Risa's Back Issues

Posted By: DancingCavy

Risa's Back Issues - 02/07/16 06:20 PM

I noticed Risa was having trouble jumping up on things around the end of December. I believed she had arthritis in her knees as I had been told so before. When she failed to make it jumping up onto the bed one morning, I took her to the vet.

We began laser therapy on her knees, hips, and back. She did not respond and got worse. She was so painful you could see it on her face. She didn't want to do anything and, if she moved the right way, she'd cry out. I made stairs for her so she could still sleep on the bed. I tried to keep her active since that's best for arthritis even when it's hard. Just walks, though. Nothing too strenuous. We even stopped training because I couldn't tell if she wasn't doing something because I was unclear or because it hurt.

I took her for acupuncture to try and help but that also failed. She had bloodwork run to test for tick-borne diseases and to verify that her kidneys were functioning well. We started her on NSAIDs and she definitely seemed to feel better. Much less painful but still not right.

She was starting to look like a poorly put-together GSD. Roached in the back and with no stability in the rear. She felt and acted better but something was still clearly amiss. I took her to an orthopedic doctor to have her evaluated when I wasn't getting answers from our regular vet (I was concerned it could be her iliopsoas muscles). We did x-rays and found out it is her back. Knees and hips are beautiful but her back is a nightmare of arthritis. She has spondylosis, arthritis in her lumbar region, and two vertebrae smushed together just behind her ribcage.

The ortho doctor recommended taking it easy on stairs, no twisting movements, continuing with the meds she was on and adding more as needed. She even suggested hydrotherapy and chiropractic adjustments. I went on my merry way happy that I finally had an answer; it was her back!

Unfortunately, all the research I was doing to learn more was leading me to doubt what I was being told (or not being told). To my untrained eye, this looked like a herniated disc. But no one had mentioned that even once. I took Risa to get a chiropractic adjustment as the ortho doctor had recommended and even sent the x-rays to that doctor so she'd know what we were dealing with. When she saw Risa, she couldn't believe how bad she looked. Ris hadn't looked that bad when she saw her 1.5 weeks prior and that was before Risa had started pain meds. She adjusted Ris and did a deep muscle massage on her sides where the muscles were so tense. The chiro doctor also suggested a muscle relaxer if things did not improve over 48 hours.

Things did not improve. In fact, Risa continued to decline. I was really starting to worry that she did have a herniated disc. I brought my concerns to her doctor via a phone call and he was unable to answer my questions in a way that put my mind at ease. He couldn't explain where the disc had gone since it was no longer visible on the x-rays and told me spinal compression doesn't show on x-rays (I knew that). He stated that, since Ris wasn't showing neurological symptoms, that I shouldn't be worried. Except I had started to note that she WAS showing neuro signs. I told him I was tired of watching her decline and he agreed to start her on a muscle relaxer as well.

As the end of the week arrived, I became more and more anxious about Risa's issues and steady decline. I was almost certain it was a herniated disc and that we needed to act soon. I had an appointment scheduled to reevaluate her with our regular vet on Tuesday but decided to put her on crate rest as a preemptive measure starting Friday night. If it were a herniated disc, I didn't plan on putting Risa through a surgical correction. Medications and crate rest are the conservative treatment.

Yesterday came and I was still worried and not at all happy with my current vet nor the orthopedic doctor we saw since neither of them suggested this could be a herniated disc and some of the things they recommended are actually counter-indicated with disc problems! We ended up going to Cornell.

After a thorough discussion of her history and a comprehensive neurological examination, the clinician on staff diagnosed her with intervertebral disc disease. She was even able to pinpoint the exact location of the issue without even seeing Risa's x-rays. So Risa has been officially put on crate rest and several medications for 6 weeks. Assuming she does not become fully paralyzed or have any bad reactions to the medications, we should FINALLY be okay.

She's not exactly thrilled about it but 6 weeks of sucky time is a small price to pay to get better. She'll probably have to do some physical therapy to get back in shape afterward (she already has some muscle atrophy) and to prevent re-injury. But I'm hopeful I'll have my smiling, bouncy 12 year old back again soon.

Her competitive future is still up in the air. She's definitely no longer going to be allowed to jump so high-level rally is out. Rally Free, lower-level rally, and obedience are probably okay. Freestyle will have to be modified a bit. She's definitely done lure coursing even though it's her favorite thing. It's just too hard on her back and she cannot control herself. Too risky. But we'll see how she does after her recovery time is over. We're not going to to anything that she doesn't want to or cannot do. wub

I know I haven't been here much lately but I know many of you have followed Risa's story from the very beginning so I wanted to keep you in the loop.

Posted By: PositiveDog

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/07/16 07:19 PM

Jamie, I'm so sorry. These age related health issues are so difficult.

