Gretchen and Eastern (Veterinary) Medicine

by Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Been feeling hopeless about Gretchen's health lately. She has been in a lot of pain and we haven't had a lot in the way of directives from our Banfield vets as to how to proceed other than managing pain with drugs. (See some rants about that here) We had been very happy with Banfield up until now, I want you to know. But this latest rash of issues with Gretchen, and their inability to be on the same page with her treatment, left us a bit less confident of their ability to care for Gretchen as she is aging.

So Gretchen (and Chris and I) met a new vet today. We sought an integrative vet thanks to friend-of-a-friend Nahara Ruskin. Turned out there was one basically right across the street from our current vet(s) which had excellent Yelp reviews. Chris expressed trepidation about seeking a vet who might prescribe acupuncture or chiropractic treatment for our dog (which I understand), but I asked him to have an open mind since I had such positive experiences with it. We thought today would just be a check up, but it ended up being much more.

The office is unassuming. It sits in a strip mall next to an Ethiopian restaurant. Small, not very polished decor, but clean and friendly enough. We filled out the paperwork and were taken to a small exam room. The tech came in and asked us lots of questions about her current issue. I am so used to the Banfield "check heart rate, take the temp, etc etc" that it was surprising not to run through the usual drill--a drill which usually has very little to do with what issue we came in for, but seemed like the "Way We Do Things At The Vet". Gretchen normally backs her butt into a corner and pants until she drools, as she can be very anxious in unfamiliar surroundings. She was panting, but was walking around the room exploring like I almost never see her do at the vet. She only once backed her butt into the wall, but immediately moved away from it again to explore. Good sign.

The doctor, Ulrike Rudolf, came in shortly after; and it was one of those times when you immediately feel at ease. Her energy was great, she clearly wasn't rushing in from four other appointments or rushing off to four more, and was so gentle with Gretchen that the pup clearly felt safe. She endured every poke and prod without fuss. We talked more about symptoms and the progress of her treatment so far and the doc listened attentively. After some more examination and reviewing the records that Banfield faxed over, the first suggestion? Accupuncture.

I could feel Chris bristling behind his stoic facade, but he didn't protest, God bless him. The vet talked us through all the places she was putting the needles and what those locations were meant to improve. I appreciated being talked through it all so completely. There was one zinger of a spot Gretchen protested briefly, but other than that it was like she didn't feel a thing. Just sat there calmly. I was amazed.

I liked even more that they did everything in the room with us. At Banfield they always take Gretchen into some back room for most everything they do. Here they checked to make sure we were okay with them performing all the procedures in the room with us and we enthusiastically said yes, by all means. So she got her accupuncture, and then had to wait 20 minutes with the needles in. There she was, walking around the room with needles sticking out all over her like she didn't even notice they were there. I found that hilarious.

Then when the needles were removed, guess what came next? Yep. A small chiropractic adjustment. The vet wants to do a more comprehensive one in a few weeks once her present issues have relaxed a little from the acupuncture (can you feel Chris steaming right now?), but she did a minor adjustment there and then.  Chris was a silent saint.

What else occurred blew me away though...

So Gretchen has a fairly new lump on the front of her chest/neck that is painful. They poked it today to get some cells to look under a microscope, and Gretchen barely even reacted. She was SO CALM! They did it all in front of us (again, with our permission). Two big needles in a painful lump and she has no reaction? Just let the tech hold her. That was miraculous.

But THEN they needed to take blood for a blood panel on her liver issues. So two vet techs come in and get down on a towel with Gretchen. Together they wrap their arms around her and gently roll her onto her side. I was poised for a struggle. She doesn't squeal or resist--neither in pain from the back issues she has been having nor in panic she usually displays with vets handling her like this--and just lays down and CHILLS OUT. Like...lays there like she is just being pet (which she is by one of the techs, but still!). Even when the loud hair trimmer comes on (loud noises usually upset her)--nothing. Lays there, not even panting. Not when the big needle goes into her leg. Not when they have to move the needle around a little when the blood didn't flow for a second. I am sitting there marveling at how calm and happy my dog looks while she is undergoing something that normally freaks her the hell out and the tech kinda shrugs gently and says, "She is probably just really relaxed from her acupuncture." My mind? Blown.

Anyway, that was a very very positive experience. Sadly, the down side to the testing thus far is that she has to have the lump biopsied and possibly removed. So Monday she goes in and goes under anesthesia to get a biopsy, and to see the extent of the lump, how deep it goes, etc. She will also get an x-ray at the same time (I can see the $ signs swimming in front of my eyes and it makes me choke), so we can get a better look at her spinal health. Better to have it done while she is restfully sedated than to wait until later and have her feel stressed anew.

So it's a scary surgery scenario with an uncertain outcome, and a bunch more money we don't have to spend, though on a dog who is worth every penny. We both really REALLY liked the vet, personally/professionally very much our kind of energy. I recognize sounds crazy to entrust your dog to surgery with a vet you only met once; but Chris and I both agreed we really liked the vet and felt good about the decision, so that's saying a lot. Please keep our pup in your prayers!


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