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Rehab and Acupuncture Veterinarian Discusses Assisi Loop Therapy

Dr. Jessica Dreyfuss (Dr. Jessie) is the owner and chief Medical Director of Healing Paws Center – a stand-alone rehabilitation and acupuncture center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Their goal is to take a whole-body approach to your pet’s health. They treat small animals with appropriate, effective, and state-of-the-art therapies to help your pet achieve optimum wellness.

Assisi: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us about your experience with the Assisi Loop. You reported to a colleague, Dr. Laurie McCauley, about a case that was really exciting for you where you were using the Loop. Let’s start with that case and your experience and then we can talk more about other applications and other cases.

Dr. Dreyfuss: Sure. Penny is a really challenging case. She’s a ten-year-old female spayed domestic shorthair. She was diagnosed with an exceedingly rare condition called cerebellar abiotrophy, or cerebellar degeneration. Most vets aren’t really trained in what this disease is–I wasn’t. We were trained, however, on cerebellar hypoplasia. Cerebellar hypoplasia is very similar except that this disease happens from birth. Cerebellar abiotrophy happens later. Penny was a perfectly normal cat, walking around and, suddenly, she developed unusual motor signs. We call it “wiggly and jiggly” because these patients are extremely ataxic and appear to walk like an intoxicated person. It’s almost as if they are standing and someone jostled their world, but they didn’t stop jostling it. The patient tries to accommodate by jostling back. You can really see this in how Penny tries to get across the floor in her home. Even in the treatment area with sturdy, soft flooring, getting across the floor is exceedingly difficult for her. This change in gait occurred when she was only three to four years old! Her owner took her to a neurologist who told her they could run all advanced imaging studies–MRI, CT scan, and more–but almost guaranteed her, given Penny’s clinical signs, that this was cerebellar abiotrophy. They also tested for infectious disease and ran general bloodwork – every test returned normal. All you’re left with is this exceedingly rare condition.

Penny was doing relatively well adapting to this condition until about 6 months ago when the ataxia and the unsteadiness–what looks like severe alcohol intoxication–progressed to where she was falling over, not just unsteady. Her owner came to me in tears and didn’t know what to do. She went to her primary vet, and her primary vet didn’t know what to do. Mom looked up acupuncture and physical therapy for pets and she found me. I don’t do any general practice. I’m a specialty veterinarian like Dr. McCauley. I looked at this cat and said, “I’ve never seen this disease before. I’m so sorry but we’re going to figure it out.” I read several papers on this disease and discovered that there really aren’t many options for these pets. I started Penny on veterinary acupuncture and herbal therapy and Penny improved a little bit but not to the extent that I wanted. I thought this could be a stroke or this could be a progression of the disease. Either way, the Assisi Loop would calm inflammation and help this pet. Mom looked at me and said, “Sure. I’ll try anything. I do not want to euthanize my baby.” I said, “Great. You’re going to take this.” I spoke with Dr. McCauley who recommends the Loop three times a day for cognitive disfunction. Following this idea of treating the brain, I recommended a three-times-a-day protocol. Mom called me crying, saying that she made it across the floor . . . and she didn’t fall.

Assisi: That was after how long?

DD: The owner applied the Loop treatments three times a day. We found that twice a day treatments showed minimal improvement. Three times a day showed the most improvement Mom had seen.

Assisi: In just five days?

DD: Yes!

Assisi: And what happened after that?

DD: Mom emailed me in a panic. She left Penny for about a week with a pet sitter and Penny become exceedingly upset about her owner leaving and quite aggressive. Treatments three times a day were not allowed by Penny. Thus, the treatments HAD to be discontinued by the pet sitter.

Assisi: Unfortunately, we have seen that when a pet owner goes away and leaves a degenerative or chronic condition in the hands of somebody else. They’re not often as motivated to maintain the treatment and the interruption, unfortunately, shows how well the treatment was going but they must start over when they get home.

DD: I know. It happens. It’s okay. We’ll figure it out. We’ll get her out of this, but you really must be strict on her protocol.