She really does look so uncomfortable in her picture. Are you going ahead with muscle relaxants or pain meds in addition to her crate rest? I know you said she was on several meds.

I see many days ahead with you on the floor with Miss Risa.

I hope all treatments go well and she is more herself soon.

Posted By: middleofnowhere

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/07/16 08:06 PM

Whoa! What a ride for you and Ms. Risa. I'm glad you found the answer and I hope the cure. It is so tough when they hurt.
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/07/16 11:01 PM

It was so tough watching her in pain and not being able to do anything about it. frown

She's on a muscle relaxer, two meds for pain/anti-inflammatory, and one specifically for nerve pain. So she should be okay in regards to pain. smile

She's already fed up with crate rest and being carried in and out of the house. But she's managing alright. Not at all happy about not being able to check on me when she wants to or being able to sleep in bed with me. But we will do what we must.

Once she starts her Tramadol tonight, she probably won't care anymore anyway. It wipes her out.
Posted By: Braverhund

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/07/16 11:36 PM

"Risa, this crate rest thing is no fun! But you will be better soon, and able to enjoy some fun walks with your Mom in about a month. Enjoy the break as much as you can, and springtime is right around the corner with lots of stuff to sniff on walks!"
---- Grimmi Doofus

Jamie, you did great going to Cornell with her. I'm sorry for all the rushing around trying to get answers, but it looks like you have a great treatment plan you can feel good about. I hope the time flies for the two of you, and that very soon you have your smiley girl wagging and feeling great again! cheers hugging

I'll be sending Miss Risa good thoughts and healing energy! paw
Posted By: Wolfie

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/08/16 02:00 AM

Poor Risa. Glad you were able to figure out what was wrong with her.thumbup

Praying meds, and rest will help her heal and feel better soon.crossedfingers

She is such a sweet girl.wub

Posted By: zyp

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/08/16 02:02 AM

so sorry to hear about Risa.

You two are and amazing two are an amazing team and know you will do what's right for her.

I understand, first hand, about her spinal condition.
Posted By: Wisc.Tiger_Val

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/08/16 02:38 AM

I am so sorry that Risa has had a bad run of health problems and you have been worried sick.

Hopefully with the right answers and your dedication Miss Risa will be on the mend.

Sending you both good thoughts you are an awesome team.
Posted By: Mary Jane

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/08/16 12:55 PM

Speaking from experience, as we age most of us wouldn't notice quitting dance competitions at the highest level. Then again, Risa is not like most of us.

Your due diligence has got to pay off for Risa in the long run. She's so tuned to you, she can stay put for several weeks until she heals.

take care, both of you,
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/08/16 03:39 PM

Thank you all for the well-wishes and kind words.

We are definitely both very in tune with each other. I was surprised that the ortho doctor picked up on that right away!

As much as crate rest sucks, it's the best time of year for it. Hopefully she'll be recovered and ready to go once spring is arriving and will avoid the yucky cold morning walks. wink It's supposed to be in the single digits by the end of the week and I know she's not going to miss walking in that!

Her competitive career is always up to her. If she doesn't want to do it, we won't. I already know I will have to make modifications for her to continue to dance (should she be physically able) and that's fine. She's 12 years old and doesn't have the stamina she used to nor the athleticism she did in her youth. Even before the back injury! She has always enjoyed training and, surprisingly, competing. We're playing it all by ear. Her comfort and quality of life is my first concern and always has been. While we may trial and compete, that is not our life together. smile We spend far more time on long walks together, hanging around the house, or just doing training sessions. She is not simply my competition dog. wub

She's at least adapting well to the crate rest. It's only been two full days but she's already got the routine down. Thankfully, the Tramadol doesn't seem to be depressing her mood like it did before (despite being twice the dosage) nor does it seem to be negatively affecting her gut like it did before. In fact, she seems to be in pretty good spirits. Probably because she finally doesn't hurt!
Posted By: Charlotte

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/08/16 06:34 PM

Hugs to you and Risa. I have been there, D was diagnosed with IVDD 3 years ago but in his case acupuncture help him and still does (in addition to various pain meds).
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/09/16 06:26 PM

I'm sure (hopeful) that she can be managed with less extreme means. I think the main reasons laser and acupuncture didn't work is because it was so bad. They may work fine to manage her condition but we have to get it under control first. Considering, up until a week ago, I was convinced it was her knees that were the issue. What changes I would have made had I known it was her back! I have a feeling her back has been deteriorating for a while and I just had no idea. frown

We still have a while to go to get her back to comfortable, do some conditioning work to get her muscle tone back up and prevent re-injury, and see where she stands.

