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Archive for June, 2009

We began work at Hip Dog Hydrotherapy this week with Ramirez. He’s gone there off and on for the past several years just to get relief from his aching back and neck. This go around is much more serious since we are trying to get his ability to walk back. His muscles are now all in different pain from the strange positions he puts himself in from being topsy turvey, so the massage is a big part of it. For centuries, Hydrotherapy (swim therapy) has helped injured humans heal. Now dogs recovering from various orthopedic, neurological and musculoskeletal injuries, as well as, those affected by arthritis and aging, can benefit from the Hip Dog specialized canine aquatic therapy and fitness program.

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Our usual therapist and friend, Tom, wasn’t at the pool this day. But Cheryl Ann stepped up and gave our boy loving handling and tried to make him feel safe. He did fight us quite a bit in the beginning but it was his first time back in the pool without being able to see or hear so well. I’m sure that affected him. Dakota is trying to cheer him on from the sidelines but Ramirez wasn’t impressed.

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It’s amazing how at his advanced age of 17 he’s retained his incredible muscle mass, especially in his thighs. Most old dogs begin withering away and you can see their muscles melt off their bodies. Though he slept about 23 hours a day before his world was turned upside down with the vestibular disease, he’s still a muscle bound boy. I guess because he’s always so tense, he’s constantly flexing. There’s not a strip of fat on him and there never has been. If he was overweight like a lot of people allow their dogs to be, he’d not have been able to walk a long time ago from his arthritis. He wants to walk again badly. He’s more frustrated than I’ve ever seen him. We pray all these things are helping him.

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I’m supporting his butt and Cheryl Ann is supporting his body weight. He’s kicking his own legs and really trying to go, go, go! Maybe he’s kinda gangsta now with his lean to the right? Back in the day, he was a magnificent swimmer though he disliked the water. He would swim across the pool to me and not even make a splash with his front legs. Didn’t want the water to splash. He was the boogie boarding minpin and would stand proudly daring you to knock him off. Again, so determined because he didn’t want the water to splash.

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Yes, we are encouraged today. I’ll admit, I’ve gone up and down in my level of being positive or accepting defeat. I didn’t know if today would mark the true end to our life with our boy. Ramirez saw Dr. Rick first thing this morning. It’s the first time since his episode last week he’s seen him in person. After watching the video and seeing him today we are all encouraged. The boy is definitely still all there. He’s fighting this with all his might (he was known in obedience class many, many years ago as Ramirez The Mighty!). Time and patience is the only cure.

Ramirez is eating well, drinking well and doing his potty business, all with our help. He’s extremely frustrated with the fact he just can’t go where he wants to go. He’s even more frustrated with his snotty nose and sneezing fits. We are switching antihistamines today to see if he can get some relief. We will begin some different types of therapies with Hip Dog. Not sure if he will do any swimming, have to see what his stress level is. We don’t want to do anything to cause more stress but massage, reiki, acupuncture are all on the table to help our boy feel better. Whew! I know I feel better today, as does Scottie and Dr. Rick. Everyone in the clinic was afraid we were putting him down today.

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Here’s an overview of what’s going on with him:

The vestibular system is primarily responsible for keeping the head and body in the correct orientation with respect to gravity.

This system will alert the brain if we are standing, sitting, lying down, falling, spinning in circles, and keeps the body balanced. The vestibular system is comprised of nerves that start in the brain and continue to the inner ear. The sensors in the inner ear are responsible for informing the brain about any movement. Vestibular disease affects the ability of the brain to recognize abnormal body positions and also affects the brain’s ability to correct these abnormalities.

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Disorders of the vestibular system are divided into central vestibular disease and peripheral vestibular disease.

Central vestibular disease occurs due to an abnormality within the brain. Peripheral vestibular disease occurs due to an abnormality within the nerves of the inner ear.

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Most cases of vestibular disease are peripheral and no known cause is determined. These are referred to as idiopathic.

Vestibular disease typically affects older dogs with an average age of 12 to 13 years. Animals afflicted with vestibular disease become suddenly very dizzy and the symptoms can be very drastic and frightening to the owner.

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Dr. Rick has been caring for Ramirez since he was a puppy. He’s been through a tremendous amount of things with this dog. He performed his first tonsillectomy on him when he was 1! We’ve all become family and any time there’s been something wrong with Ramirez we all feel it. He doesn’t want to lose him any more than we do.

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He’s checking his reflexes, which are slowed but still there. We can’t say if there isn’t brain damage or a brain tumor in addition to the vestibular disease. The only way to determine those things would be to have an MRI done. We have a specialty vet practice here who could do it but he would have to be put under anesthesia and none of us feel comfortable with that right now.

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He gets a well deserved rest after his exam. Life will continue to be scheduled around his needs for the immediate future.

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