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 Maggie Mae, at 13 years of age.


The following article is an excerpt from the book,

It's For The Animals! Natural Care & Resources

by Helen L. McKinnon 


Maggie Mae at age 13


Ligament and Joint problems  -- Good Results using the 

Natural Approach that Helped Heal Maggie Mae's ACL

I had a very positive experience with an alternative treatment for helping to heal my dog's torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) which is at the knee of the rear leg.  This natural approach worked very well for almost 4 years after Maggie Mae's injury. Maggie was a mixed breed --  half Golden Retriever and half Black Labrador Retriever.  Please note:  I am not saying that what worked for Maggie will work in every instance of a torn ACL.  As I understand it, there are varying degrees in severity of the injury to the ligament (pulled, minor tear, completely torn), and surgery may be the only option.  Some dogs healed while their legs were in 'hip-to-toe casts' for many weeks.  If surgery is indicated, it would be wise to consult with a knowledgeable veterinarian who has a good deal of experience and expertise in performing the operation. 

Cruciate Ligament Injuries
"The knees are held together by tough muscular straps called cruciate ligaments. These ligaments are extremely strong and resilient, but they aren't invincible. Sometimes they get torn, which causes pain and allows the knee joint to slide back and forth like a dresser drawer.

This type of injury is rare in cats but is fairly common in dogs, particularly when they are having a good time playing with other dogs. "He might run and turn wrong or get a hard blow to the knee, just like in football," says Joanne Hibbs, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Powell, Tennessee. If your dog comes home limping after fun and games or he is unable to put any weight on one of legs, he could have this type of injury.

Minor tears in the ligaments will often heal with rest and perhaps physical therapy. When the tear is severe, however, your dog may need surgery to repair it. Unfortunately, he is unlikely to have the relatively easy kind of surgery, called arthroscopic surgery, that is commonly used on humans. Knee surgery in pets usually requires a long surgical incision and a day or two in the hospital. After the surgery, however, the knees usually heal completely and quickly."

"Maggie Mae, was a mixed breed dog, a cross between a very sweet Golden Retriever named Sophie and a traveling type of Black Labrador dog.  She was spayed shortly after her first birthday and at the age of 13  she weighed 61 pounds. Before I knew better, she was over-vaccinated during her first 6 years, when I was making 'uninformed decisions'. I've since learned through Dr. Jean Dodds' Seminars and lots of reading that vaccinations may adversely impact the thyroid gland.

According to Jean Dodds, DVM, ruptured cruciate ligament is one of the clinical signs of canine hypothyroidism in the "Neuromuscular Problems" category, and, thyroid problems may be caused by vaccinations.  My dogs' annual blood tests, through Dr. Jean Dodds / HEMOPET, do not indicate any hypothyroidism. However, back in 1995, Maggie became afraid of loud noises, especially thunderstorms, which is only one of the signs of an adversely affected thyroid in the "Aberrant Behavior" category. Many other signs of thyroid or polyglandular autoimmune disease are very serious, for example, seizure disorder, aggression, and unstable temperament. 

Interestingly, Maggie was last vaccinated in 1994 and up until about 2000, Maggie was much more calm during thunderstorms provided that I included in her home-made dinner a few capsules of the thyroid supplement. This supplement is the product containing the amino acid L-Tyrosine from the health food store, not the "glandular" product. Two brands which I prefer are "Thyrostim" from Biotics Research and "Thyroid & L-Tyrosine Complex" from Enzymatic Therapy.

Maggie Mae and Danny Boy, our Golden Retriever used to romp and play in the back yard by the hour, until one night back in March of 1998, she came into the house limping. My local, conventional veterinarian, examined her and said that her cruciate ligament was pulled/torn. He urged me to have surgery performed immediately warning me that "severe arthritis would set in", and that her other knee will also rupture soon!

My dogs receive chiropractic adjustments on a regular basis -- about every other month and after moving to NC we see
John Faherty, DCBut back in 1998, I wanted Maggie's chiropractor's opinion and after the exam, she agreed with the vet's diagnosis: that the knee joint was very unstable, and surgery was probably the best route.

Because Maggie was older (10 years at the time) and didn't appear to be in pain, I really didn't want her to undergo surgery unless it was absolutely necessary. So, I did some research on ACL. I searched the "web" and checked out information in a number of books. I also made some other inquiries of those who have had experience in long-term care of this problem.

Instead of the surgery, I opted for the natural therapies including regular chiropractic adjustments, and I limited her activity (she kept running and jumping as if nothing was wrong!).

What I found from my research confirmed that diet was very important for healing injuries. All their lives, Maggie & Paco were fed half homemade food and ever since 1995 my dogs and cats have eaten only fresh homemade foods, including as much organic ingredients as possible. They're fed, for the most part, "Helen's Big Batch Recipe" -- the main ingredients being raw meat, organic veggies, and organic grains, because I know that the best food is 'Fresh, Wholesome, and Varied'.

