Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Little Bear Update

Of course it was inevitable - in spite of the extra trouble and expense of traveling over a hundred miles to a real veterinarian, I still don't know precisely what's wrong with LB's paw.

But at least I know what isn't wrong. LB was a perfect gentleman until the nice blond girl tried to load him onto the table where she could x-ray his paws. They didn't want me in the back lab with the x-ray machine, and that was arguably a mistake. He hates having his paws messed with under the best of conditions, and these weren't that. He'd stayed calm enough in the strange place while Dad was with him. But now he was separated from Dad, strange room, strange person, scary machine.

I've said in the past that beneath the pliant, goofy exterior of my big black hairy monster, there lurks the heart of a ferocious hellbeast. It's best not to tempt the beast to peek out. LB normally likes pretty girls, but he decided to make an exception for this one. I really can't blame him very much. Most pet dogs are only potential predatory carnivores. For the sake of his safety and utility, I've always made sure LB knew his nature was free to lie closer to the surface. We don't live in a park. He's not a vicious guard dog, but he's not a sofa queen, either. He got scared, and he did what he's supposed to do when he gets scared - he defended himself. Nobody was actually injured, but it's a good thing Pretty Blond Girl had a lot of experience with big dogs and knew when to back off. They called me back in to take charge of my monster.

Anyway, we finally got a good picture. And the picture showed two perfectly healthy paws. No bone damage, no apparent trouble with the joints, no foreign objects. The vet said, "So we'll treat it as a soft-tissue injury," and gave me anti-inflammatories to feed him twice a day. They're chewable - like his wormer, I tell him they're treats and he gobbles them right down. He's also supposed to get a lot of rest and not charge around the desert for a couple of weeks, which is what I've been doing with him anyway. I'll just have to see if he heals.

Naturally she also had to say something to scare the bejezus out of me. It seems I need to keep a careful watch, because according to the vet it's just barely possible LB has a disseminated form of something called Valley Fever, which can start with bone and joint problems and can kill him. The chances of that are pretty slight living where he does, but he did start out in the big city where it's common. Wouldn't be the first time I lost an adult animal for something he picked up at birth, so it's got me a little concerned.


Woody said...

I can empathize with you on Little Bear's plight. Pearl had a similar sounding ailment in the knee of her hind leg. After months of expensive diagnosis nothing conclusive was found. The vet decided Pearl's joint needed to be operated on for unspecified reasons. At about the same time it began to swell up. I went to another vet who thought (correctly) that it may have been cancer. We put her on industrial strength pain meds and denied her nothing for the remaining few months of her life. She died at the tender age of 3 and a half. I think of her every day with a tear in my eye.

They do it to you every time. Every dog I've ever lived with has broken my heart in the end and every one of my current companions will also. Even though I know what lies ahead I wouldn't want to live a day without dogs.

I'm hoping Little Bear recovers fully and lives for a long time to come.

MamaLiberty said...

Hate to say it, but unless there is a lot of swelling in the paw or leg, the anti-inflammatory isn't going to do much good and could cause liver problems if they are given regularly for more than a week.

I had to give my old Beagle/doxie such medications when his back got bad a few times, but I only gave it to him when he was obviously hurting. Otherwise, I'd have had to take him in every month for an expensive blood test to monitor the liver.

Always something.

But I'm glad he doesn't have a serious injury anyway. Give him a hug for Mama... if he'll let you. :)

Joel said...

Funny you should say that, ML. I've spent part of the morning looking up the properties and side-effects of Rimadyl, the medicine the vet gave me to give LB. Given the horrifying nature of some of the possible unintended consequences, as opposed to the fact that he HAS no swelling (or indeed any symptoms at all at the moment) I'm seriously re-thinking whether it's a good thing to do.

Claire said...

Joel, my $.02 for what it's worth is to go ahead and give the Rimadyl to LB as prescribed for a week or so, then after that give it when he's hurting.

