Today’s must read: Breast cancer survivor Sue Glader’s inspiring blog post on staring down the N-word. Wise words for people facing cancer, but also for those of us whose pets face critical diseases or disabling injuries. Too often we, as well, are told no. No, your dog can’t have a good life with degenerative myelopathy. No, your cat will never walk again. No, you should put your pet to sleep. Thank you, Sue, for encouraging us to “juke, jive, bob and weave around the negatives in life.” Some people do it to live, we do it to love.
Archive for the ‘Disk Disease in Dogs and Cats (IVDD)’ Category
Our post on how to keep your dog out of rehab sparked a conversation here at Scout’s House about some of the most common conditions we see. We were sure we knew what we saw the most, but after running a few statistical reports, even we were surprised at the results.
Number One complaint? Osteoarthritis–by a landslide. Not surprising when you think about it–most animals coming in for physical rehab therapy are bound to have arthritis, along with other ailments, but we thought we saw more dogs with neurological issues. We were wrong.
We were wrong, too, about the second most common complaint: knee problems related to the cranial cruciate ligament, or CCL. Many of the dogs we’ve seen were recovering from one of the various surgeries used to fix a CCL rupture–TPLO, TTA, tightrope, or extracapsular–although a handful were hoping to avoid surgery with conservative management. Of course, some of them had had surgery years before and were having problems with that knee (or stifle) now. Can you say arthritis?
And while we would have guessed stifle problems were the third most common complaint amongst our patients, disk issues win there. Intervertebral disk disease, disk ruptures, laminectomy surgeries–we see them all.
Wrapping up our Top 6: unidentified “rear limb weakness,” hip dysplasia, and degenerative myelopathy.
Coming up next: Some of the unbelievable predicaments our patients have gotten into–and ended up in rehab because of!
1) Keep Your Dog on A Leash—You wouldn’t believe how many dogs we’ve seen at Scout’s House who suddenly bolted away from their owners and got hit by cars (HBCs, in vet med lingo). Use a leash and you’ll spare yourself the expense of rehab—and surgery.
2) Don’t Let Your Dog Jump Off Furniture—Little dogs especially but big dogs too can do a lot of front limb damage jumping off of beds, sofas, out of the car or SUV. Train your dog to use stairs or a ramp or even to wait for you to put them on the ground. (Or don’t let them on the furniture in the first place. Yeah, right!)
3) Put The Kibosh on Squirrel-Chasing—A veterinary orthopedic surgeon we know gives a slide show on knee surgery for dogs (CCL repair, as it’s known) and always asks the audience what’s the number one cause of CCL tears. The answer: squirrels. Not hard to believe if you’ve ever seen a squirrel-crazed dog take off after her favorite fluffy prey! Unfortunately, ball-chasing isn’t much better for dog knees.
4) Keep Her Lean—Fat dogs are more prone to a whole host of medical problems, including arthritis, disk ruptures, and those nasty CCL tears we just talked about. Keep your girl (or boy) lean and you’ll improve the odds for a healthy dog life.
5) Keep Him Fit—Making sure your dog gets daily, controlled exercise is the best thing you can do for his musculoskeletal health. Brisk walks, boisterous play sessions, any controlled exercise can help keep your dog on the outside looking in at your local rehab center. (The key here is “controlled”—chasing squirrels or balls does not qualify!)
Want to know how physical rehabilitation therapy can help your dog? Click here.
I am not known for my patience. In fact, when I was a kid, my father used to joke that when the good Lord passed out patience, I didn’t bother to wait in line.
As many readers of this blog know, I started Scout’s House because I saw what an incredible difference it made in the life of my own dog. But when I started rehab with Scout, I had no expectations that it would help her. To be honest, she was such a neurological mess, I didn’t think anything could fix her. But rehab did. Not overnight but over months, slowly and steadily. And I’m so glad I was patient enough to give it time to work.
So if there’s one bit of advice I’d give to anyone considering rehab therapy for her or his pet, it’s this: have patience. Too many people come to Scout’s House expecting overnight miracles, but that’s not how rehab therapy—or physical therapy for humans—works. It takes time to regain lost muscle strength, particularly when a leg hasn’t been used for a month or two. And it takes even more time to retrain a brain to move limbs properly again after, say, a disk rupture or an FCE.
We often tell our new clients to start by bringing their pets in twice a week for two to three weeks and by then they should see at least a little improvement. And we say twice a week because often the more therapy a pet gets each week, the more quickly you’ll see gains. It’s just like going to the gym: go once a week and you won’t see much change over the course of several weeks. But go twice a week—or even three times a week—and you’ll improve far more rapidly.
