By L. Vanessa Gruden in Paw Printz, September – December, 2001
For those who are also Foster parents or grandparents, or who have visited the shelter or website, you may have met PowderPuff. Puff was dropped as an infant in a pet store. The employee who dropped her did not report the incident, so she never received the prompt medical treatment that might have spared her mobility.
When I found and rescued her on the day before and after Thanksgiving, 1998, she was a partly paralyzed little bundle of white fur. Well, exercise and TLC helped Puff become the spoiled and active little ferret we knew for almost 3 years. While she always had a weakness in her hindquarters and would regularly fall over, she ran and played and rampaged with the rest. However, recently, Puff has been reluctant to play, has been falling over more and more often, and has lost weight.
X-rays revealed no further information than those that were taken when she first arrived at the shelter. Dr. Barrios said there was no medicine that might ease the nerve damage, either. He confirmed a suspicion in my mind – that acupuncture might be helpful. Acupuncture is regularly used on large animals like horses and bigger dogs. Dr. B.’s mother–in-law told us, in fact, that in Mexico City where he trained, acupuncture was used often. She said she had also had it done herself, for a back injury, and it worked wonders.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, we figured. Luckily, there is a veterinarian specializing in acupuncture in the Hartford area. Dr. Theresa DiGulio works out of several vet offices. Although she had never had a ferret as a client, she was willing to try. She did warn us that with an old injury like this, it was highly unlikely a full recovery would be obtained, but that we had a chance of improving Puff’s condition. It might take one session to see results, it might take several. We made a commitment to 5 sessions. After that, if there was no improvement, it would be discontinued. If we did see Puff get better, we would experiment to see at what intervals we needed to continue.
Session prices are reasonable; $60 for the first and $50 thereafter. Even for 5 sessions, that is less than surgery, and surgery isn’t a option for Puff, anyway.
We had the first session on October 6. Puff, who is always nervous outside of her comfortable environment, promptly peed on Dr. DiGulio. The doctor was concerned that all the needles she had were too long for a tiny ferret, so she only placed one thin needle subcutaneously on the top of her head, which she explained was the beginning of the energy “line” that runs through the body and is supposed to be calming.
Puff did calm down a bit, but was still far too wiggly to submit to needles inserted for the recommended 20 minutes. So instead, Dr. DiGulio injected a solution containing vitamin B-12 into the other acupuncture points – inside and outside her hind legs, and into one toe on both back feet. Amazingly, Puff stood still for that! (The needle on top of her head went flying, however, when she shook her head.) But at no time did Puff appear to be pained by the needle or injection – and, knowing Puff, she would certainly have made any displeasure known!
Thus far we haven’t seen a big improvement in her mobility, but she has been eating better. She is getting a nightly gruel supplement to build her up a little. While the doctor, who is a strong advocate of natural food, did recommend raw organic turkey or chicken, we’re going to hold off on that for at least a bit. While it certainly would be better for her to eat a more natural diet, time does not always allow for special meals for one animal when there are 30 others to be cared for!
For the first few days, I saw no change. I did put Puff on “gruel” supplements, however, to boost her weight. 4 days later, Puff came out on her own to play! She was still falling over frequently, and wasn’t playing with the other ferrets, but she did chew on my sneaker. I took this to be a sign that she was feeling MUCH better. The next night, not only did she come out as soon as the barrier came down like she used to, she came out to rampage about a second time, also. Clearly, there has been some sort of improvement.
At Puff’s second session, October 12, she lay very still for the shots, allowing the vet to inject into additional sites on her front elbows, as well. Of course, being Puff, she had to pee on the table, too, but at least she missed Dr. Digulio this time!
A special added note: The evening after the second acupuncture treatment, Puff not only came racing out, but was playing, running, and wrestling with the others again! I was thrilled to see this huge improvement in her behavior, and can only credit the acupuncture for the difference. We’ll keep people updated on Puff’s progress.
PowderPuff Update – 12/2001
Puff’s mobility and activity levels remain high. She was doing so well that we extended treatments to every three weeks instead of every other week. Right before her last visit, she was still running about chasing other ferrets and rampaging. Dr. Digulio has recommended we put further sessions “on hold” and see how she holds up. If she needs it, she will be scheduled for further acupuncture. If not, we may have just given her the “boost” she needed. While Puff will always be crippled from her infant injury, she is moving as well as she ever did now and we are very pleased with the results. Puff is also very pleased to not get needles stuck into her, which was beginning to make her quite crabby. Her antics to hide in the carrier were a sight to behold!