Assisi: Anything else you want to say about Penny’s case?

DD: I would say I was astounded by how quickly it worked and what a dramatic improvement it made for Penny. I can tell you that my whole staff felt the exact same way.

Assisi: You said that when you brought the Loop into Penny’s case that you already had the Loop in your practice and that you absolutely loved it. What had been your experience prior to Penny that led you to absolutely love it and how have you been using it in your practice?

DD: For the most part, I have used it for osteoarthritis (OA) cases, and I also use it for my degenerative myelopathy (DM) cases. I find that animals are more comfortable overall. These kids (pets) who were shifting around at night are moving around because they’re not comfortable. I hear, “I can’t get in to see you, Dr. Jessie and I can tell he was uncomfortable.” I tell them, “Reach for the Loop. You should be using it every single day for your kid. This is a natural FDA cleared, research-based product.” Do you know how hard it is for me to say that in this holistic world where everything is case reports?” Case reports are wonderful, but I was research-based trained in graduate school and love research. I also used it in a really funny case, now that you mention it: Westie Lung Syndrome. The owner said it improved and there’s almost nothing for that. It’s pretty sad.

Assisi: Tell me more about that case.

DD: The owner was an avid breeder of Westies and very opinionated. I will never forget the case. She came in here and said, “You don’t breed Westies. You won’t know this syndrome. No one does.”

I said, “Okay. You’re most likely correct. Tell me more.” “It’s Westie Lung Syndrome. There’s nothing that can be done and every dog with this goes downhill.” And I said, “Okay. So, there’s no cure but there is management and there are options.” I did a bit of research and extrapolated that there is inflammation or fibrosis of the lungs. The Loop can help that. “Let’s try it. If you don’t want to buy it then come in and we’ll do day treatments and go home.” I’ve never seen an owner’s attitude to change so quickly. She said that the pet was more comfortable, happier, and she was impressed that I could do “anything” for her dog.

Assisi: That’s great. Was she using it three times a day as well?

DD: She said she only had time to do once per day. I told her that “more would be great, but I know you have a life and I know that it takes two hours to recharge so you do what you can.”

Assisi: Yes. We have seen people who have not been able to follow the recommended protocol and sometimes two times isn’t quite enough and, like with Penny three times was better. Clearly, if you can get more treatments–at least at the front end–you’re going to see results more quickly. It sounds like she was able to see results quickly with just once per day treatments.

DD: It was awesome. I wish I would have had the opportunity to follow up on the case, but Mom moved and didn’t stay in contact.

Assisi: So, you like to use the Loop for OA cases and DM cases. Is the Loop a go-to for you with all these cases?

DD: Yes.

Assisi: These are degenerative cases and it’s probably going to be a lifetime of treatments with maintenance management. How has that been in terms of how the clients are responding to that and how well are they managing the treatment at home?

DD: Honestly, they see the improvements in their pet and it’s never an issue. They don’t stop doing it for any reason except the one or two that forget that they even purchased it but it’s few and far between. I have seen them improve with in-house treatments. Even just one time—”please let’s just do it; I need your pet out of pain.” I know we’ve got one kid who came in today and Dad forgot he bought four Loops. I love this Dad. He’s awesome. He has five dogs. He forgets. She’s got lung blebs and exceedingly advanced pulmonary fibrosis. This dog should just wear the Loop and never take it off. I told Dad.

Assisi: You mentioned another case that was exciting for you. Would you tell me about that one?

DD: Yes. The patient is named Mayhem. He is the prettiest Harlequin Great Dane I’ve ever seen. Mayhem has three legs. He had a fibrosarcoma of his left front so he’s a tripawd. On top of that, he developed megaesophagus, so anesthesia and surgery were off the table for this kid. If he has surgery, he may not wake up. That’s really sad, in general, because this dog is phenomenal and the sweetest thing ever and he’s 100 lbs. Are you familiar with megaesophagus?

Assisi: No.