So, if you’re headed to rehab with your pet, have patience and give it time to work. I can’t promise it will–rehab doesn’t help every animal just as physical therapy doesn’t help every human–but if you commit to at least twice a week for two or three weeks, you’ll know if rehab is right for your pet. And you’ll have the peace of mind, knowing you tried.
Having started a rehab therapy center for animals, I often get calls from friends–and friends of friends–about sudden-onset health problems their pets are having. In the last month, though, I’ve had a run on those calls, all from people whose dogs suddenly couldn’t stand or walk. They all wanted to know what to do. And to be honest, I want to scream into the receiver: TAKE YOUR DOG TO THE VETERINARIAN!
If your spouse or parent or child suddenly couldn’t walk, what would you do? Would you call a friend to ask what she or he thinks you should do? Would you just “wait and see” because maybe it’ll get better on its own? No, I don’t think you would. I think, at the very least, you’d call a doctor, who would probably tell you to call 911 as it would clearly be a medical emergency.
Likewise, it is a medical emergency when your dog or cat suddenly can’t stand or walk.
There are any number of reasons for sudden paralysis in pets, but I’m here to tell you, none of them are good. And for most of those issues, time is critical. If it’s a disk rupture, for example, you have a 24-hour window to have a surgery performed that may give your pet a chance to walk again. And if it’s a saddle thrombus, your pet is in excruciating pain and needs to be treated immediately.
So if your dog or cat suddenly can’t walk or use even just one of his or her legs, please call your veterinarian immediately. I guarantee you, it will save you money, time, and heartache in the long run.
For those of us who live with special needs pets, especially geriatric or paralyzed dogs or cats, we understand the dangers of urinary tract infections, or UTIs.
According to an article published in the May 2010 issue of Clinician’s Brief, UTIs develop when the pet’s natural defense mechanisms break down enough to allow virulent microbes to attach and multiply within the urinary tract. In dogs, these microbes are most often E. Coli, a particular nasty bacteria that can be especially problematic for dogs who are paralyzed (such as from degenerative myelopathy or disk disease, or IVDD), dogs with diabetes mellitus or hyperadrenocorticism, dogs who have been on long-term courses of steroids, and dogs who have had indwelling urinary catheters. The risk of getting an E. coli UTI also increases as dogs get older.
Veterinarians often combat E. coli UTIs with antibiotics, repeatedly if a dog suffers from recurring UTIs. But the reality is no one really likes having a pet on antibiotics longterm. As our clients have often asked us at Scout’s House, is there a more natural remedy? Turns out, cranberries just might be the answer.
One cranberry-based product that supports urinary tract health in dogs is Crananidin from NutraMax Labs (the same people who created Cosequin and Dasuquin). As a veterinary researcher from NutraMax recently explained to me, Crananidin uses bioactive proanthocyandins, or PACs, to minimize the ability of the E. coli bacteria to adhere to the bladder wall. She described it as “putting boxing gloves” on the bacteria so that they can’t grab onto the bladder epithelium and are instead flushed out in the dog’s urine. A NutraMax Labs study showed that by Day 7, a once-daily dose of Crananidin increased the bioactivity, or anti-adhesion, of the urine by over 78%.
My understanding is that Crananidin is best used in dogs who get recurrent E. coli UTIs, not for first-timers who really do need antibiotics to knock out the infection. But if your dog suffers from recurrent UTIs, talk to your veterinarian about Crananidin or other cranberry-based remedies. You might be able to avoid that next round of antibiotics after all.
Next up: What about cats?
Great article (albeit a little technical for us lay people!) in Veterinary Practice News by veterinarian Dr. Narda Robinson on the use of low level laser therapy in dogs. One finding cited: “Studies in dogs suggest that LLLT improves neurologic function after IVDD.” For dogs with disk disease, that’s exciting news! Read more:
A blog post by Florida veterinarian Patty Kuhly, VMD, MBA, warns that the sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to dogs, is now being used in some of the pediatric elixirs that veterinarians prescribe for pets. Â Read more, be informed–and never be afraid to ask your veterinarian and your pharmacist to double check that the formulation prescribed for your pet is xylitol-free:
Many people don’t realize that a dog who is unable to walk after spinal surgery for a disk rupture (called a laminectomy) may learn to walk again, particularly with the help of physical rehabilitation therapy.
In this Before & After video from Scout’s House, we show a small dog who was paralyzed following a disk rupture and laminectomy surgery–and who had brain stem complications–but who learned to walk again with the help of rehab therapy from Scout’s House. In fact, this dog even walks better today than in the After portion of this video!
We’ve had more than one client ask us to explain the neurological exam that their pets have undergone, both at the veterinary neurologist’s office and at the initial exam at Scout’s House. Although this article was written for veterinarians, it’s a pretty clear explanation of what your vet is looking for during your pet’s neuro exam:
Making Sense of the Neuro Exam from Veterinary Practice News.