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Dr. Gene
Dr. Gene, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 2680
Experience:  DVM degree from Ontario Veterinary College
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My 14.5 yo Husky mix has spinal arthritis. She is unable to

Customer Question

My 14.5 yo Husky mix has spinal arthritis. She is unable to stand up without someone helping her with her harness. The current problem is that cannot defecate from a standing position (she can urinate) and appears to be straining a great deal when she sits on her rump and tries to spin around. She does defecate inside when on her side, and outside when on the ground. What can I do to help her?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Gene replied 1 year ago.

Hi there!

I have a few questions for you:

1. How was the spinal arthritis diagnosed (i.e. physical exam, x-rays, etc)?
2. Can you tell me about how she walks? Does she drag or scuff her rear feet, does she appear wobbly/drunk?
3. What does her stool look like?
4. How long has this been going on?
5. What medications/supplements is she on?
6. Has she had any other treatments/therapies?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
1. MRI
2. Drags both; can be wobbly or fall; does not recognize when pads are folded under both rear legs.
3. Stool varies, but is either normal or soft like cowpie.
4. About 1 month
5. On Mexiletine (150 mg 3 times a day) to normalize ventricular tachychardia and Prednisone (10 mg twice a day)
6. No treatment directed at this problem except to add pumpkin to her food (wet: Wellness meat & sweet potato)
7. Mexiletine on board well before this problem; timing of Prednisone less clear.
Expert:  Dr. Gene replied 1 year ago.

Got it, thank you.

Sounds like a bit more than spinal arthritis. What you describe is consistent with spinal cord disease, e.g. chronic disc herniation or degenerative myelopathy - the spinal cord is either compressed or inflamed (or both) which causes interruption of signals to/from the rear legs resulting in weakness, incoordination, pain or other symptoms. The inability to defecate normally can be due to different reasons:

1. Weakness/incoordination/pain associated with the condition - physical inability to squat for long enough time for normal defecation to take place.
2. Interruption of nerve signals to the colon/rectum, resulting in dysfunction, enough to make defecation difficult.
3. Intestinal disease unrelated to the current condition (such as intestinal infection, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal cancer, etc), causing soft stools, which are more difficult to expel; in combination with the weakness, this makes things even more complicated for her.

I would recommend looking into the soft stools to ensure this is not related to a gastrointestinal problem - consider abdominal x-rays, fecal parasite screening, pancreatitis testing (blood test), intestinal function testing (vitamin B12, folate and TLI test). While waiting for results, I would switch food (at least temporarily) to a low fat, easily digestible diet (your vet can recommend a specific one, but I would use either Hill's Prescription Diet i/d or Royal Canin Gastrointestinal) and a course of a probiotic (e.g. Fortiflora) for 10 days. If all is normal, I would continue the diet (as long as it's helping) and add on medication that can help improve pain control and strength; I would consider switching from prednisone to a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as carprofen or meloxicam (after a 5-7 day "wash out" period - between last dose of prednisone and first dose of NSAID), adding on gabapentin (long term; this drug is used for neuropathic or nerve related pain), a SAMe supplement (e.g. Denamarin) and a omega-3 fatty acid supplement (e.g. Welactin). I would give it 2-3 weeks and re-evaluate; if no improvement, then I would increase the dose of gabapentin and consider adding other pain medications; then if still no improvement after 3-4 weeks, it may be that the mobility of the rear limbs is as good as it gets, unfortunately.

Hope this makes sense and helps. Please let me know if you have other questions.

Expert:  Dr. Gene replied 1 year ago.
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Dr. Gene