscle issues, and continuing vet guided exercises at home, we can decrease her medication and best of all she will be more comfortable, happy and healthy... Way to go Echo!