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IMPA - Annie's Story

Annie's Story: A Case History of Successful Treatment and Management of Polyarthritis Through Sequential Homeopathy

By Catherine Schulhauser August, 1999 (Revised and updated June, 2002)

In September, l998, our female Bernese Mountain Dog, Annie, became lame with painfully swollen and inflamed joints that were noticeably warm to the touch. She was just over four years old at the time. The sudden initial onset of symptoms occurred about three weeks after her annual vaccinations including DA2PL+CPV and a 3-year efficacy rabies vaccine. A thorough blood work-up showed unusual and elevated autoantibody levels. All tests for Lyme disease, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis were negative. A complete set of radiographs revealed an amount of arthritis in both elbows that was alarming for a dog her age, and her right knee was inflamed and full of fluid. Her right carpal joint was also visibly swollen and extremely painful when touched. She licked it incessantly. After consultations with specialists, we received a diagnosis of nonspecific "genetically-based or autoimmune polyarthritis" as well as confirmed autoimmune thyroiditis.

Within a month, Annie was limping terribly from the right shoulder and was unable to use her hind legs to jump at all. One night in early October, we realized that Annie could no longer hop onto our bed, but rather just lay beside it and pawed at the dust ruffle. We had to lift her onto beds, sofas and the car that she had so effortlessly hopped up into only a few weeks earlier. She was unable to jump to the floor, either, and would try to drag herself off of the furniture with her front legs if we didn't assist.

Per our veterinarian's recommendation, we administered two 75 mg. tablets of Rimadyl each day to ease the pain and control the swelling, but after some initial relief its effectiveness decreased and Annie's limping and inflammation steadily grew worse. She became depressed and dispirited, and her body was soft and 'squishy' from apparent fluid accumulation and lack of muscle tone. By December, our veterinarian administered weekly acupuncture treatments, but while that provided temporary pain relief, it didn't afford a long-term improvement in Annie's health.

After five months of conventional suppressive therapy her vitality slowly continued to decline. We feared that if she continued on this course we may eventually have to make the difficult decision to end her suffering. Our veterinarian wisely considered it too risky at that time to prescribe steroidal treatments given Annie's weakened immune system. While it may have been tempting to give her a drug like Prednisone to make her feel better almost instantly, it was decided that this type of a "quick fix" could have been life threatening for her. This was not a risk we were prepared to take.

In late January we located a homeopathic DVM in Spokane, Washington, Dr. Jonathan Wright, who specializes in autoimmune disorders. He immediately made some adjustments to her dietary intake. We were already feeding Flint River Ranch, which he highly recommended, but he modified it by adding one of the Pitcairn all-natural raw diets for half of her daily rations. He also recommended several supplements to give her body the strength to begin the healing process: antioxidants (grape seed extract) plus omega-3 fish oil capsules, Ester C, Glycoflex, and MSM in high initial dosages.

In order to keep her pain at a minimum, we temporarily continued the doses of Rimadyl in conjunction with the new plan until we could get the inflammation under control. Annie had also been receiving two 0.4 mg tablets of Soloxine per day since October to elevate her T4 level to within normal range. Dr. Wright added two thytrophin tablets to her daily thyroid replacement therapy. Thytrophin is a natural bovine thyroid PMG extract with no thyroxine It acts as an antibody "decoy" thus sparing the thyroid gland the autoantibody assault that was compromising her thyroid hormone production.

At Dr. Wright's request, I prepared a detailed time-line medical history for review and analysis. This revealed a life-long reaction to her annual vaccines. While Annie had been, by all appearances, a healthy, normally robust and active dog with a beautiful shiny coat, she also suffered from several mysterious maladies throughout her lifetime that were inconsistent with her otherwise vital nature. She suffered from chronic conjunctivitis, which had been attributed to undetermined allergies, miscellaneous annual infections, a ravenous eating disorder and subsequent weight problem, and a small lump close to a vaccine site which had to be surgically excised due to the suspicious nature of the tissue cells. Eventually, Dr. Wright concluded that Annie had perhaps been suffering from lesser but more chronic manifestations of the very diseases that she had been vaccinated against, such as distemper.

