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Can acupuncture help an aging dog?


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A 10-year-old dog gets acupuncture in this photo from

Last week was a tough one. Our vet told my mother and me there was nothing more he could do to help our 13-year-old shepherd mix, Sashi, who suffers from arthritis and spinal problems that make it hard for her to use her hind legs.

Because Sashi’s quality of life had deteriorated so much (she could barely walk, and was getting scrapes from falling down and from her paws bending under or “knuckling”), we made the gut-wrenching decision to euthanize her.

But at the last minute, we decided to try something I’ve heard a number of (smart, skeptical) people swear by: veterinary acupuncture.

A search on the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society‘s Web site brought us to Christina Fuoco, VMD, an IVAS-certified doctor at the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary hospital.

My mother brought Sashi for her first appointment last week and reported that Dr. Fuoco was kind, compassionate and, best of all, optimistic about the potential for improvement that acupuncture could offer Sashi.

Dr. Fuoco said that, because Sashi has arthritis and not a nerve-damaging disease like degenerative myelopathy, acupuncture could work to stimulate her nerves and decrease her pain, thereby improving her ability to use her hind legs.

( has a great article about the benefits of veterinary acupuncture, which it says can be, “for beloved pets that have not responded to
traditional Western medicine … a last resort that
turns out to be a miracle.

The doctor said Sashi would need six to eight treatments, once a week, and then monthly “tune-ups” after that. But after just one treatment, Sashi was walking better and tucking her left hind leg beneath her when she laid down (it had previously jutted out stiffly like a peg-leg, and looked so uncomfortable), and generally seemed to be in better spirits.

Sashi’s second treatment is tonight, so we’re hoping acupuncture does turn out to be a miracle cure for her — or at least the one thing that can make her comfortable enough to get her tail wagging again.

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Tough choices for an aging pet

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