On Monday we had one of our many trips to visit the rehab vet that keeps Griffin and Viktor as well as possible after past health challenges. For both of the dogs it was a recheck and hoping that nothing new would be discovered. We now have a board certified rehab vet at OSU – a 15 minute drive from home but with the complications for both Griffin and Viktor, we’ll keep up with our (now infrequent) trips to Minnesota.
Viktor had his highest weight ever – 40lbs now! He had some soreness…probably from Tonks occasionally running into him during play. There are some changes with his muscles in his front legs – we’re hoping it’s due to not swimming (much) over the winter. So with swimming and new exercises we should hopefully see him back to where he was or better.
At one point during the exam, the vet had trouble looking at his front paws because there was a lot of “forestry” in there due to his morning adventures.
Griffin was fine which is great news. I want him as healthy and happy for as long as possible. Tonks went in for a weight and to resolve an ongoing debate about her size. 45lbs which is lower than I expected.
Our summer has been so busy – this trip should have happened 4-6 weeks sooner but we did finally make it up for our re-checks with the rehab vet! We also do adventures with our friends. While it’s a long drive, it’s never quite as bad as I think it will be. We have a really nice routine now and I’m not worried about getting there on time.
This trip all the dogs got some shorter or longer times running in woods/pastures. Tonks swam in a river! And a lake! And played fetch with an unknown child! We did walks in town (not so great….more training!), visited two regular parks, visited a state park! We got a lot done!
Blaze: Blaze is almost 15.5. Our goals are to keep him as happy, healthy, and comfortable as possible. We modified his exercises, will be feeding him just a little more, and overall he really is doing quite well.
Griffin: Mostly well. I mis-understood one set of exercises last time so we’ll be making some changes to try and get him to keep his back feet tucked in a little more and to hopefully make his down position better (for competition activities!). He’s happy and doing well. The worst part was how sad he was to be there – luckily his stress response is to get more wiggly/jumpy – not anything unsafe.
Tonks: At the last minute we added in an appointment for her. We’ve been having trouble training the tunnel for agility. She’s not getting as enthusiastic as I would expect. And while this could be a training issue, I wanted to be sure it wasn’t a health related challenge. We did find one minor thing to work on with her shoulders – but that likely isn’t our tunnel problem – so back to training!
Viktor: He’s our primary reason for visits at this point – we’re monitoring his front legs for problems that we noticed when he was about 10 weeks old. We’ve been going up to this vet since then to try and minimize the potential damage and increase his chances for a pain-free life. His measurements were mostly the same. He was not painful. He is looking better and better physically. And now we have (limited!) unrestricted activity! He is allowed to frolic and run!
We got back on Tuesday and weren’t able to go hiking until Thursday – and we did our first longer “hike” since he was about 10 weeks old. 15 minutes long… but we’ll increase from there.
We have the best rehab vet! We’ve gone many times before for all of the dogs. This was a recheck day.
Blaze: Pain management is much better! We’re going to even try reducing one of his meds to twice a day instead of three times. Some of his exercises are being changed – adding in some easy cavaletti ( ground poles to walk over), pivoting, side passing (walking sideways), and a few other small changes. Our goals are to maintain his comfort level and maintain/increase mobility. In some ways we’re fighting a losing battle – he’s 15+ now and nothing can make him a young dog, but we don’t want to lose what we have and we may be able to make some small improvements.
Griffin: I was the most worried about Griffin! There’s nothing very different – but he has never moved well while walking/trotting, he still can’t do a stand to down with all paws still, and he makes funny breathing noises when heeling. We’re changing some of his exercises and will see what happens, he felt good to the vet and is doing well at agility so we don’t have any cause for concern yet.
Viktor: Yay Viktor!! If we moved his elbows to a normal position, his leg rotation was within the realm of normal! We have more/different exercises to continue to increase his use of his pectoral muscles. Now that it’s warm we’ll be able to do outdoor swimming. We’ve tried doing water treadmill at a facility near home but he will be much happier swimming outside. We’re waiting for his ribs to ‘spring’ and chest to widen. Griffin was over 2 when this happened with him. At 2 years we will also do his hip and elbow xrays to get more information too.
Best news: We don’t need to come back for 3 months!
Yesterday we took Fanny and Epic to the Chicago airport. One of the challenges of flying with bigger dogs is that not all international airports can take bigger crates – or at least not with direct flights. We got there with plenty of extra time and walked dogs around the airport parking lot. Griffin and Epic loved that walk because the grounds are a great rabbit breeding ground. Rabbits all over!
After the airport, I went over to a nearby training facility to watch some classes. I saw some nosework classes – one was really nice with several instructors at outdoor locations and students rotating between stations. Inside, I saw some agility and barn hunt. The agility classes were different intermediate and advanced levels. I really liked some parts of it – they used the space well and the students were very happy. I wasn’t able to stay and ask all the questions I had, but hopefully I’ll be able to stop in again at some point in the future. I like watching other classes to get ideas of strengths/weaknesses in our classes.
