“G’day – You must be the vet?” a friendly smile greeted me as I climbed out of the vet van.
“I am indeed!” I replied. “And I must be in the right place, too?”
“You sure are,” he said. “Come on in, and out the back – the old fella’s out there in the back yard…”
Before long I was settled on a comfy seat, and had my computer out and ready to go. There was a huge Maremma dog woofing at me from a bit of a distance. Before too long he came over and gave me a good sniff all over, and then prowled about looking at me suspiciously and giving the odd bark just to let the world know that there was a strange man in his territory. I could see that he was very, very stiff and sore, his gait was halting and painful.
“What’s up with the old man?” I asked.
“He’s just not enjoying his walks any more, you know… We go down to the beach and he runs around like a crazy thing, as if nothing’s wrong, then the next morning he can hardly get up, and he’s groaning and carrying on like a pork chop.” he said. “I was wondering if he might have hurt himself somehow, or something?”
The old dog had flopped to the ground in the middle of this – he obviously couldn’t maintain a standing posture for very long at all. I went over to him, and started to gently examine his tired old body. As soon as I laid my hand on his body he twitched, and looked around at me, tense and concerned. I gave him a scratch under his jowls until he relaxed, and then went back to assessing his pain and stiffness. His body was screaming under my hands – all down his spine even with the gentlest palpation he was reactive and tense.
“He’s got pretty severe arthritis,” I explained. “And the other major problem he has is that he’s obese.”
“Obese?” he replied with a hurt, disbelieving look. “Surely he’s not too fat, I don’t feed him much.”
“Oh yes, he’s definitely obese,” I said. “Look at this – I should be able to feel the bump of his ribs with light pressure along his side, and theres a good two inches of padding there! He’ll need some body work and a series of cartrophen injections to help with the arthritic pain, along with some green mussel extract tablets every day, and anti inflammatories for bad days, but the single most effective treatment to help reduce his pain and discomfort is to get him back to being skinny.”
“He loves his tucker,” his dad said, with a disbelieving shake of his head. “He’ll drive me mental if I don’t give him enough!”
“I can see he loves his tucker,” I said, with a smile. “He’ll get used to less food after a month or two, you’ll see. And he’ll be so much happier.”
A lot of discussion unfolded, and in the end I beat down all of his objections. The treatment plan was a series of cartrophen injections, one a week for a month with some massage and bodywork at the same time, the green lipped mussel capsules on a day, and then follow up visits once a month for bodywork and cartrophen injections (and, though I didn’t tell him this, so I could keep an eye on the diet and make sure the old dog was losing weight!). I had to work so gently with him that first visit, easing the screaming pain and tension out of his body. He wasn’t at all sure about me touching these aching, tight areas, but he did settle in and relax after a while, and every now and then he’d have a huge streatch while i worked on him. Then I headed off, on my way home after a busy day…
— 18 months later —
“G’day Doctor Ed,” the same cheery smile greeted me. “Good to see you – the old fella’s out the back as usual, waiting to have his visit.”
When I sat down he jumped up and came over – I was struck by the difference in him – lean, happy, able to get up and down without too much trouble, able to stand for ages without having to flop down, and so, so much happier.
“Jeez, Doc,” his dad said. “You know, I didn’t think he’d ever get back to being so mobile. He nearly killed me with complaining about that diet in the first three months, you know, the old bugger, and it took months to see a good difference – but look at him now! Happy as! And that with you only coming to see him every three months, too. I can’t believe the change in him.”
“He’s a different dog!” I agreed, as I worked through his back, and he relaxed and wagged happily.
A textbook case of redeeming an old dog with really severe arthritis!