Alternative medicines are worth a try for ailing pets
Acupuncture worked for dog with painful arthritis
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By Mickey Zeldes  March 1, 2013 12:00 am

Several months ago, our then 7-year-old sheltie, Poppy, started having bathroom accidents in the house during the night.  Up to that point, she had always been perfectly housebroken, so it was a surprise, and we were naturally upset.

She was both pooping in the living room and leaking some urine while she slept.  That is common with older female dogs, and there are drugs and herbs that can help with it.  We did what most people would do and started restricting her freedom during the night, going all the way to crating her.  We also followed the advice we always give people calling the shelter who complain about housebreaking/litter box issues and took her to the vet for a full exam.

Her blood work and urinalysis came back just fine, so that ruled out a medical reason for the accidents. But during the physical exam, it was noted she seemed painful along the back of the spine.  When the vet ran her hands along the spine, you could visibly see the skin ripple and twitch.  Our veterinarian practices alternative medicine along with some basic western medicine, and she recommended a chiropractic adjustment.  Not that she thought this was the cause of the recent accidents, but just to help Poppy be more comfortable.

You might be rolling your eyes right now – chiropractic adjustments on a dog?  But we’ve used acupuncture for our previous dogs that had painful arthritis, and it really seemed to make a difference. So, we weren’t strangers to trying alternative modalities.  And the beauty of trying it on a dog is they don’t know about the “placebo” effect and can’t fake their improvement.  Either they are hurting enough for it to show, or they are really better.  They don’t pretend.  I remember when we first took our other sheltie to have acupuncture.  It was after our regular veterinarian had said she had done all she could to make Sparky comfortable, and he could hardly walk.  As a last resort she recommended acupuncture, and we made the appointment with great hesitation and skepticism.  But seeing the difference in the way he walked out of the vet office after just one session made a believer out of me.

So, we brought Poppy in for her chiropractic adjustment and at the same time started her on some herbs to help with her incontinence.  Lo and behold, the accidents stopped.  Even the vet was surprised but reasoned something might have been pressing on her colon that made holding her bowels uncomfortable.  We were thrilled with the results and have found it lasted for about three months.  She again had an accident, which was our signal to schedule another appointment.  Sure enough, after the adjustment she was fine again.  So we just have to remember to take her in about every three months.  I also run my hand along her spine periodically to see if there is any flinching.

It’s well worth the cost and the jokes I have to endure about my “California” dog to have my pet pain-free and carpets that stay clean.  Who would think something as simple as a chiropractic adjustment could help with something like a housebreaking issue?  Makes me wonder how many other animals are relegated to living outside, surrendered to shelters, or unnecessarily euthanized for what could be a curable problem.  I feel fortunate to have a vet willing to recommend alternative medicines and herbs.  We just need an open mind about trying them.

Upcoming events
Animal Talk: A series of adult education programs – next is Bunny Basics presented by Marcy Schaaf of SaveABunny on Wednesday, March 13, 6:30-8 p.m., $10/person.  Dealing with a difficult bunny?  Considering adopting a rabbit?  Learn more about their care and handling tips.  Register by calling 584-1582 during the shelter’s open hours – Wednesday 1-5:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday 1-5:30 p.m. and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.

Bunny Day: Meet the Bunny Event is the second Saturday of each month (next is March 9), 1-5:30 p.m.  Meet our adoptable rabbits, have your care questions answered by our knowledgeable rabbit volunteers, bring your rabbit for a free nail trim and support our small animals by shopping our Bunny Boutique for fresh hay, treats and toys.

Microchips: Free microchips extended until we do 500 animals.  Come in during any of our open hours (Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, 1-5:30 p.m. and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.) with your dogs and cats. No appointment necessary.  The offer is for residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati only (proof of residency required).

Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at

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