She seemed a bit down last night and I was worried she was in pain again. Nope. She was just SAD! I felt bad so I sat with her in the x-pen for a bit but she was way too happy about it. She's supposed to relax, be calm, and not move much. Not gonna happen with Mom so close. My dog loves me too much. I don't want to ignore her for 6 weeks, too, but I don't think I'll be sitting with her for a while if it gets her excited. frown

That made me sad, too. I may have slept on the couch last night to try and make up for it. . .
Posted By: Charlotte

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/09/16 07:20 PM

Please don't beat yourself up. I had no idea what was going on with D until I came home one day and he was not able to walk without help. I had not idea how I could have missed something like that, but they handle pain and injuries very different from us and are masters at "masking" pain.

Here is how D and I spent many evening while we were figuring out treatment...
Posted By: Qyn

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/10/16 02:35 AM

Sorry to read this about Risa but it does sound like there is a great plan in place. Just wanted you to know both you and Risa are in my thoughts! xo
Posted By: Kayos

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/10/16 01:28 PM

Same as Charlotte. Havoc out of the blue lunged at a kid. My immediate thought was thyroid. He has an old partial tear of the ACL on his right knee and arthritis in his shoulders. The dog was in pain and never showed any outward signs that I could see. I felt terrible.
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/10/16 02:06 PM

I know dogs are way too good at hiding pain. If I had any idea. . .ANY IDEA. . .how bad things were, there is no way I would have competed in rally with her at the beginning of January. At the time, she wasn't showing much in the way of outward signs and I thought it was just arthritis in her knees. Had I known she was about to blow her back out. . .I never would have asked her to do it. frown (Let alone how many times she went lure coursing last year. . .)

Thankfully, she is in good spirits even if she is annoyed about being locked up all the time and me not letting her sniff in the yard on potty breaks. I was able to sit with her and she remained calm last night. I just had to wait for after dinner when she's sleepy and subdued. smile I also spent the night on the couch again.

Amazingly, with all the meds she's on, she's having incredible poops! I can't remember the last time I saw a poop this good-looking out of my dog! This is a huge relief since the Tramadol gave her liquid diarrhea when she was on it earlier last month. She can't keep her butt very high off the ground at the moment and I was worried I'd be cleaning her rear end daily. Never did I think I'd get excited over poop but, with a dog like Risa, I do!
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/10/16 08:05 PM

Also, Charlotte, that photo of you and D is too too precious!

I'm not showing it to Risa, however, as I'm sure she'd start to expect the same arrangement. I don't think she'd accept me just sleeping on the couch to be close!
Posted By: MaxaLisa

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/11/16 09:31 AM

I'm sorry that this is happening. Sure hope she feels better soon.
Posted By: Charlotte

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/11/16 05:31 PM

Originally Posted By: DancingCavy
Also, Charlotte, that photo of you and D is too too precious!

I'm not showing it to Risa, however, as I'm sure she'd start to expect the same arrangement. I don't think she'd accept me just sleeping on the couch to be close!

Oh go ahead...give it a try. Who doesn't love to sleep in an x-pen?? wink
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/24/16 03:39 PM

Small update.

We're now just over two weeks into crate rest. If I'm honest, we're both already sick of it. She wants to do things and I want to have a dog again. I miss hanging out with her and training. frown And she wants to be able to sniff and explore things again. It's still worth it in the short term to meet our long term goals.

Overall, she has definitely improved. She's not acting painful and is feeling pretty good! She whips around in spins when she gets excited (and I try and calm her down to not do that). If she knuckles over in the rear, she rights her foot immediately. She now stretches out and can even lift her rear upward while her front is down. Her rear is less wobbly though it's clear she has still some lack of coordination/loss of strength. And her back is still noticeably peaked where her back is out of order. Even if she makes no further improvement, she'll be able to have a good quality of life at this level.

I have continued with the laser treatments; she had her second one last night. I'm hopeful that, since we're now treating the right area, they will help.

We still have a way to go. The end of March can't get here soon enough! smile She's in good spirits at least. And getting spoiled with frozen Kongs, bully sticks, deer antlers, puzzle toys, low-key training sessions, McDonald's french fries, pieces of hot dog, and snuggle sessions with Mom.
Posted By: middleofnowhere

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/24/16 03:52 PM

Thanks for the update. I'm betting the training sessions are among her favorite "spoils". I think you will find that th lazer/chiro/accupuncture stuff will be amazing, too. Wishing Jamie and Risa the best for this. I'm just so glad you caught it and figured out what was what.
Posted By: Kayos

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/25/16 01:53 PM

Thanks for the update! I am happy to hear she is making progress. I hope it continues and she is right as rain by end of March. It is hard to watch the kids age and start to have issues like this.
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/25/16 07:30 PM

Thanks. I'm glad we finally figured it out and have a plan as well. It was killing me watching her slowly decline and wondering if we were nearing the end of our journey together. frown

