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I am sorry to hear about this concern.
Well, a few things.
I do not doubt that she is suffering from some degree of degenerative joint disease (arthritis).
The use of the rimadyl is great as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory.
However, dragging of paws or knuckling of the paws (where they flip over) is generally more an indication of a underlying spinal problem (like a disc herniation that is pushing on the spinal cord causing neurologic deficits to those legs).
This is quite common.
So, it is critical to get into a vet for a neurologic assessment and some basic physical exam tests to see if my concern about the back causing this problem is a contributing factor or not.
Treatment options for the spine are limited, and often, without surgery we simply focus on using the best drugs we can to keep them as mobile as possible and comfortable as possible.
In addition to the Rimadyl, if she may be painful, I would also consult with your vet about adding on a true pain medication like Gabapentin or Tramadol. The rimadyl alone may not be getting the job done.
The onset of symptoms has been so rapid, I am concerned that it might be something other that arthritis. Is there a way to determine if it is a disc issue. I just took her in and and the vet looked her over and said she appeared to be healthy. We are now on vacation (she is here with us) and she is tripping over branches or any uneven surfaces on the dirt trails or next to the road. The vet's office has a smooth floor with nothing to trip her up and so they were unable to see her falling and tripping. Would the spinal issue be a result of injury or age?
Lastly, not all non-steroidal medications work equally, so sometimes, it can be worth simply trying a different NSAID like metacam or deramaxx.
Spinal issue would be a result of a fall, irregular twist of the body, etc...kind of like a person.
She seems happy and I have not heard any yelping or other outward signs of a pain.
Well, x-rays of the spine would be the first step to diagnosis. Frequently, when I am worried about the spine, I do refer to a veterinary neurologist for a second opinion. Additional testing can include a MRI or a myelogram (a contrast agent injected around the spine where they vet can look for a deviation or the dye to suggest a disc problem.
It may be well worth the consult with a neurologist. Even if just for their examination, they do GREAT neurologic assessments to determine if the spine can be a problem, and that's before any testing is done.
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If it is a spinal problem, can it be healed or will it be chronic? Should she be resting during vacation or active until we can get her in for an xray?
It will be chronic. Surgery, if indicated, can be performed to help the legs ambulate better in many cases, but that is far ahead of ourselves. Got to get the evaluation done first.
Should she be active or resting during the duration of our vacation?
Active as usually. Certainly, no running or jumping. But, if not painful, and happy otherwise, I would not change her routine.
thanks for you help