Riley didn't yelp in pain. Instead, he seemed to sigh and relax.
The 12-year-old Labrador retriever suffers from severe arthritis in his right hip and has problems with his left knee. He has undergone stem cell treatment and now is experiencing relief from weekly acupuncture treatments at the Fruitport Animal Hospital, where Walsh devotes Mondays and Thursdays to the needlecraft.
Acupuncture isn't the only modern treatment to hit the local pet care scene in recent years.
Dr. Jim Moore runs a full dental and orthodontic clinic at Harborfront Hospital for Animals in Spring Lake, performing root canals, crafting crowns and even outfitting pets with braces.
At Grand Haven's Haven Hospital for Animals, Dr. Barbara Bytwerk performs therapeutic laser light treatments to help with wound healing, inflammation and pain.
“It's fairly new on the market,” said office manager Jennefer Wilson. “Because it's truly a medical treatment, we treat with a prescribed dose of laser light that goes by the animal's weight and the type of treatment we're doing.”
The animal reclines while Bytwerk focuses a red laser light on the effected area, moving the beam back and forth in a grid pattern for two to seven minutes.
“It's actually a very comforting and relaxing procedure for most pets,” Wilson said. “It emits energy into the surrounding tissues and it triggers endorphins that help alleviate pain.”
Walsh's acupuncture treatments, which include running a low-grade, low-frequency electrical current to effected areas, is also designed to stimulate the release of endorphins to reduce pain.
Walsh said constant pain can lead to a “pain loop” between the spinal cord and the brain. Acupuncture can break that loop.
“It takes a series of treatments to keep it broken,” Walsh said.
This was Riley's third treatment. His owner, Jackie Wierengo of Muskegon, reports she's seen a difference in the way the Lab moves and responds.
“Without this I may have had to put him to sleep,” Wierengo said, stroking Riley's head.
To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.