SlimDoggy Jack Health Update

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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 resting on deck

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.

You can see a little bit of the 'sinking' in this photo.

You can see a little bit of the ‘sinking’ in this photo.

Xrays of his back shows spondylosis of his spine, which isn’t unexpected in a dog his age and he thought he had some arthritis and possibly some dysplasia going on in his hips. We decided to start him on Gabapentin, known to help nerve pain (Maggie also takes it). We also decided to take him to a Neurologist to see if I could get a more definitive diagnosis and treatment plan. Unfortunately, I didn’t.
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.

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  1. Oh, poor Jack! I’m so glad he has you guys to love and care for him! I hope the GABA, Prednisone, and different targeted exercises will help the poor guy!! My heart goes out to all of you, and I’ll keep you all in my prayers. POTP to Jack and Maggie.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Why I Trust Our VetMy Profile

  2. hugs to you all… I hope the meds and the therapy will help Jack … I can’t wait to read more about the therapy center and Jacks first visit there :o) …and we cross our paws for Maggie’s vet appointment… we hope you get good news…
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog MISCHIEF MO(A)NDAYMy Profile

  3. So sorry to hear about Jack. Katie had a lot of the same issues for the past two years. She failed that paw reflex test a couple years ago. The one thing we believe and were told by several vets is that the active healthy life she led added years to her life. A couch potato dog would not have made it nearly as long. All the workouts did pay off. We hope he can be comfortable and find a way to deal with his issues as long as possible. I’ve said it many times, but Rejenease made a huge difference for Katie and her rear and issues with walking. The double dose for the first month changed her life. I highly recommend it as something to try. We are thinking of you and both your precious pups.
    Emma recently posted…A Birthday Farewell To My Big Sister KatieMy Profile

  4. So sorry the update isn’t as pawsitive as we would have liked to hear. Having a senior dog has its own set of special challenges; hopefully the water treadmill and therapy center proves to be a big help.

  5. It is so tough as they get old, and I wish you’d had better news for Jack. But it sounds like you are doing everything you can for him to keep him as healthy, strong, and comfortable as possible. I hope the new exercises and water treadmill will help!
    Jan K recently posted…Sweet Sisters SundayMy Profile

  6. It totally stinks when our dogs get old. I mean, there are some nice things about an older dog, but then there are the health issues that aren’t fun. My Shadow used to have a little dementia too and sometimes she would stand in the backyard and look around her in confusion. But she was still sweet and I would nap with her so we could have something interactive to do together. You are taking such good care of Jack and Maggie as he continues aging. 🙂

  7. Bless you, Bless Jack, Bless Maggie, and your hubby! Sending prayers your way…………

  8. Jack is such a sweet guy. Getting old is hard on all of us. ♥ I did meet a man at BlogPaws that invented the Gingerlead. You might want to check it out to help Jacks mobility.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…A Dog-Friendly Visit to the American Rose CenterMy Profile

  9. Thank you for the update. It sucks getting old. Glad you had him all checked out and treating conservatively your going about it all right. Did the doctors mention maybe drugs for the Deminsha? They are out there but we don’t use them in the clinic so don’t know how well they work, the sales reps claim they work.
    Sand spring chesapeakes recently posted…Nothing But Norman #142My Profile

  10. It just breaks your heart watching them age, doesn’t it? Sampson will be 12 end of this month and has similar issues. He also has trembling, mostly in his back legs and our vet says it’s age related, but I’m not entirely sure I agree with it. Regardless, because of his irregular heartbeat and murmur, he cannot have surgery so for the most part, the best we can do is treat him with meds. He is also on the Gabapentin and he gets one Carprofen per day. I also have Tramadol for him, if he seems to be in a lot of pain (which he doesn’t.)

    Thanks for updating us on Jack, I’m praying the PT helps.
    Jodi Stone recently posted…Ding Dong the Walk is DoneMy Profile

    • The Gaba and a dose of Prednisone seems to be helping Jack – we’ve also got him on an exercise program to strengthen his back legs – including water treadmill.
      mkob recently posted…Why Dog Food Labels Suck – Part 1My Profile

  11. Oh Jack, I’m so so sorry to hear that you’ve been somewhat out of sorts later. Paws crossed that your new meds will help you feel stronger. Can’t wait to hear a report of how you’re back to your good ole’ feisty self. Tell them to give you bacon! 🙂 Hugs….

    • Oh, he’d love that! Happy to report he has been doing better – s bit more spring in his step dues to some meds and some added exercise.
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