Saturday, 16 January 2010

Poor old dog.

Our 8.5 year old collie X has had a rough couple of months. I had noticed some lameness on our walks, had examined his joints and found he had pain in his right front carpus ( wrist joint) and his hips. I made a mental note to have him admitted to a local surgery for Xrays but life got in the way and it wasn't until he somehow tore his lower eyelid, and needed a few sutures, that I managed to get the Xrays done.
They showed he had some arthritic changes in his right hip but there was nothing obvious in the front leg. I started to make an effort to let him eat less of the kids' toast ( he's a cuddly 35 kg when he *should* be under 30kg) and give him some anti inflammatories when required. That hasn't been often- maybe a couple of days a month?

Then a month ago, one Saturday night, he went out for a wee and didn't come back in. My DH and I were watching a movie and suddenly there was a terrible screaming from our garden. We rushed outside and W was dragging himself along by his front legs; his hind legs were in a state of rigid paralysis, known as Schiff-Sherrington Syndrome. It's usually associated with severe spinal injuries so it was obvious he needed urgent attention. Unfortunately I had had a couple of drinks so didn't dare drive but luckily I have a lovely neighbour who got out of bed and drove W and I to the nearest 24 hour emergency clinic.
It was obvious that they could do very little without knowing what was going on, so we were referred up to the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals at the Royal Vet College in Potters Bar where they have a resident neurologist.

We arrived at the QMHA around 1am and were seen by the neurologist. He examined W and told us he thought W had probably had an fibrocartilagenous embolism (FCE) or a prolapsed disc; there was also the possibility of a tumour.
Long story short, an MRI a couple of days later showed he had had an FCE. This isn't that common so although I read about it at Uni, I've not actually encountered a case myself. In general practice a lot of Neurology cases tend to get referred on if the owners have insurance or can afford it so maybe I have seen one without knowing?

Anyhow, a small piece of the disc that sits between the bones in the spine enters and blocks a blood vessel supplying the spinal cord, and suddenly it doesn't work any more. Hence, the paralysis. It often occurs in younger dogs, W is pretty old for it to have happened and the history often includes the dog running after something and stopping suddenly. In W's case, we think he probably chased one of our cats over the garden fence. Owners often report their dogs screamed or yelped when it first happened but they seem pain free after that.
The good news is that these dogs usually improve to the point where they can get around by themselves without any surgery or medication. It takes time and physiotherapy/hydrotherapy helps. W is one of the majority; he's pretty steady on his feet although has a strange way of carrying his left hind leg. He also drags it a bit when he's tired and has made his nails bleed a couple of times so I'm going to get him a boot for that foot. 5 weeks later it's probably as good as it's going to get.

The problem is, his left hind was his 'good' leg, as he has arthritis in his right hip. So the pain in that hip is starting to affect him when we are walking. The recent snow and ice hasn't helped. Today he started crying and limping about 10 mins into a walk in the wood so we had to turn back early. I've started him on a week long course of Rimadyl to calm down any inflammation but am also starting him on a course of Mobile Bones
to see if that will help him. It's a powder that is sprinkled on his food once a day and a pack costing £9.99 will last us over 3 weeks. It contains glucosamine, MSM and Omega 3 & 6 plus other ingredients that may help dogs with joint disease and some dogs show an improvement in the first week of taking it. Fingers crossed; if it helps W I may try some myself.....

Oh and finally, a quick note on insurance; We have a bog standard annual policy that will pay out up to £2.5K per condition. Can I just say this probably isn't enough if something like this happens to your dog? The MRI itself cost over £1K and if he had needed surgery, we'd have needed to find about !k from somewhere else on top of what the insurance would pay. Incidentally I thought the costs at the QMHA were very reasonable; when I got the bill I was pleasantly surprised!

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