Case Histories December 1998 Issue

Alternative Acupuncture Therapy To The Rescue

Pit Bull overcomes adversity, attaining strength & health with acupuncture.

Bruno was probably not more than four weeks old when found abandoned on a Hercules, California street corner. But the people who found him knew just who to call: Marilynn Hanson, a professional pet-sitter and shelter volunteer. While Hanson is often tempted to bring home the hard-luck cases she sees in the shelter, for practical reasons she usually resists. But she couldn’t help but respond to this tiny foundling, taking the green-eyed pit bull-cross home right then and there, and named him Bruno.

Hanson noticed the pup was a bit lethargic, with a runny right nostril, and so she took him in for a veterinary exam. Hanson’s veterinarian thought it was likely that an upper respiratory infection was the probable cause for Bruno’s runny nose, so he prescribed an antibiotic. Unfortunately, fixing Bruno’s problems was not to be that easy!

Knowing that the puppy would still be nursing if he were with his mother, Hanson tried to feed him from a bottle without success; he just couldn’t seem to suckle correctly. However, a hungry Bruno soon learned how to lap up a slurried mixture of A/D Lambert-Kay canine milk replacer mixed with baby rice cereal.

Even at a tender age (an estimated seven weeks old in this photo), and despite his numerous health problems, Bruno displayed a calm, self-possessed character.

No Bladder Control

Although he drank an unusual amount of water all the time, and then, of course, urinated an extraordinary amount, Hanson chalked that behavior up to puppyhood. A more alarming symptom was his runny nostril, which failed to respond to the antibiotics, and even seemed to make his right eye weep.

A clue to the nature of the puppy’s true problem came in the form of an expelled tooth. “His upper right canine just fell out on the floor right in front of me,” Hanson describes. She took Bruno to Dr. Michael Floyd, a veterinary dental specialist. An x-ray revealed a broken nose and upper jaw, with a crack three-quarters of the way across his skull on the right side. Whether the injury had been a result of deliberate cruelty prior to the pup’s abandonment, or due to an accident suffered while he was on the street, it was impossible to know. There was nothing to be done except let the injury heal on its own, said Dr. Floyd.

Veterinarians believe that Bruno's constantly watery right eye (seen in the photo taken in a puppy class when he was four months old), was caused by a severe trauma to his skull.

In the meantime, Bruno was making terrific progress in his puppy training classes, advancing easily to obedience and then “click and treat” classes. Hanson expresses delight when asked about Bruno’s obedience work. “His conformation, drive, trainability, and temperament are so nearly perfect, I’d clone him,” she says. “Personality-wise, he has always been such a sweetheart, and his training was going well,” Hanson recounts.

It’s fortunate that the green-eyed pup had such a winning personality, because his health was still not good. At about six months of age, Bruno’s breath suddenly turned awful, so Hanson took him back to Dr. Floyd. Several of the teeth on the right side of Bruno’s mouth had grown in looking odd and malformed, and one even lacked enamel. Dr. Floyd extracted some malformed and abscessed molars and performed corrective dentistry on the teeth that had not erupted straight. One tooth even had “renamel” placed over its naked dentin.

When It's No Longer a Puppy Problem

Months went by, and Bruno continued to grow, eating his slurried kibble, but still drinking excessive amounts of water every day. “It was very annoying, because I couldn’t really house-break him,” says Hanson. “Crate training didn’t work either, as he could only ‘hold it’ for an hour or so at a stretch. During the day, I pet-sit, and so usually, I was able to either take him with me, or I could get home to let him out every few hours. In the evenings, I worked out a routine where I’d take him outside every couple of hours, with the last trip at 10 p.m., and then put him to bed in the garage, where he could got up and relieve himself away from his sleeping space.”

Bruno was worth any amount of trouble to his adoring owner, even after the stocky puppy got stuck with the nickname “the Urinator” from the instructor of his puppy training class. But as he failed to “grow out of” what seemed like a persistent puppyhood problem, Hanson sought medical advice.

When Conventional Drugs Are Making You Bankrupt

After a thorough examination, Bruno’s veterinarian surmised that the pit bull might have diabetes insipidus (DI), a rare type of diabetes. DI is a rare disorder, caused by either the lack of ADH, a hormone that limits urine production, or by a failure of the kidneys to respond to the hormone. A shortage of ADH points to a malfunction in the pituitary gland (which could result from severe trauma to the skull). Either way, a solid diagnosis could only be made by conducting more extensive tests for pituitary and kidney function, or by administering the drug treatment of choice for DI. Hanson chose to start treatment, which consisted of intra-nasal “DDAVP” drops.

Fortunately, the drug worked! That clinched the diagnosis and improved Bruno’s condition. He quit drinking so much, and quit having to urinate so often. By the time Bruno reached one year of age, Hanson felt she finally had a normal dog.

The bad news was the exorbitant price of the treatment. Although the dosage was just two drops per nostril twice a day, the drug cost $185 for five milliliters. Hanson weathered the expense for several months and then decided there had to be an alternative to bankruptcy. “I admit, I work to support my numerous pets, but felt I needed to explore other options for Bruno’s treatment for financial well-being,” Hanson explained.

When Acupuncture is the Best Option

Considering a past positive experience with a geriatric cat which also happened to have a pituitary condition, Hanson decided to consult a veterinary acupuncturist to see if this complementary therapy might benefit Bruno. An appointment with Dr. Lisa Pesch, a veterinarian and acupuncturist in practice at the Broadway Pet Hospital in Oakland, confirmed Bruno’s candidacy for acupuncture. Dr. Pesch required a blood panel before acupuncture treatment, which would enable her to detect measurable differences that might occur with this therapy. Tests happened to show Bruno’s blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine to be extremely high, indicating kidney problems, but Dr. Pesch had confidence that with acupuncture and an herbal supplement regime, Bruno’s drug therapy could safely be terminated.

Today, Bruno is a strong, healthy, well-trained, and friendly dog.

In late May, Hanson discontinued use of the DDAVP drops; on the same day, Bruno underwent his first acupuncture treatment, with half a dozen follow-up treatments in as many weeks. No significant changes were seen in the blood tests, and Hanson has to admit there were times she panicked while looking at the results. “But I was told by several vets that you can’t got hung up on the numbers, that each individual is unique, and what is normal for one may not be normal for another,” she recounts.

Bruno’s blood values were unchanged by the acupuncture, but the difference in his symptoms were dramatic. The dog who could not go more than two hours without needing to urinate can now sleep six hours straight (and so can his owner!) without getting up to go outside. His thirst reduced, and his perennially runny nose dried up. “These improvements made me a firm believer in complementary therapies,” Hanson affirms. “Western medicine has a lot to offer, of course, but sometimes, putting the body ‘in balance’ and keeping it there with alternative therapies is just as valuable!”

Hanson has supported Bruno’s health all along with a great diet and a variety of natural supplements. “I’ve fed him a fresh raw diet as much as I could, supplementing his pureed fruits and vegetables and raw meat dinners with Flint River Ranch kibble,” she describes. Hanson also gives Bruno Cell Tech’s Super Blue Green Algae twice a day, Cosamine (glucosamine chondroitin) for his jaw disorder, cranberry extract for bladder health, Nature’s Life Golden Flax Meal for kidney support, and New Visions’ Una de Gato to help keep his urination frequency in check.

Today, Bruno is a gleaming, smooth-coated amber color, with sparkling green eyes and a firm, muscular body. He wriggles with happiness when anyone turns their attention to him, which happens a lot to such an attractive guy. Who knows? With luck, perhaps in his next obedience class, Bruno will become known by a nickname suitable for a more finely tuned action hero.

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