We then drove north – but had to stop for the night when there was a huge rain storm. In the morning we finished our drive to Madison, WI. I had found out from Griffin’s family that the vet school is doing a study on laryngeal paralysis – a condition that effects some older dogs, and especially in breeds like golden retrievers. Blaze (15 years!) hasn’t been formally diagnosed but likely has the condition (changed bark, heavy breathing, regurgitating food). They took him back and did neurological exams, blood draws, and some other things. The vets suspect he does have it and that explains some of his weakness/changes in mobility though there could be other neurological reasons too. All four limbs showed abnormal results on the neuro exam. I’m not incredibly surprised – it’s hard to know which part of the weakness is from this condition or from general aging. I didn’t learn much from it – but hopefully he’s useful to the study and finding more about the condition as well as the corresponding conditions in people. I’ve spent quite a bit of time at vet schools (OSU for various things, Purdue for the behavior clinic) and was very impressed with the staff/students in Madison. They did a great job handling my dog and managing the waiting room.
We make occasional trips up to Minnesota to see our favorite rehab vet. We first went for Griffin’s injury… but now Viktor goes for his legs and Blaze goes to help maintain/improve his mobility. Our last trip was in October and while we should have gone in December, I was too worried about driving in winter weather. This time we were prepared to cancel – but the timing was perfect, we had beautiful days, some bad fog on the way back, and got home well before 12″ of snow fell up there!
This time we took a friend and her dogs and thanks to some magic and finding the right crates we were able to transport 6 dogs safely! It’s a much nicer drive with a second person – someone to supervise the car while the other is in a store/bathroom/getting food and an extra set of hands – for calling 911 about a semi truck completely on fire…
We visited our friend Megan and got to run our dogs at her farm. We didn’t end up with much time to go far – but the dogs thought it was great and were very, very happy to frolic in the snow. This weekend was only the second time Tonks has been in any amount of snow because of our mild winter. She kept loosing her ball in the snow and we did end up having to leave one there.
Sunday night we had a “senior dog sleepover” and (almost) 15 year old Blaze and 16 year old Bailey slept crated in the same room (due to space in the other rooms). Blaze did not want photography in the morning – he wanted breakfast!
Blaze has gained some weight since our last trip (yay) but not enough. We’ll be doing some different exercises to help strengthen his back end again and keep him moving as well as possible. I’m very happy with how well he’s doing considering his age and breed. While we waited at the rehab vet, many of the dogs we saw come through were older dogs. I really wish we had a resource like this locally!
Viktor: His leg rotation hasn’t changed measurably since October. We’ll be changing his exercises too to better help him move, increase specific muscles that might help his feet, and we’ll try taking him off pain meds! Hopefully we’ll be able to do some water treadmill locally to help us get by until we can go swimming again soon. One of the things we are watching for his how he moves his back end in play – he gets a “zoomy” look and tucks in his tail/back end as he runs – some dogs do this as part of their joyful frolic, but it’s most of how he moves. Maybe he’s just inefficient or it could be adjusting for his front end and any discomfort int he past.
Griffin didn’t have an appointment this time and Tonks doesn’t need to go back until she’s grown up (2 years).
It’s really hard to get away – I have to cancel classes/get subs/ plan ahead and I wish I could go and stay up there a bit longer! We’ll be going back in about two months, maybe being able to do another trial/event while we’re up there. I’m always excited to see what progress we’ve made!
The fun part of our trip was the obedience trial, but the real reason we drove 12 hours (each way) was to take the dogs to our very favorite rehab vet and especially for Viktor (click here for our last update). We’re supposed to go back in a few months but I’m scared to make this trip in the winter!
Viktor: We are especially interested in how much his toes rotate from straight/normal. He showed improvement from our previous visit. How much is from our exercises and how much is from growth/development – we don’t know. But we’re happy he’s making improvements. Best of all, no pain! We made some modifications to his exercises – one now involves wearing a theraband and tieing him up like a present. He doesn’t like getting it on but then he doesn’t mind.
He’s still on restricted activity. I had broken some of the recommendations and had let him run/play fetch a little on non-slip, soft surfaces and only for a few minutes each day. We’ve been given permission to continue this. He’s been doing better at home since we started this little bit of activity and while it may be a compromise with his physical health, it’s a compromise I’m willing to take.
Tonks: We had a puppy check to potentially identify any challenges. Nothing abnormal noted, she doesn’t have to go back until she’s 24 months.
Blaze: He’s now 14.5+ and still able to get into a lot of trouble! The best thing about his somewhat reduced mobility is that he’s currently the only dog who can be contained behind a gate. He hasn’t had an appointment since the spring and we made quite a few changes for him. His mobility is about the same as it was then but he has lost a lot of weight and there was more pain than noted in the past. He now has new pain meds to try, modified exercises, and diet changes. Additional food, soaking his food, and increased carbs and fat in his diet.
