Mainstream Care vs. Alternative Therapy: What is Right for Your Dog?

As Nola told you about on Monday, we started doing some rehab with her for her ACL injury. Our reasoning for this was twofold. One, we wanted to make sure her injury completely healed. Because it was only a partial tear, we were worried that if we let her go back to her normal activities too fast she might completely tear it. The second reason was that we wanted to prevent it from happening on the other leg. Our ultimate goal was to get her back as close to her ‘normal’ activity level as we could. The Mr. and I are active, we like to take Nola to the beach, hiking, swimming, biking, and running. She also really likes to play. We didn’t want to go through life cringing every time she ran faster than a trot, crossing our fingers she doesn’t injure her leg again.

I came across Gayle at Pawsitive Results K9 Rehabilitation through this blog. I shared my friend Shelley’s story about her dog Payson, and so did Jessica from Notes from a Dog Walker. Gayle and Jessica worked together at a local shelter, so when she saw the post, Gayle requested Shelley’s info so she could talk to her about other options. Then, Shelley told me about what Gayle had to offer which was a mix of laser therapy, hydrotherapy, manual therapy and strengthening exercises. Gayle also told her that she thought Payson didn’t need surgery at all. All I could think of was how does she know that without even seeing him? The vet said he needed surgery, so isn’t that the best option to repair his injury?

When Nola first got hurt and we were unsure if she would need surgery, our agility trainer sent me an article from the Whole Dog Journal about choices of care for an ACL injury. One option was called conservative management. What I got from the article was that for bigger dogs with complete ruptures, conservative management was not always a viable option and surgery is usually the better option. Turns out since Nola’s was only a partial tear, and surgery was not necessary at the time, we decided we were going to try conservative management. Our vet, who we love and who saved Nola’s life after her accident, told us we should do absolutely no activity for two weeks and then slowly let her start doing things again. He kept comparing it to a sprained ankle on a human. But with Nola, when you give her a little bit of freedom with exercise, she wants it all. And, if her injury was like an ankle sprain with humans, we don’t just go from complete rest to walking again. Some physical therapy and rehab is usually part of our recovery. So why did he not suggest something like that for Nola?

The most confusing part was the completely opposite points of view and treatment plans from the two different professionals. The vet says surgery or rest, and the animal rehabilitation therapist says laser and exercises. How does the average person differentiate between the two methods and chose what is best for their dog when neither professional even mentioned the other options? Each kind of treatment plan offers differing costs, healing periods and amount of time and energy. When the vet you love and trust tells you one thing, but then someone else offers you another more revolutionary option, how do you decide what is right for your dog?

Because of Nola’s situation, we could do a combination of the two. We did rest her for the first 4-6 weeks, but then we went to Gayle for a consult to see what she thought the best option was for us, keeping our ultimate goal in mind. I was still unsure about the laser therapy, but I figured we would give it a shot.  According to Gayle, low level laser therapy is used to increase quality and speed of tissue repair, decrease inflammation and aid pain relief. Gayle described it as helping the cells regenerate at a faster rate so that the injury could heal better. We started off with five sessions in a row. Each session was a combination of some manual therapy, 15-20 minutes of laser therapy and then 10-15 minutes of hydrotherapy. Gayle’s pool is salt water and heated, which helped Nola exercise without the added strain of running. And, it has a ramp to get in and out of so there was no climbing out. She said that 1 minute of swimming is equal to 5 minutes of running, so it was great for Nola to help build her endurance again.
It’s been two weeks and a total of 8 sessions. Gayle is happy with Nola’s progress and thinks we are well on our way to our goal of getting Nola back to her ‘normal’ activity level. She said that agility was probably not good for her, but we could try other lower impact classes like Rally-O if we wanted to do something like that. Although we are sad that the jumping part of agility will keep Nola on the sidelines, the idea that we will soon be able to hike, let Nola run off leash, and let her play with her friends again is so comforting. We have exercises to do at home with her to strengthen both legs, and we will check in with Gayle again in two weeks.

So, my point to this post is that you have to do your research and trust your gut. In my opinion it is a mix of mainstream veterinary practices and some alternative therapies that ultimately is the best solution. I think we should not be close-minded to one option or the other. Although something that a vet recommends might in fact be the best option for your dog, it is important to ask the questions and seek out alternatives that could help speed up recovery time, or in our case, help make sure the injury doesn’t get worse. And, as it turns out, Nola really loves all the chicken jerky she gets at Gayle’s, so we’re all happy!

Nola Muffin Monday: They tried to make me go to rehab…

And I said…yes! yes! yes!

