Friday, October 12, 2007

My baby girl is like new again

Those of you who know me at all know that my dog is my child. Just like my cat is my child, but my dog I actually got when I was a child, and we have been through a whole lot together. She is 13 1/2, and I love her dearly.

Before we moved, she became very limpy. Her rear leg was sore, and she often favored it making stairs difficult and jumping on furniture impossible (this was part blessing and part depressing development). When the furniture jumping ceased for her, we passed a new law in these here parts of no more dogs on the sofa or the bed, so that the other wee canine didn't get benefits that Gabby couldn't get. We started supplementing her food with glucosamine tablets, which seemed to help quite a bit for a few months, but recently seemed to not be helping at all.

The move brought a lot of anxiety on my part - we have more stairs here then we used to have, and it was increasingly difficult for her to climb them on her own. Doing so involved getting her focused on the task, and ascending at a very steady pace. Any deviation from the pace or any distractions caused her to lose momentum, and then she would usually fall backwards. If we didn't have a hold on the leash or weren't paying attention, she could have toppled all the way down the stairs doing backward somersaults.

One evening we were watching TV in the bedroom and SB thought it would be nice to give the dogs a little treat and let them on the bed. Since Gabby couldn't jump up anymore, he tried to lift her onto the bed, at which point she snapped at him. This was devastating to me, as she is the sweetest, most gentle dog I think I have ever met, so I knew her lashing out like this meant that she was feeling a lot more pain than we realized.

I made an appointment with the vet with a very clear aim in mind. I just wanted to ease her pain. She is far too old for any surgery, or major procedure, but if we could get a medication or another treatment that would help at all, I was ready to try it. SB was concerned about costs, of course, but our vet is fabulous and usually presents tons of options taking cost into consideration. I was concerned she would say surgery was the only option, and then I would be faced with the decision of letting her go on in so much pain, or putting her down.

She told us that Gabby most likely tore a ligament at some point, and then the extra strain caused her cartilage to wear away in that knee. She said surgery was a possibility, but again age was a a concern. I told her that Gabby has led a fabulous life up until now, and I would just be happy if she was not in pain anymore. She suggested several different treatments, one med by injection, one by pill, and another dietary additive we could try. She said that if we did all of these things at once, we would definitely see improvement, but if cost was a concern, we may want to start with one and then trial and error what works best.

We decided on giving her Meloxicam in pill form. I was extremely pleased to find that since her last vet visit, Gabby has lost 10 pounds! That's huge for a dog, and I attribute it to their new holistic diet, because she definitely hasn't been up for any amount of exercise. But, because of this weight loss, we have to cut her pill in half, and then also shave off about 1/5 of that piece to get her the correct dose. We could have given her the liquid form of the medication, but it is 3 times more expensive, and we weren't even sure it would work.

So, away I went with these pills and a limping dog.

Within two days, it was like she was 5 years old again. The limping stopped, and she started a routine of finishing her dinner, then bringing us a toy to throw down the hall for her to chase. If we didn't throw right away she would bark at us until we did. She has an enthusiasm and vigor she hasn't had for years, even before the limping. Now our other dog looks at us like "when is she going to slow down again - I'm exhausted."

I'm pretty sure her joints are weak because I used to run with her on sidewalks when she was young. I didn't know it was bad for people and dogs at the time, so try not to do it, especially with dog breeds prone to joint problems.

Every night I look at SB and proclaim my amazement at how she has changed over the last few weeks. I am so happy that she is feeling like herself again, and can see how happy she is to be feeling better. I also almost started to cry when two nights ago she jumped up on the bed. I let her hang out there for a while.

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