Blue, a seven-year-old male Labrador Retriever arrived at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals with arthritis in multiple joints. Blue could barely walk and, although a normally stout happy English Lab, his appetite and attitude had diminished and he was lame, a sure sign of a problem for a Lab. The internal medicine service performed joint taps and administered opioids to relieve Blue's pain, but Blue was still immobile and very sore. Imaging examinations found no signs of cancer or infectious diseases, and Blue was referred to the pain management service for additional treatment.
In the initial exam, Blue's right and left elbows were an obvious source of pain. Blue also had two collapsed discs and one severely abnormal knee. Ultrasound showed that muscles around the discs were fibrotic and affected by chronic inflammation. His nerve roots were compressed and he had a torn cruciate ligament his left knee, which was painful and unable to support weight.
We began treating Blue by administering pain medications intravenously, orally and topically. Infusion therapy helped to control the worst pain and oral medications sustained the remainder. We used several human compounding pharmacies applied topically on Blue's elbows and knee, which was helpful in avoiding stomach upset associated with oral pain medications. We also used novel pain-relieving medicines such as anti-depressants, polysulfaglycosaminoglycans, anthracycline anti-inflamamtories and homeopathic pain relievers to reduce inflammation and pain without causing more gastric upset.
An orthotic was fashioned to help Blue support his weight and offer stability while his injured ligament healed. (With his other joints and back affected by severe inflammation, surgery was simply not an option.) Bracing and external stabilization improved his ability to stand. Blue’s orthotic had a special area that allowed ice and heat packs to be inserted next to the actual joint capsule, similar to the braces that top athletes use to alleviate their pain when injured on the field. We also used laser therapy to deep heat Blue's tissues and reduce swelling.
Next, we performed acupuncture through both point injection and dry needling. Blue’s owner - an advocate of wellness acupuncture - came to Cornell hoping to find someone who used alternative therapies within a university setting. We also used therapeutic ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and iontophoresis (use of electricity to drive certain ionized medications into the joint on his elbow tissue.
To get Blue moving, we used our overhead lift system to put Blue on our underwater treadmill. The buoyancy, jet Jacuzzi therapy and warming sauna therapy soothed his muscles and joints and relaxed his painful back. The physical rehabilitation eased the pain to a greater degree and helped his non-working joints function again.
Within a few days of his treatments, Blue was able to stand and walk. At that time, shockwave and injection therapy was used to treat his elbows and back for longer term correction and regeneration of inflammation. With these two therapies, Blue’s platelets and serum were harvested, conditioned in a specialized purification system, and injected back into the injured areas to provide his own healing factors to speed recovery. Following the injections, Blue underwent shockwave therapy, which involves using high energy sound waves on local tissues to create regenerative potential from stem cells. We also injected medical silicone and joint supplements into Blue's joints to create more cushion for his long term support.
Blue returns to Ithaca regularly for acupuncture and re-balancing of his diet and supplements, which help to maintain his long term health. We also see Blue for regular underwater hydrotherapy sessions and pulsed magnetic field therapy, which help him maintain his trim figure and athletic attitude.
Blue’s owner reports that he is doing “unbelievably well,” enjoying a summer of jumping off the dock into the lake to retrieve his favorite stick. If it weren’t for Blue’s owner and her pursuit of a “something more” beyond a diagnosis and regular medications, he may still be a very lame dog and unable to enjoy life in the Finger Lakes. Patients like Blue also give us the opportunity to learn more, heal more, teach more and find ways help other animals in the future.