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This is our old girl, Betty. She's had arthritis for a while now, which has been managed with Yumove, turmeric, coconut oil and Devil's claw. She's generally only been uncomfortable after walks, but lately she's been stiff after getting off her bed and has struggled to get on the sofa.

I had a lovely networking meeting with Anneli Bleese, partner at the #VeterinaryHospital, a few weeks ago and one of the things we talked about was acupuncture for pain management.

I'd done a lot of research and Sand and I decided we would try it as the next stage in managing Betty's arthritis. We're not keen to use pharmaceuticals for pain relief yet because they can have so many side effects - but we will when she needs them.

The first step was interesting- we thought she had arthritis in her rear right leg and her front left shoulder. When her new acupuncture vet examined her, she found that the front left limp was down to compensating for pain in her back leg. She has caused muscle and ligament stress in her wrist (not her shoulder, as we'd thought) because she's carrying weight there to relieve the discomfort in her back leg. I'm a physiology geek, so it was great to be able to talk through how Betty's body has reacted to discomfort levels.

The first session was very short. Elizabeth took time getting to know her and helping her feel safe and comfortable. She then gently inserted only 4 needles to see if Betty could tolerate them.

We had already established that we always listen to our dog's "please stop" signals and that we would end the process if Betty asked me to stop. Because she has been trained to focus on my face when something that she may find uncomfortable is happening, she was able to let me know if she wanted Elizabeth to stop (by looking away from me).

She tolerated 4 needles - a good acupuncturist starts small and slowly so that the dog can manage the new sensation.

Elizabeth was very aware of her muscular response to discomfort- the muscle will twitch - and she only moved on to turning the needles when Betty was ready.

Betty did what she so often does when she feels uncomfortable. Some dogs can revert to puppy giddiness when they're in discomfort, and we get this from Betty a lot. If she goes giddy and excitable, we always know she is in pain or finding something difficult to deal with.

To anyone else, she looked happy. She was wagging her tail and moving around, but I knew that she was trying to take her mind off the sensation of the needles. Although her tail was wagging, it was stiff, which conveyed her uncertainty. Her pupils were dilated and she kept coming back to look at me for reassurance. She was also sniffing the ground quite a bit to calm herself down because there wasn't much space to move around and her movement was faster than calm.

But she wasn't as giddy as she can be so I knew she was able to tolerate what was happening. If she had jumped up at me or Elizabeth, or started panting and moving about more rapidly, we would have needed to stop the procedure. As it was, after 5 minutes she came and licked my face, which was her "stop now please" signal.

So we did. She slept deeply when she got home and then slept for most of the day. Elizabeth has asked me to monitor her pain and activity levels today to see how she does.

I'm going to focus on a lot of Settle on a Mat work this week before her next appointment, because I want her to be able to relax so that the acupuncture can be most effective.

She's an old girl who usually settles easily so we haven't done any mat work for a long time, but putting it in place now should help her feel safe and calm when we go to her next appointment and may help her settle down during the session.

If she can't, it's good to know that her lovely new acupuncture vet will stop and let us take things very slowly for short sessions at first. I'll keep you all updated with her progress 😊🐾


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