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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone! Looking for advice/insight re: my 11 year old Aussie who recently presented intermittent lameness. During two separate events in late September and early October, she started limping out of the blue (first event was during a leisurely walk, and second occurrence was after running vigorously with a neighbor's dog). She improved a great deal by the following mornings of these events, but was still not fully weight bearing. My regular vet prescribed rest, anti-inflammatory medication (Metacam), and a neuro consult was also recommended. The neurosurgeon's assessment was a C1-T2 myelopathy (issue with the spinal cord in a nutshell). Disc disease, a tumor or an infection could be causing her symptoms. An MRI (approx. $2.5K) would confirm what we're dealing with. If a disc disease was confirmed (which is the more likely out of the three), a surgery could be done (approx. $3K). Based on the surgeon, success of this procedure would be in the 95th percentile.

I have given her Metacam for 3 weeks, but also understand she cannot stay on this for too long as it can create kidney problems. If I don't opt for an MRI to confirm a diagnostic, and potential surgery if disc related, I suppose the only option would be pain management.

Saw the neurosurgeon again today to assess her condition after 3 weeks of minimal activity + Metacam, and he felt that her neurological functions had not dramatically improved nor declined since his first assessment. He mentioned that I really needed to decide if I wanted to opt for a prolonged pain management approach, or if I wanted to do an MRI, because it would prove tricky to do an MRI down the line as some meds can affect the efficiency of this procedure.

I'm simply asking for some perspectives, perhaps from others who faced this context with their own beloved Aussies/dogs. I've been so distraught, so sad since learning the seriousness of it all... I feel a tremendous amount of guilt thinking that I may have contributed or allowed her to do things that could've lead to this (pulling on the leash, jumping in/out of my car...), although it may also be a genetic fault (I lost my previous dog, a Doberman, to something very similar - I came home one night and she was fully paralyzed). I also feel so bad at the thought of not doing anything and everything possible for her... Even if she came into my life with some special quirks (I adopted her when she was close to 3 years old), she's been nothing short of a blessing. She's the sweetest little soul I know... :(

Apologies for the rambling, and thanks in advance for your comments!
 

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Hard decisions.
I always ask my vets what they would do if it were their dog. They often have a clear perspective on what the treatment is REALLY like.
In general, I don't like doing surgery on old dogs. They often don't bounce back so fast, and sometimes you fix one problem and another appears.
It sounds like they're regarding the MRI as a necessary prelude to surgery (I wouldn't want them doing surgery on me without good imagery of whatever it is that they're trying to fix), so you're talking about $4.5k, in the event that surgery is preferred.
My inclination would be to go for pain management, and look for alternatives to Metacam. When quality of life declines too far, accept the inevitable.
Whatever you do, don't feel guilty. Possibly some exercise routine brought on this problem a little earlier than it would have . . . but I'm 100% sure your dog loved the exercise, and you had no way to predict this outcome, if, indeed, it was an outcome. Quality of life is so much more important than length of life!
 

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Second not to feel guilty <3 NOT That it has any connection to your situation or does it... they do have a nutritional protocol for degenerative myelopathy infection and inflammation is why I am thinking of it..... When I had Haglans deformity it was caused by an injury to my Achilles heel tendon... that injury created inflammation and an infection on the tendon I was crippled by it , the pain was unbearable. ... Surgery would make it worst for the long term out come. so I opted for no surgery. And then a doctor said ultra sound treatments... and it worked . So if there is an infection it maybe like my Achilles tendon that you can't inject anything to relive the situation without destroying the tendon. I had 4 (2 minute) long ultra sound treatments a week apart.... and it was enough to set healing into motion ...

it is rambling on... sorry to grasp at straws... but I would be hopeful if it was only an infection that is causing the inflammation that is causing the problem...
 

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Ask your Vet about Gabapentin for some pain and symptom relief. I think you can use this with metacam, and after you stop using it. You may also want to provide a vitamin supplement of calcium, Vit D, Bi, and folate - again verifying with your Vet.

