SlimDoggy Jack Health Update
We’ve had some health issues with both Jack & Maggie lately and a lot has happened since our last post about them, so I thought I’d provide an update and outlook. I’ll start with Jack and provide a post for Maggie after her Doctor’s appointment this week.
Jack’s age seems to be catching up with him. Ever since his bout with pancreatitis earlier this year he has really started to slow down. While he will go for his morning walk with me everyday, he’s started to refuse to go on his midday walk with his dog walker. He’s not as alert as he used to be – sleeping very soundly during the day, or sometimes just being a little spacey. He’s also developed a very slight tremor – sometimes just his head, sometimes his whole body. It usually happens when he’s in that kind of spacey place. I think it’s a bit of dementia. His hind legs have also gotten very weak – even with the targeted exercise we do, he’s started that sinking behavior you may have seen in senior dogs. Jack’s can be pretty bad and he has even fallen over a few times.
A trip to our regular vet wasn’t very satisfying as he had no real answers. The tremor he has is very inconsistent, but he actually did it several times so the vet was able to see it. He thought it had more to do with a perception or a general lack of awareness of where his feet and body are and then a startle reaction back to awareness. That’s kind of what it’s like – almost like he’s falling asleep and then jerking himself awake although it can tremor for several seconds. His poor eyesight contributes to his lack of body awareness.
The neurologist stated that Jack appears to have degenerative disk disease, but displays issues in both his front and rear legs. This is indicative of potentially multiple problems not isolated to 1-2 disks. The tremor may also indicate some brain issues as well. Without an MRI, he wouldn’t be able to pinpoint anything specific and even if he could pinpoint the location of the issue, the treatment would be surgery. Given Jack’s age and condition, spinal surgery is not an option. Even the MRI would be taxing. He would have to be sedated for several hours as they would take head to toe MRI. He would also have to stay overnight at the vet in order to have IV fluids pumped through him to flush the MRI dye out of his system.
A pretty taxing test, just to tell us what we really already know – he has degenerative disk disease and probably a touch of dementia. He’s old.
Finally, we took him to our orthopedic vet just to rule out any orthopedic issues. He assessed Jack and found that orthopedically he’s in pretty good shape. He thought he had minimal arthritis and no signs of dysplasia, so that was good news. The tests where they turn their paws over and see if they turn them over again on their own? Well, Jack failed that miserably. A test of his reflexes? Also failed. The vet said he exhibits signs similar to “polyneuropathy” although not as severe and – more likely age related degeneration. He did take blood to run a thyroid test, which came back somewhat on the low side, but not low enough to require treatment.
So, as difficult as it is, we are treating conservatively with the Gabapentin and a course of steroids to help reduce the inflammation. We’ll see how he does and then go from there. He’s been on the Gaba for about a month and the Prednisone for almost three weeks and it does seem to have helped.
We are also going to up his physical rehab and last week we visited the K9 Gym & Rehabilitation Center in Agoura Hills, CA. They provide physical therapy & exercise, holistic medicines and most importantly a water treadmill! The vet explained that his rear leg weakness results from the bridging spondylosis which affects the nerves running to those muscles causing them to atrophy. So even though we walk him everyday and try to provide some rear leg exercise, it’s just not targeted enough. We had one exercise therapy lesson, which we will be writing about and he gets his first water treadmill session next week. Stay tuned for pictures from that! They also recommended those toe grips, so we put a set of those on his rear toes to help him get around on our hardwood floors a little more easily.
It all kind of makes sense if you think of it as a whole. The spondylosis or degeneration is weakening his nerves that run out from his spine, so he has less feeling in his front but more noticeably in his rear legs. That’s causing the weakness and the confusion about where his legs are – he can’t feel them.
We will report on his progress in a few weeks. Here’s hoping the targeted exercise and water treadmill will help him regain some muscle mass.