DD: It’s very sad. It’s basically an issue with the esophagus where it dilates and develops issues with appropriate motility and instead of the food going one direction, down to the tummy, it can go back up. When it goes back up, sometimes the valve or the trachea which is the airway or windpipe doesn’t quite close so you can aspirate very easily. Additionally, Mayhem is such a happy kid that he developed “happy tail” which happens with our very exuberant dogs. We don’t know why. When dogs wag their tail too often and too much and potentially hit things–like the wall or your door or your car door and then it starts to bleed. The problem is that it’s such a vascular area that it’s really hard to get happy tail to go away. Not only did Mayhem get happy tail on top of all these problems, Mayhem’s happy tail was so bad that they considered amputation. But amputation means surgery and Mayhem is not a candidate for anesthesia. There’s a very high chance that he would aspirate and develop pneumonia given the megaesophagus.

The owners came to me because, on top of that, Mayhem ruptured his cranial cruciate ligament and if we lose one more joint on a 100+ pound three-legged Great Dane, there aren’t many tools left in my toolbox. The owners said, “We know about the happy tail. We’re really freaked out about it. We’re freaked out about the cranial cruciate too. We will do anything for this dog. Please help us. What can we do?” And I said, “Well, first off, you should have had an Assisi Loop on his tail yesterday.” The Mom is a hospital manager and she said that she can manage the bandage changes daily. I spoke with the surgeon. The surgeon said, “I don’t know. It’s 50/50 that we may have to amputate. We may not have to but I’m really not loving this.” The tail is black. There is dead tissue. I looked at the owners and I said, “Look. I know you spent a lot of money and I know it’s going to cost more money, but I would put a Loop on that tail. It was created, in part, for non-healing inflammation wounds. You need to do it two to three times a day.” They said, “Okay. We’ll try anything.” And I said, “On top of that, you’re going to treat his cranial cruciate ligament. You’re going to treat the affected one and the UN-affected one because statistics show that 50% of dogs will rupture your other one and I can’t handle that for your kid.” They said, “Okay. This little Loop thingy is going to fix stuff?” And I said, “Yes.”

They called me a week later and said, “We can’t believe this. It’s not as black. We’re starting to see pink granulation tissue. This only started when we started the Loop that you told us to get.” So, Mom is beyond happy. “I’m telling everyone to get the Loop now.”

Assisi: That’s great. How is the cruciate?

DD: The cruciate is improving dramatically. The only issue is that Mayhem likes to run and jump. So, we’re also making a stifle brace because I don’t trust Mayhem. Every time he has a flare-up, I ask what happened. The owners reply “Oh. He saw a bird and wanted to run to it.”

Assisi: How old is he?

DD: Mayhem is only five years old.

Assisi: So, he needs a lot of loving care. And, he has good people to provide him with what he needs. What was the protocol you recommended for his tail?

DD: I said, “how many times per day can you do it?” They said, “three to four” and I said, “Four. Go. Keep the Assisi Loop with you.”

Assisi: With something that significant, that acute, that was wise.

DD: The Loop saved him—absolutely saved him. In my opinion, it saved his life. Surgery with megaesophagus (esophageal dysmotility) just wouldn’t have gone well.

Assisi: You mentioned that you look at conditions and whether there is inflammation to determine when to bring the Loop in. You also mentioned that you’ll do just one 15-minute treatment in-clinic to help reduce the pain right then and there. Talk to me a little bit about how you use the Loop for pain management.

DD: I integrate more than anything. I don’t prescribe NSAIDs or anything like that in my clinic, but I do absolutely support it, especially for any orthopedic cases and neurological cases. I think you should have them on pain medications as Western medications work faster than Eastern therapies. I love what I do but most of what I do–i.e. Eastern therapies, laser therapies, acupuncture, holistic therapies–it’s cumulative treatment and if your pet is in pain right now, we’re going to do everything and integrate Western and Eastern therapies. We can’t have your pet in pain. So, the Loop has been lovely, especially in one aspect where I can go ahead and have an owner treat from home. They are empowered. They can do it from home. Sometimes I have a kid where it’s really hard to get them up and really hard to get them in. I have folks that come to me from over an hour away. So, the Loop helps in the sense that it can reduce inflammation, lower pain levels from home. There are not a lot of things that vets can give owners to do at home to help their pets. Medications? Absolutely, but they have side effects. I don’t have to worry about side effects with the Loop.