Cold Laser therapy and acupuncture can help relieve pain. Degenerative myelopathy and some forms of disc disease may include non-pain inducing components that cause reduction in mobility, balance, and continence. I don't know if there is a way to diagnose degenerative myelopathy (and similar issues) in dogs, except by inference and observation. My 16yo dog was beginning to grow incontinent and to fall, with no related pain. He did have arthritis, but he fell due to other causes.

Hydrotherapy and water exercise can help build up muscle and may help protect some of the disc damage. You might be able to construct your own hydrotherapy system from a large tub and some hoses.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hard decisions.
I always ask my vets what they would do if it were their dog. They often have a clear perspective on what the treatment is REALLY like.
In general, I don't like doing surgery on old dogs. They often don't bounce back so fast, and sometimes you fix one problem and another appears.
It sounds like they're regarding the MRI as a necessary prelude to surgery (I wouldn't want them doing surgery on me without good imagery of whatever it is that they're trying to fix), so you're talking about $4.5k, in the event that surgery is preferred.
My inclination would be to go for pain management, and look for alternatives to Metacam. When quality of life declines too far, accept the inevitable.
Whatever you do, don't feel guilty. Possibly some exercise routine brought on this problem a little earlier than it would have . . . but I'm 100% sure your dog loved the exercise, and you had no way to predict this outcome, if, indeed, it was an outcome. Quality of life is so much more important than length of life!
Thank you very much for your message. Good point about asking my vet what he would do in my shoes. My dog's age is also a concern, although I do feel she would have a few more good years in her if it wasn't for this issue. But then again, I could be wrong.

It appears that a MRI is required to come up with a definitive diagnostic, and would of course be essential if a surgery was to be performed. The money factor is undeniable, although I hate putting a value on my dog's life.

I'm also leaning toward pain management, but just when I think that I've made up my mind, doubts creep back in.

Such kind words! My dog also loved a good frisbee session. What Aussie doesn't really?! But surely not all dogs would get hurt over time simply by "being dogs"! Wise words that I will remind myself re: quality of life. Thank you for your insight!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Second not to feel guilty <3 NOT That it has any connection to your situation or does it... they do have a nutritional protocol for degenerative myelopathy infection and inflammation is why I am thinking of it..... When I had Haglans deformity it was caused by an injury to my Achilles heel tendon... that injury created inflammation and an infection on the tendon I was crippled by it , the pain was unbearable. ... Surgery would make it worst for the long term out come. so I opted for no surgery. And then a doctor said ultra sound treatments... and it worked . So if there is an infection it maybe like my Achilles tendon that you can't inject anything to relive the situation without destroying the tendon. I had 4 (2 minute) long ultra sound treatments a week apart.... and it was enough to set healing into motion ...

it is rambling on... sorry to grasp at straws... but I would be hopeful if it was only an infection that is causing the inflammation that is causing the problem...
Thanks so much for your post and compassion. So you mean I should Google/look into "nutritional protocol for degenerative myelopathy"? I'm sorry to learn about your painful experience, but it's really informative to hear about what others go through, dogs or humans, as there are definitively correlations to be made.

In my dog's case, the only way to know for sure if we were dealing with an infection in the spinal cord would be through a MRI. However, the neurosurgeon was leaning toward disc disease.

I take good note of your comments nonetheless. Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Ask your Vet about Gabapentin for some pain and symptom relief. I think you can use this with metacam, and after you stop using it. You may also want to provide a vitamin supplement of calcium, Vit D, Bi, and folate - again verifying with your Vet.

Cold Laser therapy and acupuncture can help relieve pain. Degenerative myelopathy and some forms of disc disease may include non-pain inducing components that cause reduction in mobility, balance, and continence. I don't know if there is a way to diagnose degenerative myelopathy (and similar issues) in dogs, except by inference and observation. My 16yo dog was beginning to grow incontinent and to fall, with no related pain. He did have arthritis, but he fell due to other causes.