Over the past several weeks I’ve been going rehab for my ACL injury. I don’t really know how it is supposed to help, but what I do know is the lady there has delicious home made chicken jerky. It’s a pretty sweet deal- I go there and lay down while the chicken jerky lady rubs my legs and mommy feeds me jerky. I just have to let the lady use her beepy laser thing on my leg. It doesn’t hurt, and it really doesn’t bother me one bit. I just like the jerky!

Mommy, quit taking pictures and feed me jerky!

And as if it couldn’t get any better, I get to swim after! There is a nice warm salt water pool in the backyard. Mommy or the chicken lady come in and throw my toy and I swim after it. There is even a ramp to get out so I don’t have to climb out!
If this is what rehab is, I can see why so many famous people go there! I never want to leave.

A Friend in Need

Today I am posting on behalf of one of my friends Shelley, and one of Nola’s friends, her dog, Payson. Shelley and Payson have been walking buddies for Nola and I since last winter. Nola loves him. Even though he is a bit of a DINOS, he tolerates Nola and her puppy energy as she jumps all over him all the time. He is about twice Nola’s size, but plays so gentle with her. She absolutely loves him.

It’s been a while since we have been able to walk with this gentle giant. A few months ago he had TPLO surgery to fix a ruptured ACL. It was 8 weeks of tranquilizers, pain killers, and no exercise whatsoever. It was tough on both Payson and Shelley. Finally, in the middle of July he was able to take short walks again. Things were finally looking up. Until last week when he started limping on the other leg. Turns out he needs ANOTHER TPLO surgery. Poor guy.

So, I ask all you dog loving people out in the blog world, if you can, please help Shelley and Payson. Shelley is desperate to do the best thing for Payson, but financially it is a struggle. If it was just the surgery, it might be different, but Payson has had chronic medical problems all of his short three years of life. Sometimes they are at the vet once a week treating everything from skin issues, to digestive issues, and now the ACL issues. She created a website and a way to donate help pay for his surgery. Here is a little bit about him in Shelley’s words:

“Our 3-year-old Lab/Boxer Payson means the world to us. We are looking forward to the day when Payson can finally run in an open field, swim in open water, and play with all of his dog friends without suffering in pain. This is an extremely expensive procedure that will be a challenge for us to pay in full in just the next two weeks. As dog lovers, we would be forever grateful for any contribution that you can make to help us get Payson on the road to recovery.”

We (as the dog loving, fostering, rescue community) spend a lot of time volunteering, raising money, and spreading the word about the dogs in rescues and shelters, but sometimes family dogs need the support of kind strangers too. Please consider helping by spreading the word or donating. Shelley, Payson, Nola and I would be extremely grateful.

Here is the link to Payson’s site to donate or share hos story:

P.S. These beautiful photos were taken by Liz Donnelly, the same photographer who did Nola’s glamour shots!

A Whole Lotta Nothing

Hi, Nola here. It’s been a while since you last heard from me, and you might be wondering what I have been up to. The answer is: a whole lotta nothing.

Here I am laying around. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.

Since I hurt my leg, Mommy and Daddy have not been letting me run at all. I know, it’s like the WORST THING EVER, right? At first I thought I was a bad dog, but they kept saying they were doing it for my own good. I don’t know what they mean by ‘good’, it seems pretty bad, but at least they got me some new toys and lots of bones to keep me busy. After what felt like weeks of just sitting on the couch and only being allowed to take supervised potty breaks outside, I finally started taking walks again. Not the fun, all out, run-as-fast-as-I-can and play my game at the beach walks, but at least I get to do something again. Leash walks aren’t my favorite, but I am up to twice a day now! I even got to go to some fun places with lots of new smells, like Fort Williams State Park and Mackworth Island.

Me enjoying the view at Fort Williams.

After another visit to Dr. Mike, Mommy said I only have one more week to go to build up my stamina then I can start running and I get to see my friends at Camp! I can’t wait, I’ve missed them so much. So, there is quick recap of what I’ve been doing the past couple weeks. Hopefully by the next time I blog my leg will be all better and I will be free to run again!

Nola Muffin Monday: My Pal Zoe

Over the weekend Mommy and Daddy brought home another dog, Zoe. She is a really small dog, and she kind of looked like a mix between one of those cat things that don’t want to play with me, and one of my stuffies.

At first I was nervous she was going to play with my toys stay for a long time, but Mommy assured me it was only for the weekend. I had met Zoe before, at Mommy’s boss’s house when we hiked the mountain with all the kids. Mommy reminded me that because Zoe is her boss’s dog I had to be nice so she wouldn’t get fired. I don’t know what a boss is or how you get fired (isn’t fire that red hot stuff that smells like sticks?), but I assured Mommy I would be good.