I'm not sure what horrible side-effects you're reading about; every drug seems to have them and seeing them in cold print can be upsetting, I know.

But Rimadyl is a very common medicine. I've put a couple of dogs on it to very good effect. And with respect for MamaLiberty -- who as a nurse knows much more than I ever will -- I've seen it help dogs who have no obvious swelling, including my Robbie who takes it now and then for a bad knee.

It's like aspirin or ibuprofin in humans. Those are anti-inflammatories and they work great on inflammation we may not see. (Uh ... but just in case anybody reading this is tempted, don't give ibuprofin to your dog, ever.)

I'm sorry you didn't get a clear diagnosis, though. Damn.

LJH said...

I only know what my (trusted) vets tell me - that Rimadyl can cause liver damage over the long haul but is perfectly safe for short periods.

Our old Sicilian mastiff takes both Rimadyl and Tramadol twice a day, otherwise he can't walk at all. No worries about long-term side effects here, he's 15 and failing, we just want his last weeks to be as pain-free as possible. (For him, that is - his passing is gonna be pure hell for us.)

Fingers crossed for the baby Bear, hoping it's resolved quickly.

Kirsten said...

If valley fever is on the table as a possibility, did they do a valley fever titer?

I used to have Pepper tested annually when I lived in Tucson. It's a bit pricey, but I lived in an area with a fair bit of construction. For me it was worth it for the peace of mind.

Another valley fever link you might find interesting/useful:

I also have a Rimadyl prescription for Pepper which is used on an as-needed basis which has so far been just a few days in the winter. They are keeping an eye on her blood tests- no signs of liver issues so far. I think that problem is mainly if they are taking it regularly.

Anonymous said...

Pharmaceuticals have their place so why should any animal be subject to acute pain when the ability to remedy pain is there. I agree with the Rimadyl being used on a as-needed basis, once the initial trauma subsides. My dachshund started with the back troubles many years ago. It was a big help for the pain (though I think daily long term use caused him visual hallucinations). Then he got better and only has flare-ups now. I can tell when he is uncomfortable and will then give him 1/2 a does wonders allowing him to relax long enough to get back to his old self. (My back does the same thing about once a year and 3 vicodins & 24 hours in bed, I'm off to the races for another is a pain to go to a doctor once a year and say "can I have a script for 3 Vicodins?") The dog also has a funny loping gate & sometimes runs on 3 legs with the right hind leg barely making contact with the ground. I have come to think it is just his style and not pain so you have to clue into your dog's quirks.

Dogs are some funny creatures.


MamaLiberty said...

Nobody I know would deny pain relief to our fuzzy friends, me least of all. To destroy their liver in the process would, however, is a serious risk.

Short term therapy, with the minimum dose that is effective, is not usually a problem unless the animal (or human) has some underlying condition that would cause the drug to do more liver harm than usual.

All drugs, chemicals and toxins are processed through the liver as the blood circulates. The liver's job is to remove those things and restore the normal equilibrium of what belongs there. Some of those drugs and chemicals are toxic to the liver itself in sufficient dosage, and some cause problems simply because the equilibrium remains difficult or impossible to maintain.

A baseline liver function test would be good for any dog that needs this (or any potentially liver toxic) medication regularly or even intermittently over a long period of time.

Remember that liver damage can occur and become serious without many (or sometimes even ANY) observable symptoms in the beginning. And when the liver is damaged, it can take a long time to heal - or may prove fatal. Diabetes is just one of the potential complications if the pancreas is damaged as a result.

There are some potentially useful herbal and natural anti-inflammatory agents that humans have been using for some time. Here are some ideas for starters.


Anonymous said...

! ERROR i made an ERROR !

In my previous note above, so correctly I say this: I have not given my dog Rimadyl in a year. For "as-needed" use I use the Tramadol.

My dog has gut problems and we give him a special diet. The Rimadyl really helped but seemed to add to the digestion problems so we got him off of it as soon as it made sense. We still keep Rimadyl on hand but so far the Tramadol does the trick with pain.