For Maggie, I added specific nutritional supplements to her diet. The initial (therapy) dosages of the supplements were usually higher amounts and then later tapered off. Most of the supplements were eventually eliminated after 6-9 months because she was asymptomatic and her knee was stable again.  Please also see some
updated information about Maggie, when I noticed that her skin was turning black and her coat was getting dull - it was her thyroid.

As I said, my animals are fed "Helen's Big Batch Recipe", in addition to the main ingredients previously mentioned, also includes many other beneficial additions (organic, if possible) such as: organic Hempseed Oil for the Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
 (Omega Nutrition's Organic Hemp Seed Oil), Vitamin C w/ bioflavanoids, Vitamin E, minerals, garlic, kelp, raw apple cider vinegar, lecithin, Prozyme digestive enzymes and many rotating herbs and ground seeds.

The following is what I added to Maggie Mae's regular diet for the first 6-9 months:

·         Vitamin C w/ bioflavanoids (Ester-C to bowel tolerance).

·         Vitamin E d-alpha w/ mixed tocopherols (d-alpha is the natural form, and dl-alpha is the synthetic form. I use only the d-alpha (natural form) in liquid and 400 iu capsules.  The liquid is an ingredient in "Helen's Big Batch Recipe", and the capsules are additional supplements for animals and humans.  The *dry* form of Vitamin E is not recommended.

·         VitaCarte (special process of bovine cartilage) 4 caps/day  800/ 947-8482   email: 

·         Mineral Formula (fed away from Vitamin C).  Many good formulas are available.

·         Glucosamine Sulfate - 1,500 mg per day.

·         Silica - 2 tablets

·         Manganese - 1 capsule

·         Maitaike or Ganoderma or Astragalus -liquid extracts, a dropper-full  added to food

·         Licorice - tincture (liquid extract) - a dropper-full added to her food

·         BF&C formula from Nature's Way (bone & joint formula capsules)

·         DLPA - Supplement at Health Food Store

·         Thyroid supplement formula -many good formulas at Health Food Stores.

The above-mentioned items are Nutritional Supplements which should be available at better Health Foods Stores.  The dose depends on the individual, which includes the *weight* of the dog.  As I said, I consulted with my veterinarians and did additional research in order to help my Maggie Mae heal her ACL.  Remember, that in some instances surgery is necessary, though.  What I gave my dog may not be appropriate for yours.

I lightly massaged her knee many a night and initially used some Arnica arnica or Traumeel gel applied topically.  Of course swimming is a great therapy.

My holistic veterinarian gave her some
Adequan® (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan). This is given via injections into the muscle.  He advised that I continue to give her the supplements, limit her play activity, and see how she progresses. Some folks are pleased with a veterinary product: "SynoviCre" (Glucosamine HCl, Glycosaminoglycans, Creatine Monohydrate) in chewable Tablets.

Interestingly, at the time of the injury, I spoke with several veterinarians who suggested that I avoid the expensive surgery (about $2,000), as that appears to be responsible for severe arthritis! Also, they said that acupuncture is very helpful. Also, fortunately, I learned about the
adverse reactions to Rimadyl and avoided it for Maggie Mae.  Some people think that drug is fine, but one gal's quote is worth repeating here: If Rimadyl is so safe, how come there is a CLASS action suit now in settlement negotiations against Pfizer?   The legal standard for a class action suit means in excess of 100 cases... something like that may wake up some people."

Maggie trimmed down a few pounds (from 68 to 61pounds), slightly limped for about 3 months or so, and for a couple of years acted just like she did as a pup.  She didn't seem to be any pain.  Her chiropractor was amazed that the joint is so stable.  In the fall of 2000, she injured her left ACL.  I added the supplements mentioned on my
other page and am very pleased to report that she did very well for those six months prior to her passing on at age 13 1/2, which really is a long life for a big dog.  She didn't limp at all, just moved a bit slower -- and at her ripe old age, that was OK!

When dealing with injuries or any health problem, my preference is to have a holistic perspective. I view "Health as a Diamond with many Facets".  Nutrition is one of those "Facets", and fresh food feeding -- wholesome and varied -- is really the 'foundation upon which health' is built.

So, by providing good food -- what the body needs to perform its repairs -- I am truly convinced that fresh food feeding made all the difference in Maggie Mae's healed ACL.

It's important to remember in dealing with a healing process that patience and perseverance will be tested, after all--  the body is really the healer.

References and suggestions:

Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Care for Dogs & Cats by Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD

The Holistic Veterinary Handbook by William Winter, DVM (Galde Press). Very helpful charts indicating dosages of supplements according to the animal's weight. 

Love, Miracles & Animal Healing by Allen M. Schoen, MS, DVM

Many people have had good results with Homeopathy.  A consult with a good Holistic Vet would be very helpful. Many are members of The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.  Note: some are better than others


Caring 'more naturally' for your companion animals --

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Consider joining Helen's Internet Discussion Group, it's free and generally, each month features a Special Guest, answering Members' questions.

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ã Copyright 1995 Helen L. McKinnon All Rights Reserved

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