Risa quickly deteriorated after earning her RAE at our club’s rally trial. While she’d been clearly sore and uncomfortable before, she was now downright miserable. She yelped in pain and her back muscles were tight. She struggled to get down off the bed even using the makeshift steps. She no longer followed me downstairs and moved gingerly around the house. Laser therapy and pain management with Tramadol had not helped alleviate her discomfort. I took her to get some acupuncture as well and her TCVM vet commented on how sore she was on the left side. After almost 2 weeks of having a lethargic, painful dog whose pitiful looks were breaking my heart; we finally saw an orthopedic specialist. X-rays revealed no arthritic knees as I had expected to see. In fact, Risa’s knees looked downright spectacular! Instead, it was clear her source of pain was a severely bad back. She has some arthritis in her lumbosacral area along with some spondylosis (small bone spurs on the vertebrae causing stiffness). The major problem, however, is in the vertebrae just where her ribcage ends. Where there is normally space and nice cushy cartilage. . .there is nothing. The two bones are smushed up against each other. This is the source of her pain and sinking rear. 🙁 She’s always had back problems; I should have foreseen this.
I was thrilled to finally have an answer. Unfortunately, this means an end to some of the things we enjoy together. There will be no more jumping competitively (I’m thankful we finished her RAE when we did!) and jumping will be limited as much as possible in her life. Stairs and anything requiring up and down movement of the back will also be challenging for her. Her immense joy racing after the lure may be over. She’s also going to have difficulty making tight turns which puts her future in freestyle and Rally Free in jeopardy. Once she’s feeling better, we should still be able to compete in obedience and continue with rally as long as we stay in the lower levels without jumps. Right now, however, this is all up in the air.
Her competitive future, however, is less of a concern at the moment. While that is a thought weighing heavily on my mind (I’m not ready for her to retire!), the more pressing matter is getting her comfortable again. Then we can assess her future in dog sports. 🙂 Fortunately, she’s responded well to taking NSAIDs (Novox) and her spirits are high again. I had missed seeing my smiley face girl and her helicopter tail. Both have returned in full force even if her agility and rear end strength haven’t.
Right now, we’re just trying to figure out what therapies would be best to help her to return to form. She’s never going to be 100% again. At 12 years old with a back as bad as hers, that’s too optimistic to expect. She had a chiropractic adjustment this week and some deep muscle massage (her sides are still so tight) and I’ll have a Back on Track jacket for her to start wearing later this week. Next Tuesday, I have an appointment to talk with her regular veterinarian again to discuss treatment options aside from pain meds. Maybe laser therapy will still be an option now that we know the proper area to treat. I certainly will continue with chiropractic adjustments (the orthopedic vet thought they would be beneficial and Ris has always done well with chiropractic care for her back issues in the past) and add in acupuncture as needed. I just need to find a plan that works best for her with minimal stress (just going to the vet is a stressful event for her and she’s gone in so much as of late!). It still breaks my heart to see her like this even though she’s clearly feeling better. And I know change will not happen overnight. It’s frustrating seeing our beloved friends like this and not being able to help them find relief.