Acupuncture and Massage for Wobbler Syndrome

Veterinary Acupuncture and Massage Help a Great Dane with Wobbler Syndrome

I met Isabella Jane (also know as Izzi), a 5-year old Great Dane, two years ago after she had been diagnosed with Wobbler Syndrome. This is an abnormality in the neck that causes compression of the spinal cord. Different things can go wrong with the vertebrae that end up causing neurological signs. In Izzi’s case there was a narrowing of the vertebral canal in her lower neck that was causing pain, loss of coordination and loss of limb function. A veterinary article on this disease, also called cervical spondylomyelopathy (which means neck bone spinal cord disease), commented that “not many diseases in veterinary medicine have been referred to by 14 different names and have 21 surgical techniques proposed to treat it.”

None of the proposed surgical techniques had a good prognosis in Izzi’s case. After several veterinarians at CSU reviewed the MRI results and consulted with Izzi’s family, no one, including the neurosurgeons, really wanted to take this dog to surgery. When Izzi’s owner asked what else could be done, Dr. Narda Robinson of the Center for Integrative and Comparative Pain Medicine, recommended acupuncture.

I started treating Izzi a week after her diagnosis. The first day I saw her she was too weak to stand and could barely lift her head to say hello. I started with light massage and just a few acupuncture needles. This photo below shows Izzi standing in a disorganized posture typical of dogs with neurological disease. Her brain doesn’t quite know where her limbs are.

I treated Izzi frequently (sometimes weekly) for several months. I used electrical stimulation to help improve nerve function. Here is Izzi lying on her luxurious padded bed getting an acupuncture treatment (her friend ZuZu is snuggling in the background).

We gradually moved the appointments to monthly. Over the past 2 years she has done well with maintenance treatments every 4-6 weeks. In the photo below, Izzi’s posture has returned to her normal show quality stature.

Izzi gets a combination of massage and acupuncture that helps nerve function and decreases the muscle spasms that are part of her chronic condition. Dogs with Wobbler Syndrome can respond, like Izzi did, to the anti-inflammatory and other beneficial effects of acupuncture, but this does not cure the underlying condition. Izzi will always have a narrow vertebral canal in her lower neck and thus will always be susceptible to re-injury. But the best that can be done for her is being done every day!

She lives with a great family who give her all the love and attention a diva like Izzi could ever want. Acupuncture was just one of the many steps that were taken to give Izzi every chance to heal and to thrive.

The summer of her initial injury in those weeks after returning from CSU, Izzi had round-the-clock care in a restricted area of the house. Regular rechecks with her neurologist, Dr. Stephanie Engel at Animal Hospital Specialty Center made sure Izzi’s nervous system was as healthy as it could be. She was slowly rehabbed back into her sleek athletic cover girl shape as her family carefully monitored her exercise, diet, medication and every moment of her fun-filled life. This month marks the 2 year anniversary of Izzi’s diagnosis and she is doing great.

Izzi enjoys play time every day!

And in the winter she shows off her fashion sense in this cute red sweater.

Stay tuned for a future blog entry on Izzi’s housemate ZuZu and how she got a “health makeover”!