Hydrotherapy and water exercise can help build up muscle and may help protect some of the disc damage. You might be able to construct your own hydrotherapy system from a large tub and some hoses.
Thanks for your insightful advice! I started giving Flexadin Plus to my dog a few weeks ago, but will ask my vet about Gabapentin.

Thought of acupuncture or chiropractic treatments, although the neurosurgeon I saw wasn't sold on the efficiency of these methods due to lack of scientific evidence. Of course he has a specific academic bias, and other specialists would have their own as well. Never heard of cold laser therapy but will research it. I find your description of degenerative myelopathy really helpful, and I think one of the hardest things I'm facing other than deciding on what to do, is living with the uncertainty that may come with this condition - will my dog be ok when I come back from work, will she be ok for a few weeks/months before a decline occurs...

Hydrotherapy sounds like a good avenue as well. I've decided to consult another vet (who came highly recommended from a friend who had a German Shepherd with similar symptoms as my dog) to get a second opinion. This vet uses a holistic approach, hence he may offer alternative methods to help my dog that my regular vet doesn't know about, or that the neurosurgeon I saw doesn't believe in. It's a challenge to know who to trust, but all I can do is get as much information as I can, and hope I make the best decision possible for my dog in the circumstances.
 

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I do wish you the best , I do feel there is a connection , similar situations going on with inflammation affecting neurological function especially with an infection as a cause. Dr. Clemmons is where I first read about his work and his view point about DM. I didn't purchase anything, the individual nutrition components made sense to support the body. The best thing we can do is try to understand what is happening in the body and if there is anything to help the body nutrition wise.. physical therapy wise to help the body restore it's self in those areas. Hugs they do grow old and break our hearts and we do the best that we can when we can for them..
 

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Note about "academic bias" - We used cold laser therapy on my dog and it relieved some pain for a few months ... but my old Vet, who went to high school with me, shared with me that many of these treatments can be miracles or snake oil - they only work with some dogs under some circumstances, but there is no downside risk to try.

Conventional doctors tend to be conservative, trying to stick with solutions that work for nearly everyone ... So, if you give your dog glucosamine, some Vets may say don't bother, there's not enough proof. But, I've had human orthopedic surgeon informally recommend glucosamine, b/c it doesn't hurt ... and it does seem to help some people ... and that's the point.

Of course, you want to go with a Vet that you trust ... and not a snake oil salesman ;-)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I do wish you the best , I do feel there is a connection , similar situations going on with inflammation affecting neurological function especially with an infection as a cause. Dr. Clemmons is where I first read about his work and his view point about DM. I didn't purchase anything, the individual nutrition components made sense to support the body. The best thing we can do is try to understand what is happening in the body and if there is anything to help the body nutrition wise.. physical therapy wise to help the body restore it's self in those areas. Hugs they do grow old and break our hearts and we do the best that we can when we can for them..
Thanks for the tips, much appreciated! They do break our hearts, but they are certainly worth the suffering!
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Note about "academic bias" - We used cold laser therapy on my dog and it relieved some pain for a few months ... but my old Vet, who went to high school with me, shared with me that many of these treatments can be miracles or snake oil - they only work with some dogs under some circumstances, but there is no downside risk to try.

Conventional doctors tend to be conservative, trying to stick with solutions that work for nearly everyone ... So, if you give your dog glucosamine, some Vets may say don't bother, there's not enough proof. But, I've had human orthopedic surgeon informally recommend glucosamine, b/c it doesn't hurt ... and it does seem to help some people ... and that's the point.

