A Dog's Eye View: Caring for senior dogs, part 2

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Lisa Mason

Lisa Mason is an experienced dog training instructor with the Total Teamwork Training group. Her specialties include new puppy owner education and management.

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a series about caring for senior dogs. Part 1 ran in the Feb. 22 Steamboat Today.

In a previous article, one thing I mentioned was available to aid the aging process of senior dogs was acupuncture. The word acupuncture is derived from the Latin words acus (needle) and puncture (to prick). Acupuncture has been practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years and is one of the key components of traditional Chinese medicine.

Acupuncture is a process by which thin, solid needles are used to penetrate the skin. The needles then are manipulated by the doctor’s hands or stimulated using subtle levels of electric current flowing through narrow wires attached to the needles from a source controlled and monitored by the veterinarian.

The concept behind acupuncture involves keeping balance within the body. In ancient China, the belief was that illnesses were the result of an imbalance of vital energies in the body caused by blockages along certain pathways called meridians. To heal, the body had to be put back in balance. Acupuncture is thought to restore that natural balance by opening blockages along the meridians and allowing the body’s vital energies to flow.

These blockages within the body can cause ailments ranging from allergies to arthritis to an animal’s state of mind. Acupuncture sometimes is used to treat conditions and disorders such as muscle and skeletal abnormalities or problems, reproductive concerns, skin diseases and even neurological maladies.

The process of inserting, manipulating and removing needles might seem painful, but the procedure should be painless. Be aware of your dog’s reactions, and if you notice any discomfort, speak up because adjustments can be made. In her later years, my Zoey became very sensitive and I stopped treatments at one point. But with a patient, sensitive and intuitive veterinarian, we were able to make the subtle changes needed to make her comfortable and accepting.

Acupuncture is a process. Treatment might take place throughout several weeks or more. Some dogs respond immediately, but others might take longer depending on the dog, age and the severity of the imbalance.

Also, it is not uncommon to use acupuncture in conjunction with other therapeutic options, which I will discuss in future articles. Talk to your veterinarian, and see what he or she suggests for your particular dog.

My Zoey began getting acupuncture at an early age for seasonal allergies, then as a yearly wellness addition and finally for her weakened rear legs and bladder problems. Because each treatment helped comfort her, I would suggest considering acupuncture for your senior dog.

For those who want to learn more, I recommend “Four Paws, Five Directions: A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dogs” by Cheryl Schwartz.

Lisa Mason is a dog training instructor with the Total Teamwork Training. Her specialties include new puppy owner education and management.

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