I was hoping Zoe would play with me, since I have lots of energy because I haven’t been on many walks with my hurt leg. But, all she wanted to do was lay around. She didn’t even react to my best play bow! I think she is old or something, because she walked really slow and all she wanted to do was lay on the floor or the couch by Mommy and Daddy.  And man, did she have stinky breath!

The first night went ok, she is too little to jump on the human bed, so she slept on the floor. I thought for sure she would play with me the next day since she was all rested, so I was excited when Daddy got out the mowing machine. She must love to bark at it and chase it like I do! Just when I was getting ready to show Zoe how to run down the ramp off the deck (Pepere made that for me so I wouldn’t hurt my leg with the stairs, but I think it’s really fun to run and jump off of it!) at the mowing machine, Daddy blocked off the stairs with a chair. I don’t know why he always does that, he knows I can’t get thorough it! Imagine my surprise when Zoe took one look at the chair barricade, walked right under it, down the ramp and plopped in the grass! She escaped and didn’t even go after the mowing machine. What kind of dog is she?

You know what else? Mommy and Daddy kept picking Zoe up and carrying her places. Man, I hate that. They told me it was because she’s old and it’s hard for her to walk, but I don’t buy it. She just wants attention. I tried to jump up on their legs and walk right at their feet to let them know I do not like when they pick up other dogs. I don’t really like it when they pick me up, but even though I don’t like it, they shouldn’t do it with other dogs. That’s just not right.

I tried a few more times to play with her, but then I gave up. Mommy said I did a good job and that I was very respectful when Zoe would ignore me. I don’t think I got Mommy fired, but I just hope I’m not that boring when I get old.

Oh, and Zoe wasn’t the only dog I had got to visit with this weekend. Can you guess who I saw on Saturday? Mommy says she won’t make me write about it (I wasn’t all that thrilled about the meeting anyway) and that she would post about it tomorrow.

And It’s Over, Faster Than You Can Say ACL

Last week I wrote about Nola’s promising agility career. We were scheduled to go to our third class on Saturday. But, after noticing a slight limp this week, and a vet visit, Nola’s agility days are over.

I’m not really sure what happened. I got back from Miami on Saturday of last week and Sunday we took Nola for a swim at the river. That afternoon I started noticing a slight limp on her back right leg. I asked Jim if he had seen anything unusual while I was gone. He said he noticed she was a bit tense with it when he gave her a bath. Over the next few days I watched, when we walked, when she ran, and I couldn’t say for sure she was limping. But something just didn’t look right. By Wednesday, I decided I would make an appointment with out vet. What was the harm? If it was nothing then we would be out $40. That’s chump change when it comes to the health and well being of my baby.

Well, it wasn’t nothing. It turns out Nola has a slight tear in her anterior cruciate ligament, more commonly known as an ACL. For those of you who lucky enough to not know anything about the ACL, this ligament, which also is called the cranial cruciate ligament in animals, connects the back of the femur (the bone above the knee) with the front of the tibia (the bone below the knee). The ACL is responsible for keeping the tibia in place beneath the femur and stabilizing the knee joint. The vet did a couple tests, including the drawer test and the tibial compression test. (Read more about the injury from Pet WebMD) He knew right away she had at least a tear. He thinks if it was completely ruptured she would be showing a lot more signs of distress, like completely lifting the leg.

What does this mean? Well, short term it means she needs lots of rest. No walks. No swims. No jumping. Just laying down and resting, which is what we did all weekend (see my post on Facebook). She has started on some anti-inflammatory medicine and we have to go back in a week to see if there is any more damage that the swelling hid initially. Long term, it means probably no more agility, a high risk ACL rupture, and a higher risk of injuring it again.

It also means our Fourth of July lake plans are cancelled and it will mean a very hyper dog if we can’t find something to stimulate her mentally to replace the physical activity. What’s even more sad is that we were in the works to foster another pup, Angus, at the end of this week, but the vet recommended we do not introduce another dog into the house until Nola is fully healed. Since it could be anywhere from 2-4 weeks (or longer depending on what we find out next week), it looks as though fostering will be postponed indefinitely.

After lots of tears, and researching everything I can about ACL injuries and treatments for dogs, I’ve come to accept the situation for what it is. We will rest her for the next couple weeks in hopes that the injury heals on it’s own and doesn’t get worse. I have seen how the recovery from surgery can be long and painful (my friend’s dog Payson is just finally able to walk after his PTLO surgery months ago) and I don’t want that for my Muffin. Even though it is going to be tough trying to make an active dog into a couch potato, we will do whatever we can. We will use toys, bones, bully sticks, and maybe some low impact training to keep her as immobile as possible, and just hope and cross our fingers it will heal back up on its own!