If people consider acupuncture for animals at all, they usually consider dogs and horses, perhaps cats. But a lot of acupuncture research uses rats, and one of my best responses has been the amazing case of Frieda the rabbit so I just wanted to share this with you.
Frieda is a 2 year old Continental Giant rabbit and unfortunately early onset joint disease is not uncommon in this breed.
This was Frieda when she first came to me. She looked quite content at the front end nibbling away at her herbs but she had lost the use of her back legs almost entirely due to severe arthritis of both her knees and one hip. She could only drag herself along by her front end and was suffering from urine scalding to her hind legs as a result. She was on 3 different classes of pain-relieving drugs and her dedicated owner was sleeping with her in the sitting room to ensure she didn't get stuck and hurt herself in the night. (This highlights the incredible emotional burden many pet owners carry when caring for a pet with chronic pain or disease).
Euthanasia had to be considered but Frieda's mum sought me out as acupuncture treatment was her last hope of trying to restore Frieda's quality of life. Although I believe acupuncture is an amazing therapy it doesn't work for everyone and I am always wary of presenting it as a miracle cure, so I cautiously agreed to give her the initial 4 session course and we agreed that if we saw no improvement at that time we would not continue.
At her first treatment she was quite sensitive to touch but tolerated the needling without a murmur as she munched away. For the first two or three weeks after that I was not sure I could see any difference. Her mum told me she was brighter and attempting to move more at home. Frieda had good nerve function in her back legs and would respond to me pinching her toes but she did not have the strength or ability to bring those legs underneath. If I put them in the correct place she would keel over as soon as she tried to move forward. However on week 4 she could maintain that normal position for the whole treatment session and did one or two brief hops forward. "Ok, maybe we are getting a reponse," I thought. We agreed to continue weekly sessions for another 4 weeks.
Imagine my surprise when Frieda's mum sent me this video after her 5th treatment session:
I was pretty amazed and couldn't stop grinning all day :D - it really reinforces why I love practising acupuncture on my patients!
Frieda continues to have regular acupuncture sessions alongside physiotherapy which was introduced at 6 weeks to try and help her regain some strength in her underused hindlimb and core muscles. She is down to one anti-inflammatory drug. She now comes to me every 3 weeks and has no trouble with pressure sores, urine scalding or getting where she wants to go! (Apart from the sofa which is banned - much to her disgust!!)