Dear Dr. John,
My aging 10-year-old boxer is starting to have a lot of issues with getting up and down. He also is starting to have all sorts of growths on different parts of his body. I have taken him in to see my vet, and the growths are apparently benign and do not warrant removal at this time.
The reason I am writing is to ask for your advice about some of the different options that I read about to help with his arthritis and ability to get up, down and around in general. What is your take on acupuncture or massage therapy for dogs? Are there some homeopathic cures out there that can make his life more comfortable? I want Stubs to be more comfortable in his older years but don’t want to go down that road if it is all hocus pocus. Any light you can shed on this would be appreciated!— A.G.
Your questions are timely to me in particular since I have been privileged to be part of the discussions on these complementary and alternative therapies at the national level. What I have learned is that holistic therapies often include diagnostic testing and then incorporate all sorts of different science and techniques to try to address medical problems, whereas homeopathy, while part of a holistic approach, primarily promotes giving herbal types of medications to resolve issues with little or no science-based foundation.
Anecdotally, there are many accounts of success stories using acupuncture, acupressure, massage, chiropractic measures and swimming to address concerns such as that afflicting your dog, which may well be nothing more than arthritis due to advanced age.
Most veterinarians, myself included, are primarily trained in Western medicine, so I would probably start your dog on anti-inflammatory medications after a thorough workup including blood work and X-rays. In your case, I especially feel strongly about good diagnostics since boxers are prone to various cancers, and those need to be ruled out first.
I have heard numerous accounts of individuals who have owned dogs who found no relief from traditional measures but found their dogs to have increased mobility using a holistic approach, so I am open minded to finding relief for dogs when traditional measures fail. The way I look at it, I believe that what is most important is that your dog does well, but I would urge you to either pursue your options in conjunction with your veterinarian or seek the assistance of holistic veterinarians. Otherwise you are working with someone who is not properly trained, licensed or prepared to work in the world of veterinary medicine. I wish you luck in your pursuits and that Stubs is comfortable is his older years.