AMARILLO, Texas Leslie Cunningham wasn't asking for miracles, but she wasn't ready to give up on her longtime canine companion, Lucy, either.
The Australian shephard, 15, already was on medication for arthritis. But, one morning in March, Lucy couldn't stand up by herself anymore.
"I thought we were going to have to put her down that week," Cunningham said.
Instead, she opted to let an Amarillo chiropractor try veterinary orthopedic manipulation, a technique using adjusting instruments that normally are used on people.
Cunningham is among a growing number of people willing to go the extra mile, medically speaking, for their pets. Trends include holistic medicine, preventative care and dental treatments.
Cheri Patterson's 7-month-old dachshund has braces. Yes, braces.
And Patterson didn't blink an eye at the thought of letting Dr. Merten Pearson, veterinarian at Noah's Ark Pet Hospital, try the procedure to improve the long-term health of her tiny dachshund, Mitzy.
This is Pearson's first set of braces for a patient. He has done root canals and surgical extractions on animals.
Dr. David Aigaki, a chiropractor at Southwest Chiropractic, handles problems in dogs that have arthritic pain or other problems. Aigaki uses veterinary orthopedic manipulation, patented by Dr. William Inman, a Seattle veterinarian.
Inman's Web site, www.vom tech.com, describes the procedure as "a healing technology that locates areas of the animal's nervous system that have fallen out of communication and re-establishes neuronal communication and thus induces healing."
The technique returned some mobility to Lucy and appears to have reduced the dog's pain after a few treatments.
Results vary depending on the condition and severity of the patient's problem. Lucy had suffered from arthritis for about a year and had been taking medication prescribed by a veterinarian. Lucy hobbled after the first manipulation treatment and walked some after the second. But it's not a cure.
"If Lucy is with us another six months, I'll be blessed," Cunningham said.
Cunningham wants her pet's last months to be pain free.
So does Nancy Gormley, who has seen similar improvements in her 9-year-old Great Dane. Nala is friskier now that she's been getting chiropractic treatment, Gormley said.
Chiropractic treatment on animals isn't new, Aigaki said. But he follows the Seattle veterinarian's techniques. Aigaki learned the style at seminars presented by Inman. Aigaki treats animals at home visits in the evenings, after he closes his daytime practice.
"Animals dogs, cats, horses have ability to heal," Aigaki said. "We all have that ability."
Nala is not cured, but her movement has improved, Gormley said. The dog still receives two arthritis medications.
"This has helped her so she doesn't need so much help," Gormley said.
Aigaki's goal is to treat the body so the body will heal itself. Cunningham said it's worth the money.
"It's amazing what you'll do for a pet," Cunningham said.
Patterson agreed. Mitzy's oral-health problem came up during a routine veterinary visit. Her upper baby canine teeth hadn't come out. The adult canines the fang-like teeth that cross over one another in a dog's mouth were coming in too far forward. The bottom canine teeth pushed to the inside. Mitzy couldn't close her mouth without poking holes in the roof of her mouth.
Pearson pulled Mitzy's baby teeth and applied an elastic orthodontic chain on the upper teeth, forcing the upper canines back. Next, he will add an acrylic ramp to the upper gums, so bottom canines will be forced outward when the dog closes her mouth.
Patterson saw Mitzy's oral health treatment as necessary for the dog's long-term health.
"It's a no-brainer, I think," Patterson said. "To be completely honest, we haven't even talked about money. I feel like he's going to be fair, so it hasn't bee a big issue for me."
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