DEAR DR. FOX: Three and a half years ago, we adopted our 12th rescue. Each one had his unique challenges and health issues, and we loved them to the end.
Our current dog "fell" off a 30-foot deck and severely injured his spine. We are grateful to his former family who got him the neurosurgery and then gave him up six months later. We were his fourth home in three years, and we are so blessed to have him as part of our family.
Chuckie arrived in a drag bag, secured in a weenie wrap because he had no bowel control. Although our vet was negative at our first appointment, he referred us to a canine rehabilitation center. At the initial evaluation, Chuckie demonstrated no movement from his withers to the tip of his tail, although he could drag himself quickly across the floor to a carpet and flip up onto his front legs and stand for about a minute in full back leg spastic extension. The center drew up a therapeutic plan, and we supplemented his diet with vitamin B-complex, a multivitamin, ArthAway and dimethylglycine.
Chuckie has made remarkable progress in spite of suffering a slipped cervical disc, which, during four weeks of screaming in pain, not one specialist could diagnose with repeated exams, X-rays and two MRIs. We found a canine chiropractor who knew immediately (based on the X-rays) and began treatment. Chuckie now receives a chiropractic adjustment once a month, and has swim, boogie board and treadmill therapy two to three times a week.
Every time we think our dog has reached his maximum potential, he surprises us. Currently, Chuckie is walking in his wheelie in the pool in a back brace, and he is moving his back legs. In his back brace without the wheelie support, he has taken up to 13 ataxic independent steps.
Recently, we started him on a homemade high-protein diet in an effort to help build up muscle, especially in his weaker right thigh. Dr. Fox, I know this little boy can walk! We have tried spandex shorts, bodysuits, toe lifts, back braces and considered custom bracing. Most of the brace experts do not think bracing will help. With all the expenses, I am not sure I want to sink $600 to $1,200 in custom braces that won't help. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? This little guy is happy, funny, plays with our ever-patient cat and makes us laugh every day.
Currently, he takes gabapentin, a muscle relaxer and a muscle builder at night. Any and all ideas you have to offer will be explored, and we will keep you posted. -- P.H.P., Arlington, Virginia
DEAR P.H.P.: I commend you on your compassionate efforts to improve the quality of life for this injured dog.
Until stem-cell therapy is sufficiently advanced to enable possible repair of injured spinal cords, I do not have much more to offer to facilitate your dog's recovery potential beyond what you have already utilized. Regular swimming therapy is excellent, coupled with daily total body massage, as per my book, "The Healing Touch for Dogs."
I would give your dog daily supplements of L-carnitine, chelated magnesium and CoQ10, and continue with the other supplements and treatments. You may wish to consider my home-prepared diet posted on my website, DrFoxVet.net. Feed Chuckie two meals a day after exercising and add turmeric and ginger and a few drops of fish oil to each meal, plus a teaspoon of unsweetened canned pineapple to facilitate digestion. I always add a little plain organic yogurt or kefir to my dog's food as a source of beneficial probiotics.
Some people may question your dedication, spending so much effort and money on "just a dog," but as I see it, to care is to be human -- regardless of species -- and our humanity is as endangered today as the many species that are harmed and threatened with extinction by our singular and collective inhumanity.
SHOULD YOUR DOG BE YOUR RUNNING MATE?
Most dogs like to run, an activity that releases feel-good cannabinoids in their brains, which are rewarding. But not all dogs should be out jogging with their human companions. Hot surfaces in summer can burn their feet. Dogs in poor physical condition, especially older and overweight dogs, and those with orthopedic conditions, should not be taken on long runs. If in doubt, consult with your veterinarian. Dogs with flat faces, like pugs and bulldogs, who generally have difficulty running for any distance, are likely to overheat in hot weather and collapse from heat stroke, which can be fatal.
All things in moderation, regardless of how willing and eager your dog may act in wanting to go out for a run and keep pace with you. Those who walk with their dogs should also be aware of hot sidewalks and heat stress and allow their dogs to sniff and mark as much as they want.
Take water and a suitable drinking container for your dog if you are going to be outdoors for any length of time when it is hot and humid, because dogs pant to keep cool and the evaporation of moisture in their mouths cause rapid dehydration. A wet bandana or ice pack collar around their necks will also help keep them cool.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)