Of course, you want to go with a Vet that you trust ... and not a snake oil salesman ;-)
Thank you for clearly illustrating how alternative approaches are hits or misses (I don't have much knowledge or experience with them, but I've heard the same thing you've expressed). But when more invasive options are off the table, I feel that they are certainly worth considering. The new vet I saw came highly recommended by a friend, hence no snake oil salesman factor here! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
So, the appointment with the holistic vet proved quite enlightening! After spending 90 minutes with my dog, and looking at her medical records, he couldn't come to the conclusion that something was definitively wrong with her. :redface::clap2:

In a nutshell, he felt that her mobility/stability were normal and that she was in great health overall. With that said, since she had two limping incidents which appeared to be associated with a neurological issue, he asked that I continue to watch her carefully, while slowly allowing her to return to a more normal activity level.

Perhaps she's simply doing better after almost four weeks of very limited activity, Metacam + Flexadin Plus? But just last week, the neurologist felt that her condition was more or less the same as three weeks prior. However, this new vet was puzzled by the neurologist assessments, i.e. the first one said that the neuroanatomic localization was L1-T2, and the more recent one stated right-sided C1-T2 myelopathy. That's a big range.

One thing that vet said which resonated with me was: If you have a headache, do you go see a brain surgeon right away? Touché. He favours conventional medicine without question such as when pain is witnessed, and also aims to avoid putting pets through surgeries if at all possible. But my dog is apparently not (or no longer?) in pain.

So he calmly said to me: Please step away from the edge (how did he know I was just about ready to go over it?), give your dog some homeopathic remedies for 1 month (anti inflammatory and targeting the spinal cord), and let's touch base as required in the next few weeks.

He also shared that Blue Merle Aussies should avoid repetitive vaccination, and to get a Titre test before my dog is due for her next rabies shot, etc. He was fine with Bordetella as long as it was administered through the nose (again because of her colour/breed).

I'm wondering if the lameness she experienced could be linked with the Bordetella vaccine she received in early October (although the fact that her first limping incident was in late September may void this theory)?

BUT -- I just learned that a neighbour on my street found two ticks on her Boxer recently. Although I don't walk my dog in this area (our neighbourhood is on a golf course and some dog owners use the trails surrounding it), could a tick cause what my dog displayed??? Could she also get better with rest alone (and Metacam)? (Also note that my dog is currently on Revolution). I was alerted to this possibility, which I had raised with the neurologist. I had decided to run blood work through his office to eliminate general issues that my dog could have, and the results came back normal, but I later asked him if a tick screening had been included. He said no as he felt that my dog's symptoms were not indicative of Lyme or other tick diseases.

Thoughts?
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Those are questions for the Vet... it is possible, but something the Vet should evaluate based on your specifics.
Looks like the ticks in my area couldn't have caused what my dog had, and that there's no way to know for sure if rest alone made her better, or if/when her symptoms will return.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Curious, how is your dog doing?
I would not trust any vet who recommended homeopathy. It has been widely and deeply debunked. See, eg.,
http://skeptvet.com/Blog/2016/11/victory-the-federal-trade-commission-acknowledges-that-homeopathy-is-a-placebo/
While double merle results in various disorders, I have never heard that blue merle is a problem. See eg.,
http://www.doggenetics.co.uk/problems.html
The theories that vaccination causes immune response are very poorly substantiated.
Thanks for asking! She's doing ok. She's still on a reduced activity-level regiment for a little while longer, but otherwise, she's looking fine and happy. I feel that this vet wouldn't have hesitated to use western medicine if his diagnostic had warranted it, but since my dog appeared healthy when he saw her, I don't think there's any harm in using homeopathic remedies at this time. I also don't feel homeopathy has scientific evidence proving its efficiency, however, I'm now uncertain if I would opt for an invasive approach should some lameness come back. But I suppose I could then look into other alternatives such as chiropractic or rehab specialists for dogs. Time will tell, and in the meantime, I cancelled my travel plans and will stay home with my pup during the holidays! Couldn't imagine leaving her behind!

Thank you for the links. Great resources to have!
 
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