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My 2 year old lab runs and plays but suddenly can’t seem to…

Customer Question
My 2 year old...

My 2 year old lab runs and plays but suddenly can’t seem to jump on the bed or couch, only puts her front paws up

Veterinarian's Assistant: I'll do all I can to help. Strange behavior is often perplexing. I'm sure the Veterinarian can help you. What is the lab's name?

Phoenix

Veterinarian's Assistant: Is there anything else important you think the Veterinarian should know about Phoenix?

Shes eating and acting normal otherwise

Submitted: 4 months ago.Category: Dog Veterinary
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Answered in 1 minute by:
1/4/2018
Dog Veterinarian: Dr. Kara, Veterinarian replied 4 months ago
Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 18,410
Experience: Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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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.

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Dog Veterinarian: Dr. Kara, Veterinarian replied 4 months ago

I am sorry to hear that your girl Phoenix is having trouble jumping up on things.

Has she ever had radiographs of her spine or hips?

It is important to find out whether she is too weak and painful to jump up or whether she has lost the ability to do so.

It is very possible that she is dysplastic. Sometimes it is simply too painful to jump up. Symptoms can happen suddenly if a piece of the arthritic changes in her hip breaks off and is free in the joint. In mild to moderate cases of dysplasia they may be able to walk and run as usual, but having to jump and putting a lot of force on her rear legs/hips is too uncomfortable.

If she is dragging her toes when she walks and runs that can signify neurologic problems, such as an intervertebral disc(s) (cushions between the bony vertebrae) that are out of place or spinal arthritis putting pressure on the spinal cord or even a mass in or around the spinal cord (less likely at her young age).

Another possibility is a condition called FCE, fibrocatilagenous emboli, where a chunk of cartilage breaks off and lodges in the blood vessels that supply the spinal nerve roots. It is very painful initially as blood supply to tissue is blocked off. The pain only lasts a short time, less than a few hours to a day, but the weakness from the nerve damage it causes it can last for weeks or in rare cases is permanent.

Rotties, Labs, and German Shepherds are prone to a disease process that affects the rear legs called lumbosacral stenosis (LSS).
It can have many of the same symptoms as a FCE as it causes neurologic symptoms too. It is caused by weak spinal ligaments that allow the bones in the spinal column to move and place pressure on the spinal cord or it can be due to inflammation of the ligaments inside the spinal cord canal causing pressure on the spinal cord leading to loss of function, just like a FCE.

FCE are initially painful but after that it's just a matter of regaining function.
LSS can be painful on and off until the spinal column is stabilized and the pressure is taken off the spinal cord permanently.

Another possibility if she seems not painful is a condition called ascending myelopathy. This is a progressive degeneration of the spinal nerves that begins with incoordination of the rear legs then progresses to loss of urine and stool control (continence). This seems very unlikely with her as her symptoms came on very suddenly according to your history.

She really needs a veterinary examination as soon as possible. Radiographs to look for a collapsed disc space, arthritis of the spine or hip dysplasia would be helpful. We need to know what the problem is to treat it successfully.

If those look fine then an MRI of her spinal cord in the back of the body will be helpful.

Pain and inflammation in these conditions is controlled with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like Deramaxx or Rimadyl as well as Tramadol and/or Gabapentin.
You can use these with the omega 3's and glucosamines if arthritis or hip dysplasia is diagnosed. These nutraceuticals help improve cartilage and joint fluid health as well as reduce inflammation.

I recommend using a combination of a glucosamine/chondroitin product (examples are Dasuquin or Cosequin) and an omega 3 fatty acid (like 3V Caps or Derm Caps). I recommend an omega 3 fatty acid dose based upon the EPA portion (eicosapentanoic acid) of the supplement as if we do that the rest of the supplement will be properly balanced. Give her 20mg of EPA per pound of body weight per day. For example an 80 pound dog could take 1600mg of EPA per day. Omega 3's and glucosamine/chondroitins work synergistically and improve cartilage health and joint fluid quality and quantity as well as reducing inflammation. They can take several weeks to see full improvement but some dogs do very well with them alone. They are available over the counter.

Another option is a product called Duralactin. This is an anti-inflammatory product derived from milk proteins and it also has omega 3 fatty acids incorporated into it which can be very helpful. See this link for further information: http://www.duralactin.com/products_canine.html

There is no treatment for myelopathy, unfortunately. We can only truly diagnose that condition after death because it requires a biopsy of spinal cord tissue. We usually rule out everything else and with a history of little to no pain and a gradual onset then we assume it is myelopathy.

There is a blood test that looks for genetic markers for the disease. If you want to test her for the disease there is a blood test available which is pretty accurate. Here is a link to a website which will give you information about how to get her tested: http://www.offa.org/dnatesting/dm.html

If she is not responding to cortisone or nonsteroidals then I think that more diagnostic testing should be done. An MRI of her spinal cord will help diagnose intervertebral disc disease or lumbosacral stenosis. Those conditions can be treated surgically.

In the meantime try and keep your pup quiet. With joint disease the more they do, especially jarring activities like running and stairs, the faster the condition can progress.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

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