French bulldog Ophelia was just a little more than 2 years old, when her family observed her shaking. She was clearly uncomfortable, showing weakness in her back legs and knuckling in her back paws. When Dr. Kristin BeVirt-Patneaude examined the little dog, she noted the reflex that allowed Ophelia to know where her legs are in space was not functioning.

The next step was taking radiographs to find out what was causing the trouble. The x-rays showed Ophelia was born with scoliosis, and the vertebrae in her back were malformed. “These abnormalities likely led to premature herniation of one of her discs into her spinal canal, putting pressure on her spinal cord,” said Patneaude. “This condition led to Ophelia’s back pain and trauma to the nerve pathways that allowed her to feel where her legs were in space.”

The little French bulldog’s family decided on a comprehensive treatment plan that blended traditional pain management with complementary natural medicine. “We employed a steroid regimen for the inflammation and a pain medication,” said Patneaude, “but we also incorporated acupuncture, electrostimulation and Class IV laser therapy to round out her treatment.”


Acupuncture is a technique in which a practitioner inserts tiny needles in strategic locations on the body. “Scientists believe what makes the ancient Chinese treatment effective is the needle points boost the central nervous system to release chemicals into the brain, muscles and spinal cord,” said Patneaude.

“The treatment stretches the connective tissue where the needles are placed, and that creates a tiny bundle of tissue that can persist for up to 36 hours. This gentle stretch sends signals to the surrounding tissue that affects pain transmission, local blood flow, distribution of anti-inflammatory chemicals and oxygen, and nerve function.”


Electrostimulation enhances some of the same goals as acupuncture but in a different manner: It reduces inflammation, eases pain and targets musculoskeletal problems. “It involves attaching wires to the acupuncture needles to send small electrical impulses to improve the needle’s effects,” said Patneaude.

Laser Therapy

Class IV laser therapy is another way to manage pain without using drugs. Using it hits the same goals as acupuncture and electrostimulation, but its approach is different from the other two. “Class IV therapy involves applying a deeply penetrating laser, using a massage ball over the area of injury,” said Patneaude. “I apply the treatment for several minutes, and the laser light excites the cells to which it is applied. The result is better blood flow, less inflammation and reduced swelling. In cases of spinal cord injury, laser therapy has been shown to enhance the regrowth of damaged nerve fibers and reduce scarring.” Ophelia received treatments once a week for three weeks, and then the treatments were spaced out further as her condition would allow.

“After three treatments, her reflexes were back to normal. Pets usually tolerate all of the approaches very well, but as an added incentive to keep Ophelia still, she enjoyed frozen baby food treats. She really enjoyed all the special attention she got,” mused Patneaude.

Today the little dog is off her medications and has resumed being a playful pupper. Her family changed some of her routines to minimize the risk of Ophelia skidding on the floor or jumping in a manner that could reinjure her. She also has maintenance acupuncture treatments that keep her muscles loose and her nerves functioning well. “She is such a pleasure to have in our practice,” said Patneaude. “We love seeing her, and it is wonderful to see her enjoying her best life.”

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