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An ailing dog’s best friend
The Mumbai-based Kewalramanis didn't know how to deal with the troubles of their ageing pet. Golly, their 14-year-old black Labrador, continued to be a young pup at heart but age-related muscular atrophy made it difficult for him to walk around the house.
"Golly lost confidence, and began whining and barking to gain our attention. He could no longer crawl beneath our bed, which is his favourite place. It made him querulous and frustrated, " says Dipika Roy Kewalramani.
Hydrotherapy brought the zing back into his doggy life. "He attends the session thrice a week. He no longer struggles to get up after a nap. Instead, he is full of beans and back to his old tricks of carrying off things, so that he can be chased, " says Bharat Kewalramani.
Animal lovers are leaving no stone unturned to keep their four-legged friends in good health and spirits even in their old age. Treatments range from hydrotherapy and acupuncture to providing aids such as wheel-carts and splints. "It is heartening to see pet owners staunchly stand by their ageing or disease-struck pets. Some animals are disabled after accidents but owners try to improve their quality of life through various alternative means, in addition to medicines, " says veterinarian Kurush Mistry.
Hydrotherapy is catching on as a form of exercise for ageing animals. "Dogs naturally paddle in a vertical position. During a hydrotherapy session, they are assisted to swim horizontally. The water resistance works on the entire body, and the weight is offloaded from the joints. So the muscles get exercised, " explains Deep Vasudeo, veterinarian and hydrotherapy specialist at PetZone in Mumbai. His four-legged patients include not just aged dogs, but also overweight ones, a common problem in a city like Mumbai with its lack of open spaces. He also cares for dogs with paediatric problems and post-operative orthopaedic cases.
Prathmesh Deshmukh, in addition to being a conventional vet, is one of India's few veterinary acupuncturists. His patients include a white tigress at the Pune zoo and a peacock at the Mumbai zoo. "Pressure points are identified and electrical stimulation is given, which provides pain relief and aids the healing process, " says Deshmukh.
Animal lover Charu Shah chanced upon a crippled kitten, a victim of a car hit-andrun accident, in a fish market in suburban Mumbai. "Owing to the trauma, Meow — as she named him - had parapalysia (lack of bowel movement) and had also lost use of his hind legs. Acupuncture has worked well and his legs can now bear his weight, " says Deshumukh. With regular antibiotics and a weekly acupuncture session, Shah says Meow will soon walk again.
Some animals rely on external aids such as wheels or splints, which are now available in India. Kuldeep Tyagi, a veterinarian, picked up the basic concepts of medical rehabilitation from his brother, a prosthetist. Tyagi and his wife Surbhi, a veterinarian, focus on animal rehabilitation and run Innovation India in Ghaziabad. "Availability of rehabilitation devices is giving a new lease of life to disabled pets. In the past four years we have rehabilitated 300 paralytic patients, " says Tyagi.
Salsa, a cheerful five plus Labrador retriever, has been on wheels for most of her life. She developed a viral infection after a routine surgical procedure when she was just nine months old which affected the nerves in her hind legs and left her crippled. A wheel-cart was imported from the US, but she outgrew that. Chennai-based owner, Radhika Wakharkar is thrilled with the custom-made cart designed by the Tyagis. "Salsa loves her hourly walks twice a day, made possible with the wheelie. Because of such exercise, her metabolism has also improved, " says Wakharkar.
Another happy patient is Chip. When he was three months old, Chip was diagnosed with Bebasia, a serious illness, and a twist in his intestine. Use of heavy steroids deformed his front legs. Delhibased retired lieutenant Rita Gangwani refused to put her dog down. "Chip uses custom-made splints and after three months, his legs are 75 per cent better. We put the splints on him regularly and take them off for a day when he appears to be in discomfort, " she says. Chip will soon celebrate his first birthday. "Chip came into our lives to teach us empathy and the spirit of never giving up, " adds Gangwani.
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