A Dog's Tail - Saffron's Story

I asked a client, Alison Neumann, a series of questions about her fabulous lab, Saffron, and how her injury led her to Acupuncture.


Dr. Gabriel: Tell us about Saffron ..... when did you get her?

Alison: Saffron came from Ark Angel Labradors in Jackson,NJ. We got her at 8 weeks old. We celebrated her 11th birthday on September 9, 2015. When we got her, we had 2 other female Labs. Since that time, Saffron has also been the middle dog and now is the oldest. Her younger “sisters” are 8 and 5 (black and chocolate Labs). The three of them are inseparable.

Dr. Gabriel: When did you notice a problem with her?

Alison: Saffron started to favor her right front leg when she was nearly 3 years old. She was(and still is!) an extremely active dog, at that time, taking several long walks a day totaling around 12 miles. Additionally, she lives to play ball on land and in water. She is an avid swimmer every summer.

She was seen by our primary vet who diagnosed right elbow dysplasia, a congenital condition. In all probability, a small fragment of her elbow joint broke off and moved around the joint space and the friction between fragment and joint caused swelling and pain. Ultimately, this would go on to become a severely arthritic elbow joint.

Dr. Gabriel: What led you to an integrative approach and acupuncture?

Alison: First, Saffron began taking 100 mg. of Rimadyl daily in addition to the glucosamine and chondroitin supplements she was already taking. She also began receiving a 1 cc. injection of Adequan weekly. Several of our previous dogs did very well on Adequan.

The meds helped and Saffron was noticeably more comfortable and mobile than before. But that did not last more than a year or so when she became lame more frequently, after activity of any kind. Her right elbow became very swollen and lumpy, as it has been ever since.

Saffron 3We took her to an orthopedic specialist, hoping an arthroscopic procedure could be performed to clean out the joint, but he said she was not a candidate, too much damage had been done. Instead, he suggested a stem cell procedure in which her own stem cells are harvested via fatty tissue from her belly, isolated, and injected into the joint.

She had 2 stem cell procedures but neither was successful, probably because the elbow joint is not vascular enough to allow the stem cells to take. We had an option for a 3rd since enough cells had been harvested for 3, but chose not to. The surgeon agreed with that decision. Acupuncture did not occur to us at that point and no one suggested it. So we assumed Saffron’s meds would be as good as it would get for her.

Then, months later, a friend of mine was taking acupuncture treatments for her back, telling me about it when bam! I thought “why not for Saffron?” This was 5 years ago ..... 3 years after Saffron first became symptomatic. Saffron began taking acupuncture then, once a week for 4 weeks to start, then bi-weekly for 6 weeks, and then every 3-4 weeks for the 5 years since, nearly half her life.

Dr. Gabriel: What were results seen in Saffron, how long until we noticed changes?

Alison: Saffron appeared more comfortable and limber -- less stiff -- after the 3rd treatment. She is at her best the first week after treatment, then slowly becomes more stiff, especially after her activity and sometimes first thing upon waking up. But she will never say “no” to any activity, it’s not in her DNA, so managing pain is really important. Her walks and ball-playing sessions are shorter but that is to be expected due to both her arthritis and her age.

Dr. Gabriel: Is she on any other nutraceuticals or medications?

Alison: Yes, she is still on all of the meds mentioned in answer #3 as well as VRS Canine Omega Benefits as per your recommendation. Saffron and our other Labs are very trim and fit which I also think is very important for joint wear and tear -- the less weight those joints have to bear, the bet

Dr. Gabriel: Any advice for other pet owners who may be contemplating acupuncture for their pet?

Alison: For a situation like Saffron’s -- a condition causing pain that affects quality of life -- whatever can be done to safely and effectively manage that pain, my advice is DO IT! I was very open to acupuncture and alternative medicine when we began and even more so now that I have seen what it can do. Saffron will always need meds but they alone did not achieve the pain-relieving effect that acupuncture has.

saffron-POOL2Saffron is an older dog in great overall health except for the potentially crippling arthritis which she has experienced for most of her life. She has always enjoyed being active with her canine sisters and human parents, and there is no reason to hold her back. That would be devastating to her. Thanks to acupuncture, she is able to continue to live the active, fun-filled life every dog deserves. I will continue to be open to other alternatives, such as herbal remedies, etc. -- to help Saffron as much as possible.

I recommend acupuncture without reservation and am so happy Saffron has reaped its benefits for 5 years and, I hope, for the rest of her life!