Assisi: Have there been any cases that stand out from a pain perspective?

DD: It’s tough because it’s never a great double-blind placebo study with the Loop because I want everything.

Assisi: It’s part of a multi-modal treatment protocol.

DD: Exactly. I love multi-modal approaches because I think the pets do better overall. I can say pain-wise that I do see a ton of kids, and I call them kids because they are my kids, for conservative management of a cranial cruciate disease. Conservative means that either the owners can’t afford surgery, or they don’t want surgery, for whatever reason, or the pet is not a candidate like Mayhem. Or the kid has cancer. That’s a rock and a hard place. You have a major orthopedic disability and the kid has cancer. What are we going to do? So, I look at them and I say, “Look. I need pain management and I need increased healing. The Loop gives me both of those.”

Assisi: It seems like you’ve been working with the Loop for a while so you have a pretty good caseload and personal experience that helps you identify when and where the Loop will work. How long have you been working with the Loop?

DD: Oh my gosh. It’s been three years.

Assisi: What else do you think is important for our veterinary community to know about your experience and anything that you haven’t said yet that you feel is important to say about the Loop?

DD: Any time you have a pet that needs any help in any type of healing capacity–pain management capacity–or even just inflammation, whether it’s an internal medicine case or anything like that, the Loop is there to help. The Loop is an opportunity to empower your clients to help their pet and that’s a really rare opportunity. You don’t get that very often as a vet.

Assisi: Say more about the empowerment piece.

DD: For me, especially as a veterinarian and a pet owner, I always want to find ways to not only help the pet but help the owner. I think that pet owners are truly the parents of pets. We are. We love them. They are family members. You feel good knowing that you’re healing your pet if they’re in pain or if they’re having any type of ailment. And, I can say with 100% certainty that this is helping your pet. I’m not there 24/7 but you are. “Look, I can give you this gift and you can give this gift to your pet to heal them.” I don’t get to say that ever. I just don’t. So that’s why I love it.

Assisi: Dr. Jesse, it’s been so good to talk with you.

DD: Thank you for letting me talk about this. It was awesome.

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Timbit the Cat’s Recovery Journey with Assisi Loop Therapy

Operation PAW is an all volunteer, non-profit animal welfare organization located in Miami, Florida. It is their mission to improve the lives of homeless animals throughout South Florida. Leisa Bowmaster is the Director at Operation PAW and the proud “forever foster” mom of Timbit the cat. We spoke with Leisa about her journey with Timbit and Assisi Loop therapy.

Assisi: Tell us a little about yourself and your history with animal adoption. How did you get involved with Operation PAW?

Leisa Bowmaster: I have always been an animal lover, and have been involved independently in kitty rescue for over a decade. I stumbled across a cat rescue group and soon began volunteering on a daily basis. That group was one half of an organization with dual locations, and when they divided and our location became Operation PAW in 2014 I continued to volunteer. I was invited to join their Board of Directors, and have been a team member for upwards of seven years, 4ish of those as a director.

Assisi: How did you meet Timbit?

LB: Timbit came to us as an emaciated, very sick little boy. He had a terrible limp and was non-weight-bearing on his left front leg, which turned out to be an untreated fracture of both his ulna and radius. He drank a ton of water and was reluctant to eat anything, and the foul odor of his breath was almost unbearable. He had been evaluated by our vet clinic and had his leg cast, and he was in such poor condition that I brought him home with me to give him a chance. For a month I syringe-fed him every few hours, ‘groomed’ him when he could not do it himself, and prayed he would make it through. At his checkup, his vet took one look at him and smelled his breath and knew his kidneys were involved. After extensive blood testing, he was shown to be in kidney failure with some of his values higher than the maximum the machine would read, and an anemia so severe that his red count wouldn’t register—they had to do a manual packed cell volume test (PCV) to measure his red blood cell count. 

