The hardest thing about owning a pooch that you love more than life itself, is watching them grow old. It’s even harder than watching yourself grow old. No matter how many dogs you will own over your lifetime, you just can’t hardly stand to see them start slowing down, not able to enjoy the things they always loved to do. Our first dog Willie lived to be 17, and we said never, ever again will we go through the pain of saying that final farewell. And as most of you know, we took the pooch plunge again within 5 long and lonely months. We just couldn’t survive without a pup in our lives to put a smile on our face, to lift our spirits when we were sad and to share our love with.
As humans, we know that part of life is having a few things start hurting as the years of wear and tear start to impact our joints and muscles. But to watch our dogs struggle to pull themselves up or even walk a straight line, appearing to have one too many toddies, can break your heart. We remember how rambunctious they were as young pups, how they used to race around the house, teasing their sibling into chasing after them and how they loved to catch a ball for what seemed like hours. In the case of our male dog Bristol, he loved to play soccer with a blue ball until he was practically dizzy from spinning circles all around the yard.
Will played a lot of sports in school and had the usual injuries that come along with high school basketball and baseball. From the time we first met, his back would lock up from just bending over to pick up a feather off the floor. He did the usual injections, chiropractic sessions, massages and finally gave in to back surgery about 8 years ago. Never, ever, ever go that route, it didn’t fix a thing and only caused new issues to arise, like being unable to walk out of the hospital without a walker. Not a good thing for a kennel owner that just bought a business the year before. This summer his pain got the better of him and he practically had to give up walking and standing much at all.
At the same time, Bristol has had a zig-zag tail all his life, like the “Z” tail on Rocky the Mountain Lion, the Denver Nuggets mascot. We’ve met thousands of dogs over the years at our Doggy Daycare, but never have we seen a dog with a Z tail. He’s always had a peculiar gate and a balance issue when he does certain things, but it never stopped him from standing on his rear legs to play with our Mollie girl and it certainly never stopped him from trying to playfully mount his best buds during playtime for seven years.
But the years ticked by and all of sudden Bristol was having back issues, struggling to pull himself up and slowing down a lot. We discovered that he too was having spinal stenosis just like Will, causing his rear leg muscles to atrophy and his front legs had to start bearing more of the weight than the normal 60-40 ratio seen in healthy dogs.
Will finally found relief through a new type of anti-inflammatory injection throughout his lower spine that allowed him to start working on his core strength and muscles that will help with his extremely painful spinal stenosis. Surgery is rarely used any longer with back issues as there are advanced methods of injection treatments, laser treatments and of course physical therapy.
In the meantime, we had tried Rimadyl with Bristol, acupuncture and cold laser treatments with some minimal success. Imagine our surprise this morning when we took him in for a Canine Rehabilitation evaluation and discovered that he has almost the same issues as Will, but luckily doesn’t seem to be in much pain and his disease is still in the early stages, allowing for a lot of amazing physical therapy with equipment you can even make yourself. Of course it is pretty expensive, after paying $200 for the evaluation, we also added an expensive pair of $210 “Toe-Up’s” that are made here in Colorado that help pull up the tips of his toes to remind him how to lift his feet up and not drag the tops of the feet on the pavement during his short walks. But it’s a lot cheaper than surgery and much more effective.
We saw many dogs come in with similar types of neurological disorders throughout our years at the Doggy Daycare, and not once did we hear about these types of treatments. Wonder why? Most veterinarians are trained to promote immunizations, dental care spaying and neutering and of course some also do emergency care. What amazed us was how few are actually trained in nutrition and rehabilitative care. If we really love our dogs, they need more than just vaccinations and good food as they get old.
We worked with many veterinarians in the Denver area, and only Dr. Sandel promoted the importance of proper nutrition and exercise. She recently recommended that Bristol get an assessment from Canine & Conditioning Rehabilitation Group, with several locations in Colorado. She recognized that this is not her speciality and therefore felt another more qualified veterinarian might be able to help Bristol. Many states have very few of these types of facilities, so we feel really lucky to have found somewhere that will provide simple and less invasive solutions, just like the ones that Will experienced this summer.
Choose your veterinarians carefully, as they will be with you from the time you walk through the doors with that sweet little puppy in your arms, until that old dog starts limping slowly, in such a short time that it feels like a quick blink of an eye.
There are many options available today for Old Dogs of every size, shape, type and, oh yeah, species!