Viktor is supposed to go back in a few months – we’ll have to see if that can happen. I’m scared of driving in the snow and the Minnesota winter lasts a really long time!
Last weekend was yet another trip up to Minnesota. Our primary purpose was another check for Viktor. As always, we try to fit in as much adventure as possible!
We left Ohio on Saturday afternoon after classes and headed to Chicago. We were just a little late for an evening training lesson with a puppy there. It was a perfect break location. Both Viktor and Griffin got to spend time as a helper dog. From there, we continued North with a few stops for sleep and walks. We arrived in Hugo, MN just a few minutes before the trial started!
Griffin and I participated in a Companion Dog Sports Program (CDSP) obedience trial. We first heard about this when I attended a seminar on the program way back in 2007. At the time, this was one of a very few obedience options for mix breed dogs and it provided some alternative exercises to AKC. Some of the exercises are a little easier, others are a little harder and some parts are just different. Food is allowed in the ring, but must remain in a pocket until the end of an exercise.
We went in with very little warm up and got our best obedience score to date – 197.5! And a lot of our points were lost due to handler errors! I made a big mistake in not reading the rules before we left home – I did look at a score sheet but apparently the one I read was out of date. We got to briefly meet Laura and her dogs. She was a great ring crew person and I’m glad Griffin didn’t jump on her or the judge (my obedience fear!).
Key variations: No group stays – the dog stays in the middle of the ring while the handler walks around just like in AKC Beginner Novice/Pre-Novice. There is a person distraction during the heeling (walking past) – Griffin didn’t even notice. The stand is from heeling, the handler should stop and tell the dog to stand – this is where I messed up – I kept walking instead of stopping with him! And the recall is over a jump. The dogs get lower jump heights and exceptions are made for even lower if needed. I was puzzled by Griffin’s 14″….and then found out that as a veteran dog of 7+ years, he was automatically given an even lower height! What will he think when we go back to AKC and he’s jumping 20!
I really liked the CDSP trial and this is something we are hoping to bring to central Ohio in the very near future. Griffin did well on his second run. I went to register for a third – but there were only two events that day!
The event also had a World Cynosport Rally (WCRL) trial. I didn’t enter Griffin because we have many opportunities to do that at home and I’d rather spend my trial fees for other events. I did desperately want to participate during a level 2 course where the dogs had to heel past bowls of food – we’ve never seen a judge brave enough (me included) to offer that at home.
Blaze was entered in a Level 1 B run and got his tenth passing score in that level – which makes him a “Level 1 Champion” – it’s been almost 14 years since we did his first show (early August 2001), he’s very much the same dog!
After the trial I did as many social things as I could with my friend (pet supply store! running errands! cleaning the car! grilling dinner!) and then on Monday we did our vet appointments. We had interesting perspectives from the orthopedic surgeon, but thankfully the xrays weren’t much different than our previous trip and his growth appears to be slowing. At the rehab vet, we modified his exercises, made some changes to his diet, and I was surprised to see that some of the measurements were actually improved from last time. He doesn’t look better, but the numbers can’t lie! We also are likely having some problems with pano (growing pains) and while I feel bad for Viktor to be in more discomfort – at least this is a normal challenge! We have two months until our next trip for Viktor.
Griffin has been on limited activity after being diagnosed with an iliopsoas injury in early June. He had seemed off for a few weeks before that and a trip to his regular veterinarian was unproductive. We saw a vet who specializes in physical rehabilitation and is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner.
Griffin has had this injury two years ago and may not have fully healed. My training notes indicate he had some changes to his jumping style last fall.
We initially had a few weeks of no activity (crating, on a leash in the house, outside only to eliminate on leash) and since then have been gradually increasing his range of activities. Throughout this time we’ve been going to the clinic for cold laser therapy and time on an underwater treadmill, initially 3 times a week. Now we are doing periods of jogging and running (on leash) and more exercises and stretches.
A few dog motion and health resources:
This summer the American Kennel Club has run a “Canine Athlete Initiative” and has a series of podcasts that are relevant to almost all dog owners. The list includes conditioning, rehabilitation, osteoarthritis, pain management, and more.
The University of Minnesota has a website about “Gait and Footfalls” in dogs. It has animations showing how animals (mostly dogs) move and which feet are hitting the ground.
Here’s a “Canine Lameness Learning Module” that I absolutely love. You can look at three different dogs; a dog with hip dysplasia, a dog with a cranial cruciate ligament rupture (knee injury), and a normal dog. For each of these, you can speed up or slow down the motion and the dogs can be seen at a walk, at a trot, and on stairs. You can view the dogs from the top, front, back, or side. It’s a fabulous tool for learning how dogs move!