His survival didn’t look good, But his vet promised me she would do everything she could to give him a chance, and she hospitalized him for 5 days on IV fluids and medication. His leg was the least of his worries at that point. Despite his terrible condition he fought hard, and I was able to bring him back home to care for him at the end of the 5 days. 

The next few years would be labor-intensive and emotional. He ate special food, took medication to support his remaining kidney function, and had bloodwork and urinalysis on a very regular basis to make sure he was on track. After a time, his vet determined that the kidney injury had been an acute one, and although he would never regain his lost function, his kidneys were not declining as would be seen with Chronic Kidney Disease. It was a blessing to hear that! He has been with me as a permanent ‘forever foster’ ever since.

Assisi: How did you first hear about the Assisi Loop® and what made you decide to try it out on Timbit?

LB: Due to Timbit’s untreated break, the connective tissues in his leg had shortened, rendering him unable to fully extend his elbow. I worked with him under our vet’s supervision and did daily physiotherapy, etc. but I could tell that he still had pain/discomfort and obviously limited mobility. We discussed options to make him more comfortable, and those options were incredibly limited due to his kidney damage. He could not take medication to ease his discomfort, so she mentioned both acupuncture at the clinic and the Assisi Loop at home. 

The impact of the therapy was pretty evident within a few days of initiating the Loop therapy. It was really a combination of his overall demeanor and his increased mobility. He was more active and mobile within a few days, and he seemed more inclined to play and interact. Before he had spent a lot of time sleeping, and now he was interactive and engaged. He is one of the most loving, personable, interactive cats I’ve ever met, so his personality really came through when he was feeling better!

Assisi: How were you able to get Timbit comfortable with using his Assisi Loop?

LB: Timbit loves to snuggle! At first I would hold him up against my chest in a rocking chair with the Loop in position and cover us both with a soft blanket. We would rock and cuddle while the Loop cycled through his treatment. Eventually it’s almost like he came to know that the therapy was making him feel better, because he would come and settle in on his own for treatment. Even now he is usually very calm during his treatment and often falls asleep in my lap while we do it. The funny thing is that I honestly feel he can tell when it cycles out—if I’m not paying close attention to the flashing lights I often don’t notice it has ended, but he will suddenly start to get restless and when I check the lights, it’s turned off. I swear, he can tell when it ends!

Assisi: For how long have you been using the Loop and how has Timbit’s therapy regimen changed over time?

LB: We have been using the Loop for several years now—I’ve started to lose track of time, but it must be 3ish. At first, with our vet’s supervision, he started out with treatments three times daily, then tapered down to twice, then once daily. At the moment we are maintaining his therapy at once a day, but if he has rough days, like when the weather changes, I will increase the frequency of his therapy to twice daily until he evens out, and then we return to once daily. We play it by ear and adjust as necessary – with the approval of his vet.

Assisi: What do you consider the main benefits of the Assisi Loop? 

LB: For cats, having access to a safe, non-drug therapy is key. Metacam is off-label for felines and can have life-threatening side effects if given to cats as it is given to dogs, so using the Loop to provide pain and inflammation relief is an incredible alternative. 

My goodness, the Loop has so many benefits and it has been a miracle for Timbit! Being able to give him therapy at home is a big one, and the fact that he can find relief from his discomfort/pain without resorting to medication (which he couldn’t have in his particular case anyway) is a blessing. The anti-inflammatory benefit of the Loop has been a game-changer for Timbit, and his mobility is improved greatly thanks to his daily therapy. Without the Loop, I honestly don’t think he would be able to get around as he does, and I feel that he would have deteriorated over time if he hadn’t been able to have this daily treatment. His sweet, bright personality and his love of running and playing despite his severe limp is a testament to the positive effect the Loop has had on his health, and his life. We are so grateful for the Assisi Loop!

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