Unfortunately, going to the vet's office is one of her least favorite activities though you should see how excited she gets at the prospect of leaving the house! grin Hopefully those stressful trips will benefit her.
Posted By: Shilohsmom

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/25/16 08:38 PM

Jamie please forgive me if my idea is bad. I can't understand all that I'm reading but when I read about not being able to get in bed I thought...what about Adequin. I think I'm spelling it right. Both Shoshi and Shiloh have done well with that. To save money I bought the meds on line and had the vet give them the shots. I just wanted to put this out there in case it helps. Best wishes.
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/27/16 12:37 AM

You're not the first to suggest Adequan. It was brought up multiple times when I thought we were dealing with arthritis. Unfortunately, her condition is a bit more severe than just arthritis so I'm not sure it would help in her case. smile I definitely appreciate the advice, though!

Right now, she just needs time to heal. And then we'll see where we go from there.

On top of all this, I think she has a dead lower canine tooth too. Looks like she might be getting a dental with extractions once she's done with her crate rest. frown
Posted By: SeanRescueMom

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 02/27/16 02:45 PM

Originally Posted By: DancingCavy
Right now, she just needs time to heal. And then we'll see where we go from there.

Take all the time you need dear Risa - mom knows what's best for you. hugging

Fingers crossed her lower canine tooth isn't dead. crossedfingers I guess that's on the back burner for now.
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 03/10/16 01:14 AM

She's counting down the days until I spring her from the joint.

Her freedom resumes on the 20th and she begins physical therapy on the 25th!
Posted By: middleofnowhere

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 03/11/16 02:24 AM

And that look says soooo much!
Posted By: arycrest

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 03/11/16 07:22 AM

I adore her sweet face ... that looks is priceless!!!

Sending her some cyber hugs!!!
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 03/19/16 01:24 PM

I get to release the beast tomorrow! Hooray!

We'll be taking things slowly and some activities will be very restricted. But it will be nice to have a dog around the house again. Not just a "dog in a box."

She's got some significant muscle atrophy and loss. Her ribs and backbone are quite prominent. Hopefully slow reintroduction to exercise and PT will help get her back into the muscley monster she usually is. smile

Posted By: arycrest

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 03/20/16 03:11 AM

Glad to hear Risa will be thru with her confinement and will be starting the slow process of building up her muscle mass.

Please give her a big hug from me!!!
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 04/15/16 01:46 PM

She's been free for almost a month now and has been diligently doing her PT exercises. Twice a day. Every day. Along with short walks. We're now up to 15 minutes at a time for walks (it was 10 minutes) and we added new exercises to her PT so that's taking me 45 minutes twice a day. wink She'll be starting on the underwater treadmill at her next PT visit. smile

I've taken few photos as we've gone along mainly because seeing her in such obvious discomfort wasn't something I wanted to remember. But I took some so that I could see the progression.

Here she was on January 31st before being officially diagnosed:

After 4 weeks of crate rest on March 6:

On March 30th after almost 2 weeks of being free from the crate:

And, finally, yesterday. You can see she's much more balanced now. She's not under herself as much in the rear and is actually placing more weight on her backend than before:

She's doing really well. Refuses to act like she has a serious back injury. wink We've finally started training again, too, and she is so excited about that! Still trying to take it easy, though, and slowly work her back up to good form.
Posted By: middleofnowhere

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 04/15/16 03:21 PM

I'm glad this is working for Risa. She looks much happier.
Posted By: arycrest

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 04/16/16 04:31 AM

Oh, I'm so glad that she's doing better!!! party
Posted By: Wolfie

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 04/18/16 01:30 AM

happyboogieI am so happy that Risa is on the mend.

I watched her video on YouTube - she was lovin' it.
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 05/12/16 04:57 PM

She's doing so well! It's hard to believe she's come so far already. I do, however, have to constantly remind myself she is never going to be 100% and that I need to make sure she doesn't overdo things. smile

We're also both enjoying the sun-shiny weather. Too bad it won't be here for the weekend. frown

Posted By: PositiveDog

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 05/12/16 11:54 PM

She looks wonderful and so smiley in the sunshine.

Posted By: Kayos

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 05/13/16 12:39 PM

She is looking great! I loved the zoomies you posted on fb!
Posted By: Mary Jane

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 05/13/16 03:00 PM

I am not an expert on dog body language, but she looks like a happy, feeling good dog to me. smile
Posted By: Codmaster

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 05/14/16 03:41 AM

Quite the sweet looking doggie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted By: DancingCavy

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 05/15/16 02:07 PM

She's doing SO well!! I wish I didn't have so spend so much time on her physical therapy exercises but it's clear they're making a huge difference. smile
Posted By: Charlotte

Re: Risa's Back Issues - 05/17/16 06:50 PM

Yay! So happy to hear she is feeling better!
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