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Chiropractic for Dogs: A Low-Cost, Non-Invasive Alternative

Posted Apr 02 2009 12:53pm

dr-chelf On Friday afternoon (Mother Nature’s favorite time for medical and dental emergencies), my tiny Maltese Chiclet starting limping. Viewed walking from behind, her back legs crossed strangely, one dainty paw touching ground in front of the other, traversing an invisible tightrope.

As far as I could tell, the sum total of her day’s exertion had consisted of lounging on the gym floor with her best friend, Jiggy, watching me lift weights.  Still, she looked injured. Her left leg hovered centimeters above the floor, with her thigh clamped in close to her body with such force I couldn’t pry it loose.  This whisp of a canine weighs a mere four pounds. I weigh more. That muscle spasm was strong.

Now, no one does pitiful better than Chiclet does pitiful.  She’s minuscule and wishbone fragile, a drama queen with an angel’s face. But this day, with her rump curled under so tightly, she was clearly in real pain.

My gym’s just a few blocks from the office of my dog Jiggy’s chiropractor, Dr. Bridget Chelf, so I dropped by.  Bridget shares office space with my vet, so I figured one of them might be in. But no one was. It was late Friday.

I took Chiclet home and massaged her back and leg, looking for a sore knee or hip to blame but finding only spasms. The massage seemed to help and it was Friday evening now. I decided to see how she felt the next day.

On Saturday Chiclet was better although she still showed signed of distress. I massaged her a few times, holding pressure on trigger points until muscles relaxed, then went on with my day. I’d had a lot of experience as a chiropractic patient myself, as had Jiggy, so I understood muscle spasms. I didn’t panic.

Then Sunday morning something odd happened. Chiclet’s muscles clamped down again with a vengeance, and snow-white slobber streamed down from her mouth like a ribbon of phlegmy yogurt. It was  then that I panicked. Did this have something to do with the ear infection she’d been fighting? Or her leg pain? Or maybe the stress of it all?

My little girl’s muscles were so badly in spasm that cradling her rump was like holding a vibrator stuck on “high.”  I called my vet, Tamara Hebbler, and she agreed it sounded like muscle spasm. Tamara said she’d call Jiggy’s chiropractor at home, but suggested that in the mean time I go buy two strengths (30C and 200C) of a homeopathic remedy called magnesia phosphorica.  (Different strengths work on different “levels.”) She said to give Chiclet a mixture of the two (3 beads or so of each resting for 30 seconds in a tablespoon of spring water), a little given every two hours for several days, at least 20 minutes away from food.

Tamara also suggested I feed Chiclet a little, although it had been my instinct to fast her because of the white drool.  Tamara reminded me that little dogs are prone to hypoglycemia, and that fasting absent proven gastro distress (like vomiting or diarrhea) may not be the right course of action.

I guilted my husband into going to the health food store to buy the remedies while I worked on Chiclet’s back and psoas muscles (in the groin area).  Soon, Bridget the Chiropractor called and suggested we meet at her office at noon.

Bridget confirmed that indeed Chiclet’s psoas muscles were in spasm, as was her diaphragm.  Twenty minutes later, with Rescue Remedy to calm her, laser stimulation to combat inflammation, gentle motion palpation of her spine,  and Trameel (homeopathic anti-inflammatory cream) on Bridget’s working fingertips, Chiclet was 1000% better.

My little girl would need a few more chiropractic visits to keep her condition from becoming chronic, but the worst seemed past. Bridget suggested a dose when we got home, and before bed, of homeopathic Arnica Montana 200C and Hypericum 200C, something I always keep on hand for injuries, bruises, surgery and such.  I should have given it at the first sign of distress, but I had been embroiled in a life and death struggle with my computer (a losing battle) and was no longer thinking clearly. Sorry Chiclet.  I try to be a good mommy, but I’m only human.

Backtracking to the beginning, before I called my holistic vet (holistic sounds like  witch doctor to my medically-disinterested husband), he suggested I get a second opinion from a “regular” vet (the kind with surgical suites and stainless steel counters).

Since I hadn’t yet had a first opinion from the “witch doctor” or chiropractor, that seemed premature. What could a “regular” vet do anyway?

I posed this question to a veterinarian certified in chiropractic, homeopathy and acupuncture, Dr. Margo Roman. She responded:

“Using a strictly conventional approach, they would probably suspect a musculoskeletal issue and start with X-rays of the back and pelvis. A CT scan or MRI might be required to decide if there could be a lumbar disc, or a possible mass or lesion, causing pain.  A Myelogram (which uses a special dye and an X-ray to make pictures of the bones and the space between bones) may also clarify any disc involvement.

“A steroid, NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory) or other pharmaceutical pain medication would most likely be given.  They’d do blood work and evaluate the possibility of an infection or other blood abnormality before giving pain meds (in case of liver issues) and in case they needed to do surgery. The dog may be hospitalized and placed on IV fluids with a catheter just in case they needed access to other intravenous treatments.

“The cost for all the above, not counting what could be on-going pain or anti-inflammatory meds and follow-up visits, would be around $2,500. (If this was an emergency visit, add on an additional fee.) And they haven’t even tried a possible surgical treatment that could run between $2000 to $7,000 more. In these harder economic times, using integrative holistic options has to be part of the more kinder and gentler approach. In this case, chiropractic with homeopathy was the most correct course of action and saved little Chiclet a lot of unnecessary tests and risks.”

There are a few more problems with the conventional treatment. Steroids suppress the immune system and have numerous potential side effects; NSAIDs can damage the liver.  X-rays and scans as valuable they can be do offer an unnecessary dose of radiation while showing nothing about a muscle spasm. A broad spectrum antibiotic given just in case Chiclet had an infection would also destroy good intestinal bacteria and predispose her to secondary yeast and bacterial overgrowth.  All of these conventional approaches have their merit when needed, but sadly they are too often chosen first instead of the less invasive methods.

“Asking for these options is difficult when the caring veterinarian hasn’t had training in integrative methods.  Try suggesting that your vet get the new book Integrating Complementary Medicine into Veterinary Practice by Bob Goldstein et all.”

Chiclet’s chiropractor and holistic vet eased her pain inexpensively and non-invasively in about 20 minutes, and I learned how to relieve her pain if it happened again. It cost far less  than the emergency room visit. (An appointment Sunday and another Monday cost $160.) Most importantly, Chiclet’s treatment left her relaxed — and less stressed.  In my book, that’s a happy ending.

*** Looking for a chiropractor (human or canine) or holistic vet in the San Diego North County area?  Reach the chiropractor, Dr. Chelf at 858-792-7296.  Contact the vet, Dr. Hebbler at 877-738 4673 or HealingHope.net.

*** Elsewhere in the US, click here to learn more about finding a good vet or chiropractor (or working with one who’s less than perfect).

***Consider giving your conventional vet Dr. Roman’s amazing video, Dr. DoMore. She interviews numerous vets on why they’ve added integrative (alternative) methods to their practices. (It’s the last item on my shopping pageAll proceeds benefit her nonprofit Center for Integrative Veterinary Care.)

*** Check out our newest blog post at Truth4Dogs.

chiropractic, chiropractor, dog, dogs, muscle pain, muscle spasm

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