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My Pet World: From surgery to chiropractic care and water therapy — Readers weigh in on dogs with hip problems

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I’m writing regarding the question from Jeff in Holtsville, New York, whose dog was diagnosed with a spinal stroke. I'm a vet tech and also a retired board-certified pediatrician. I have assisted with the surgery of many dogs limping, walking with pain, and unable to jump.

When medicine is prescribed for joint pain, and it doesn't work after about two months, a consultation should be had with a board-certified veterinary surgeon who can do a complete exam, X-rays, and CT scan or MRI, if necessary. Two years is too long to wait to see if the medicine works.

The dog may need a total hip replacement, which can be done at a veterinary specialist facility. They also offer acupuncture and physical therapy and will not do the surgery if other means can be of benefit or at least tried first to see if there is any improvement before surgery.

— Leonard J. Marino, M.D., FAAP, LVT

Dear Dr. Marino,

Hip replacement may be the most long-lasting solution for a young dog with hip problems. Surgery can be expensive and, as you point out, may not be viable or necessary for every pet. So, it’s great the veterinary world is open to trying complementary therapies first.

For my readers, “complementary therapies” may include acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and more, and are often used in conjunction with traditional veterinary medicine for the benefit of a pet’s overall health.

For a list of holistic vets across the U.S. visit the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association at

Dear Cathy,

I have a suggestion for the dog whose back legs were going out from under her. My dog started having similar problems. A visit to the vet and an X-ray showed some damaged discs in her back. Pain medication helped somewhat, but I knew it wouldn't solve the underlying problem. I took her to an animal chiropractor, where she received adjustments and laser treatments. The results have been amazing!

— Cynthia, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Dear Cynthia,

I am glad to hear your dog is doing better. My dog was on joint supplements for hip and back problems, but, after six months, we weren’t seeing the desired results.

For other health reasons, surgery wasn’t an option, so my veterinarian referred me to a holistic veterinarian for acupuncture treatments. The first time I took him for treatment, he could barely walk in the door. After just one session, he ran around and wanted to jump into the car. After that, I was sold on acupuncture for pets.

I also was thankful that my traditional vet and holistic vet worked together to come up with an integrated treatment plan. He continued the joint supplements and acupuncture for the last year of his life. It made a huge difference to his quality of life.


Dear Cathy,

I have some suggestions from recent questions, so I will be brief. The dog with hip problems might benefit from swimming. For the cat with vomiting, diarrhea, and intestinal problems, our new vet began a 12-week series of vitamin B12 shots, and the problems stopped. She is healthy with a beautiful coat.

— Lynn, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Dear Lynn,

Water-based exercises are great for dogs. Rather than swimming though, I suggest hydrotherapy, where a dog walks on a treadmill in a tank with water under the supervision of a vet or therapist who can monitor and adjust the variables, depending on the pet’s health and stamina.

As for the B12 shots, it doesn’t surprise me that a vitamin deficiency could be the culprit for poor health. Thanks for sharing.

Dear Cathy,

A letter writer from Holtsville, New York, recently wrote about his golden retriever diagnosed with a spinal stroke. He then said his dog tried jumping on the bed but fell backward on her hind legs and since has noticed that her legs give out when she runs. Did it occur to the owner to place steps by the bed to help his dog get on?

— Jim, Allentown, Pennsylvania

Dear Jim,

While stairs and ramps work great for cats and smaller dogs though, most big dogs I have known have shied away from them. I think they feel unsteady standing on them.

But your idea is sound. To give a big dog some added support, a pet owner could put a footstool, which has more surface area than stairs or a ramp, next to a couch or bed to give a big dog a safe way to get on and off the furniture. Thanks for sharing your idea.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)

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