My yellow Lab, Socrates, just turned 12. About two years ago he became reluctant to go up and down stairs and started moping. I started giving him megadoses of Ester-C (G/C supplements gave him diarrhea) and that seemed to help. After 4 days he was chasing balls again, although he still had a little trouble with stairs.
Then about a year ago he started stumbling when we went on walks. My vet said that he probably had arthritis or displaysia and that a hip replacement would fix it. He prescribed Rimadyl, which didn't help much and also gave him diarrhea, so I stopped after a few days. Over the next several weeks he got worse and worse. He started walking on his knuckles (hind legs only) and swaying and tripping himself when his legs crossed. In March I took him to a different vet, who watched him walk and said that he appeared to have DM or disk disease but that at his age there was little that could be done. He prescribed some vitamins and Metacam, but after 4 days of that regimen his condition got even worse, so I stopped those medications as well.
When he started pooping in his bed I decided to give him some 4-year-old prednisone tablets that I had in the cabinet--20 mg per day, in the morning--because I didn't see how things could get any worse. Within a couple of days he was getting up by himself, and after eight days he could walk around the block (3/4 mile) with a normal gait. It was like a miracle! But I scaled back to 20 mg every other day and immediately he started declining again. I tried resuming 20 mg per day, but he never improved as much as he did that first week. I alternated with daily pred for 5 days, then every other day for 5 days, then every third day for 5 days, then every day again. Sometimes I tried gave him an aspirin on the days he didn't get Pred (not realizing that aspirin and pred could eat holes in his stomach!). Over the next four months he continued to worsened until he was again unable to walk for more than just a few feet.
I cut off the pred completely when he got pneumonia and had to go to the emergency clinic. He didn't eat for 3 days and had tarry poop. Blood tests showed possible Pancreatitis.
I got some Previcox from the vet. It gave him diarrhea and didn't help his hind legs noticeably. After several weeks without medication I tried one week of daily Prednisone, which restored his control over his bowels but didn't help much with walking this time. I took him off Pred and after a week put him back on Previcox for 12 days. Then he got pneumonia again, went back to the hospital, and wouldn't eat for 4 days. The latest vet thought he might have lumbosacral syndrome because his bladder was distended.
So for the past six weeks he has only been taking antibiotics (the vet said to leave him on amoxicillan for several weeks) and I started him back on Ester-C again. He has little control over his bladder or bowels. I have to slingwalk him and have started expressing his bladder four times a day. He can stand for a few seconds but can't walk. I can't bring myself to put him down because he loves to eat and loves to have his belly scratched. He even decides some days that he wants to go on those 3/4 mile walks around the block again (although slingwalking a 90 lb dog that distance is not fun.)
I'm considering taking him in for back surgery. Has anyone had a positive outcome with back surgery on an older lab? Otherwise, I'll probably just continue this routine until his front legs start to go too.
My 'gut feel', if Soc were my dog, is to find a veterinary chiropractor to consult / examine / treat if need be. Especially since the pred., which is anti-inflammatory, seemed to help so much.
Be sure that the person is a licensed veterinarian and has had chiropractic training specific to dogs.
Perhaps 'google' "veterinary chiropractic' .....
Last month my 12 year old (ok, she will be officially 12 in two weeks) was showing definite signs of pain; panting, depression, holding her ears tensely, lying with her tail between or close to her hind legs, almost constant 'shivering' of her hindquarters,and I did see her drag the top of one hind foot on two occasions. I am extremely fortunate in that my vet of many years has branched out to include alternative modalities, chiropractic being one of them.
Auggie showed great improvement after the first adjustment, and had another adjustment a week later. So that right now she appears 'pain free', seems much more comfortable, and has gone back to going out for cattle chores with hubby and following him around more.
Chiropractic sound like it might be a possibly hopeful yet non-invasive option for Socrates.
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." author Will Rogers
Auggie 12/29/95 ~ 01/15/09
My dog, Brandy, had LS disease & had surgery for it. If you haven't done an MRI, you might want to consider that first. Brandy's symptoms weren't consistent, and the neurosurgeon (!) didn't think there was anything worth looking at until she saw the MRI results & she was staggered. Just goes to show you what dogs can put up with.
Anyway, she had the surgery & was good to go after about 8 weeks. But with such an old fellow ...
The other thing I found out was that in addition to the LS disease, she had other spinal "issues" & it might have just been a matter of time before something else went wrong with her back.
Again, if you're really serious about getting to the root of this, an MRI might be the only way to do it. Soft tissue problems won't show up on regular x-rays.
Good luck ...
I know how much hard work it can be having a dog that needs help getting around. One of my dogs Blue, a cattle dog x, lost the use of his back legs last March/April. He does very well on our laminate floors because he is quite strong in his front end and can drag himself around. Did think that he had degenerative myelopathy to start with but not so sure now because it doesn't seem to be progressing to his front end. He has been pretty good about going out to the toilet when he needs to until recently but he is 16 years old now and having quite a few accidents in the house.
On of my other dogs has Wobblers disease and got very bad with a lots of "episodes". We put Matt onto a long course of Preds (3 months) and he also had acupuncture. I not sure that the preds helped all that much but the acupuncture has been terrific. Matt has now gone about 3 months without any sort of knuckling, wobbling, spastic legs etc.
You might want to consider acupuncture as an alternative treatment. Blue also had acupuncture and it helped relieve the pain he has in his spine.
Wishing you and Socrates all the best.
Won't someone please feed me!
Thank you everyone for your advice. I'll look into the alternative treatments, and if I take him to a surgeon I'll ask about the MRI.
Here is a very informative website on degenerative myelopathy. It's about Dm in GSDs, but it has a lot of useful information for all breeds.
I have found both acupuncture and chiropractic treatments to be very helpful with back/hip problems in my older dogs. I took my 12 year old in recently (mid-Dec.), had to lift her into the car to go to the appointment, she jumped in on her own after the appointment and has been moving much better ever since.