My next step to find treatment options for Sophie took me in a familiar direction. I turned to my computer for answers. It’s something I do every time life throws me a curve. Pouring over pages of research gives me a sense of control and makes it feel like I’m taking action. In this case, it’s how I discovered the first lessons about life with a paralyzed dog. You see, I learned a lot about life during the five years Sophie was sick.
This story has the first two lessons I learned. I hope they’re helpful to you. As you’ll see from my experience, you never know when you’ll discover a little gem of information that’ll make this journey with your disabled dog better.
Lesson One – If traditional treatments aren’t an option, try holistic care
After my failure to get answers from traditional veterinary medicine, I made an appointment with a holistic veterinarian who’d helped me when my German shepherd was diagnosed with cancer.
Nancy Brandt, DVM prescribed Chinese herbs for Bear when he was in the final stages of his life. The treatment gave our family four additional months of quality time with him.
When Dr. Brandt examined Sophie and read her records, she wasn’t as confident about helping her as she had been with Bear. It was pretty discouraging news, but I hung onto any word of encouragement she had to say.
One suggestion was to try acupuncture. The goal wasn’t to cure Sophie, instead it was to slow the progression of the weakness in her hind legs. Dr. Brandt hoped the acupuncture treatments would stimulate her body to release chemicals to reduce inflammation. I immediately signed up.
Acupuncture two times a week
Twice a week, Sophie and I travelled to the other side of town for acupuncture and chiropractic treatments. At each session, Dr. Brandt would walk into the exam room with her kit of needles. She’d talk softly to Sophie as she placed each needle under her skin from her tail, up her spine and onto her head.
Then she’d leave the room while the needles did their work trying to heal Sophie’s body.
The treatment wasn’t painful, but for some reason Sophie became more anxious with each visit. After six weeks of acupuncture, she would tremble the whole time we were there.
Dr. Brandt decided we should stop the treatment because of Sophie’s stress level; and because it wasn’t slowing down the paralysis.
To say this was disappointing, would be an understatement.
We ended our visit with Dr. Brandt ordering a pair of tall red and grey dog boots to keep Sophie’s legs stable. Then we exited the office for the last time. The only good outcome was the boots. They were a lifesaver until Sophie couldn’t stand on her own.
Lesson Two – Try the newest treatments available
At this point in our journey, Sophie had been through both Western and Eastern veterinary medicine and nothing had made a difference to her condition.
My family started to shift away from finding answers, to creating a new normal way of life with a disabled dog. We researched ways to make Sophie comfortable rather than waiting for the Calvary to come riding in to save us.
Then a dear friend told us about a new treatment and the glimmer of hope creeped back into our lives. It was the summer of 2009 and Laser Therapy for dogs was just becoming popular. There was only one cold laser therapy machine in Las Vegas and our friend’s vet had it. We quickly made an appointment.
When Gerald Pribyl, DVM walked into the exam room, he introduced himself and then got down on the floor to get to know Sophie. I was immediately impressed. I love when a veterinarian does that. He also won points when he insisted that a cozy blanket be brought into the room so Sophie would have something soft to lie on during the exam.
At this stage in Sophie’s illness, her back legs were fully paralyzed. She was what vets refer to as a “down dog.” She had no feeling or “deep pain sensations” from her toes to her belly. The only way she could sit upright was by pushing into the floor with her front paws.
Dr. Pribyl told us that laser therapy was being used to treat dogs with severe arthritis and those with skeletal injuries. It worked by speeding up the healing process. He said there’d been some dramatic results and because of that he was willing to work with Sophie.
The laser machine
The machine was brought into the exam room. Everyone in the room, including the vet, vet tech, Ken, me and Sophie had to wear protective glasses. (I wish I had taken a picture.)
Then the treatment started. The tech rubbed the laser’s wand up and down over Sophie’s spine. It wasn’t a painful procedure and Sophie actually enjoyed all of the attention she received from the vet and staff.
Dr. Pribyl showed us some range of motion physical therapy exercises that he recommended we do between treatments. He explained how they would maintain the muscles in her legs.
We did the exercises religiously and in hindsight that was the most valuable part of the experience.
Sophie had four more treatments. Each time we looked for any small sign of improvement, but nothing changed. Finally, Dr. Pribyl recommended that we stop.
Once again, we had run into a roadblock. Reality was telling us there wasn’t any other place to go for help. It was finally time to start a new normal life for Sophie and our family.
Click here to read more of Sophie’s story.