After Dr. Wright analyzed Annie's medical and personality profile, he administered a homeopathic dose of thuja to help detoxify the negative effects of the vaccinations. Thuja is not administered in all cases of vaccinosis, but it was the appropriate remedy for Annie's profile. Within three days of treatment she became feverish to the touch, especially on the top of her head. After a week she experienced intensely acute arthritic symptoms with increased lameness and distressed panting that lasted about 3-4 days. Although this was a painful time for her, it was the reaction we were told to expect. These symptoms signaled that the healing process was beginning to take place: we had opened a pathway for the body's natural healing response to begin. After two such episodes the inflammation subsided almost entirely and she started to improve dramatically within two weeks. We began replacing the Rimadyl with homeopathic remedies such aconitum for relief of her acute symptoms.

As previously mentioned, one of the tell-tale symptoms of Annie's illness was a chronic inflammation of the eyes, and they became even more inflamed when her joints were painful. For the first time in her life, Annie's eyes were clear. As the swelling in her joints eased, her spirits elevated, and she soon resumed a normal energy level. Within one month, her overall body tone tightened up. While it appeared at the time that she had lost a good deal of weight, in truth her weight remained stable. The inflammation that had invaded her body tissues appeared to have been arrested and she was no longer "squishy."

Although Annie had vastly improved within a month, Dr. Wright and I agreed it would be beneficial to continue an aggressive sequential homeopathic therapy for Annie to rid her body of any residual toxins and neutralize the lingering effects of previous traumas, such as earlier vaccines, harmful effects of radiographs and surgical procedures. He began administering homeopathic doses of sulphur, the homeopathic remedy appropriate to her specific constitutional profile. She has, to date, received specifically timed and formulated homeopathic doses of arnica, nux vomica, sulphur, and other multiple dose remedies as needed.

Additionally, we have been able to steadily reduce her thyroid replacement therapy as her overall condition improved. Her latest T4 level, which had ultimately elevated to an above normal rate, has now stabilized to almost within normal range on 0.2 mg of Soloxine daily compared to 0.8 mg, pre-treatment. It is our hope that as time goes on, we will have successfully corrected the imbalances that precipitated the hypothyroidism and she will no longer be dependent on synthetic hormone replacement.

Both of Annie's veterinarians agree that her immune system cannot withstand the stress caused by annual vaccinations, and therefore we do not plan to vaccinate her again. To comply with state regulations requiring rabies vaccination, we will run titers when necessary. If her level of immunity is sufficient, our local veterinary college will issue a certificate of adequate immunity.

After six months of sequential therapy, Annie has had no recurrence of joint pain or inflammation, and has been normally active for the past five months. Each night she enjoys a free run in the fields around our home, pain-free. The same dog who could not tolerate mild joint manipulation last winter shows no pain response at all when examined these days. We still have work to do on her treatment schedule, and we fully anticipate possible brief reappearances of some earlier symptoms as we make the journey backward through her timeline. Still, her progress to this date, almost the one-year anniversary of her initial crisis, has been nothing short of amazing.

UPDATE: As we approach the four year anniversary of the onset of Annie's health crisis, she remains free of this disease. In the three years since this article was originally published she has suffered no relapses or recurrence of the inflammatory symptoms. We continue to conduct annual blood tests on her, and her autoantibody level remains stabilized well within the normal range. Additionally, the immune mediated thyroiditis also resolved. Her thyroid levels remain normal without the aid of synthetic thyroid hormone replacement therapy. We were eventually able to discontinue the use of the Thytrophin PMG as well. Currently, Annie receives no pain medications or anti-inflammatories. We continue to supplement her diet with omega-3 fish oil capsules, MSM, glucosamine, along with her diet of Flint River Ranch food. We have not vaccinated Annie since she was four years old, which was the event that precipitated the polyarthritis. At age eight, she is, by all appearances, a normal, healthy senior dog.