Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine is most widely known for helping animals with arthritis.

I would like to tell you about a couple of cases which demonstrate the effectiveness of acupuncture for arthritis in dogs and the importance of early treatment.

The first case is a 14-year-old mixed breed dog, which had been diagnosed with lumbosacral instability syndrome and had severe degenerative arthritic changes in the spine on radiographs. The dog had been having arthritic problems for many years and was gradually getting worse.

The dog had been treated with NSAIDS and then prednisone. The prednisone was causing the liver enzymes to go up. As a last resort the dog was sent to me to see if acupuncture would help.

The first day I saw the dog, it could not stand on its own, the owner lifted the dog with a towel under the belly and the dog used the front legs to move. The dog could put some weight on the left leg but the right leg was knuckled over. The dog could not raise its tail and had lick granulomas on its front legs.

The client's goals were to decrease or discontinue the use of prednisone, increase the strength in the rear legs, and increase the quality of life. The dog was treated with dry needle acupuncture and was set up for weekly treatments. At the third weekly treatment, in the middle of the session, the dog's tail started thrashing rapidly, this surprised us, but I knew this was a turning point since the movement of the tail was telling me Qi was moving through the spinal cord. The Life Quality Score was 300, which is OK.

When the dog returned the next week, the dog could stand without help and there was no knuckling of the feet. The owner told me the dog surprised her by walking from another room to the computer room to visit the owner. The dog kept improving with each visit and became fairly strong in its rear legs. It was taken off prednisone and its quality of life greatly improved with a follow-up Life Quality score of 565 (Great) two months later. All of the owner's goals were met through traditional Chinese veterinary medicine and they wished it would have been available earlier in this dog's life.

The second case is a 12-year-old pug, which for the last two months had been walking around with a hunched back. It did not want to go out, refused to go up and down the stairs and would whine. Some days it would scream out in pain.

The dog had been put on NSAIDS, which helped some but the dog was still in pain. The owner wanted to pursue traditional Chinese healing rather than continue with Western medicine. The dog was treated with dry needle acupuncture and Chinese herbs. At the next visit the owner said the dog was "bouncing off the walls" two days after the acupuncture treatment. Follow up visits were scheduled to correct the underlying imbalances. At the fourth acupuncture visit, which was six weeks from the start of the alternative treatment, the owner reported the dog acted 10 years younger and wanted a treatment to slow the dog down.

Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine can help arthritis in animals yet these two cases illustrate the difference in response based on the duration of the arthritis. In the first case, the dog had suffered with arthritis for many years. It took longer for the dog to respond but the results were much better than what the owners had expected. The second case, the dog had been suffering for a relatively short time, and the results were very fast and dramatic. I would recommend bringing your arthritic pet in for traditional Chinese treatments early in the course of the disease for the best results.

Dr. Connie Clemons-Chevis has received certification in acupuncture, Tui-na and Chinese herbology through Chi Institute in Reddick, Fla., and China National Society of TCVM. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.