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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 16906
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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I have had numerous medical challenges with my 89 year old

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I have had numerous medical challenges with my 89 year old mother for atleast a year and a half now. My dog has taken back seat and myself for doctors appointments. He hasn't had his shots for 2 years now. He is 7. Bijon Shitzu mix. Yesterday when I took him for his walk he could barely move. He is walking very stiff and hunched. He isn't playing around and jumping as normal. When he positions himself to lay down it is a struggle. Does this sound familiar?
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Could be a lot of things that cause lethargy. The Expert will know how to help your dog. What is the dog's name?
Customer: Max
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Max?
Customer: Not that I can think of. He is typically a very spunky dog. Oh the only other thing is he is crated and the morning before last I noticed that he scooted the crate tray out of his cage. He does that periodically but this time it was out completely. I wondered if he got his paws stuck in the wholes while trying to get it out. I felt every part of his body and gently squeezed to see if I could get a reaction from pain but nothing. He is scared and shaking when he tries to stand and walk

Hello, I'm Dr. Kara. I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian and I'd like to help. Please give me a moment to review your concerns.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you!
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I will just call his vet they won't charge me for a phone call thank you anyway

I'm sorry to hear about your struggles with your mom. I can fully empathize having had many struggles with my elderly dad since my mom passed away 2 years ago. It is physically and emotionally draining and it is not uncommon for us to put the rest of our lives on hold.

Max sounds very uncomfortable. Dogs that are painful will walk stiffly, hesitate jumping or climbing stairs and display the sort of behavior he is, either because it hurts to do the activity or because they feel weaker than usual.

Unfortunately both Bichons and Shih Tzus as breeds are prone to a problem with their intervertebral discs, which are the spongy cushions between the individual vertebrae in their back and neck. These spongy discs can move or rupture and place pressure upon the spinal cord which can lead to pain, and in severe cases paralysis.

Radiographs can sometimes be diagnostic but often early on in the disease process, because the discs are soft tissue not bone, everything will look normal. An MRI is the best way of diagnosing disc disease.

If the dog is painful but has no evidence of paralysis we can try strict rest, anti-inflammatories and pain medications for several weeks to allow healing.

If there is evidence or weakness or paralysis then surgery by a board certified veterinary neurologist, as soon as possible, is indicated.

Ideally he does need an appointment with his veterinarian scheduled. If this is indeed a disc problem your veterinarian can prescribe a steroid or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory to relieve pressure on his spinal cord and nerve roots, as well as something for pain too, such as Tramadol. And if he is having painful muscle spasms then a muscle relaxant such as methocarbamol as well.

He should be closely confined starting now. No stairs, running or jumping. Since you have a crate for him I highly recommend using it. The less he moves around the more comfortable he will be and the faster he will heal. He should go out on a leash to relieve himself. Do not use a collar for him, a harness which more evenly distributes forces if he pulls on his leash is better. You will need to confine him for several weeks, even as he starts to feel better or he may reinjure himself. Keeping him on the thin side is recommended to decrease stress on his back, but is no guarantee that he won't have another episode. Once a dog has one bad disc the likelihood of another is very high.

If you are interested in reading more here is a link to an excellent article about intervertebral disc disease, its causes and therapy: http://www.petwave.com/Dogs/Dog-Health-Center/Bone-Joint-Muscle-Disorders/Intervertebral-Disk-Disease/Symptoms.aspx

There are other less common causes of back pain such as infections, tumors of the vertebrae or the spinal cord itself or fibrocartilagenous emboli but far and away disc disease is the most common cause of back pain in dogs.

If you live in an area with lots of ticks I also recommend testing him for tick borne diseases (like Lyme disease) as those too can lead to stiffness and generalized discomfort.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you very much for your time and concern. This was very helpful and I have already made an appointment with his Vet for tomorrow morning. I hope for Max this is an isolate condition and not debilitating as he is a very happy go lucky loveable dog. Thank you again for your advice.

You are very welcome, please let me know how things go for Max.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I certainly will!

Thank you.

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Dr. Kara