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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Breeder,Behaviorist, formerVet Asst
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 19832
Experience:  Former vol Vet Assistant.Breeder 18+ years Dog trainer / behaviorist
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My 4 yo Chihuahua mix has been sick for about 2 weeks now.

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My 4 yo Chihuahua mix has been sick for about 2 weeks now. She has been walking slowly with her back hunched up, grunting in pain. She has been eating a drinking normally. She doesn't have a fever. We took her to the vet and they did xrays, blood work, fluids, and a combination of meds. However, everything was normal. Xrays and bloodwork was perfect. 2 weeks later and she is still sick. Her stomach is not protruding, but she does tense up when she is grunting. At this point I am unsure what is going on with her. The first vet visit cost me over $600 with no resolution. I don't want to keep having hefty bet bills just to find out all test are normal, but still having a sick dog. Please let me know what you think.
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Have you looked to see if there is a wound on their foot?
Customer: Yes, no wounds. The pain is coming from her stomach. Not leg or foot. No limping at all.
JA: The Expert will know what to do. What is the dog's name?
Customer: Bella
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Bella?
Customer: She has never been pregnant and the last time she was in heat was a little over 6 months ago.

Hi JaCustomer,

Welcome to Just Answer. My name is Jane. I have been involved professionally with dogs in the healthcare and behavioral fields for over 20 years. I’ve worked as a Vet Assistant and Behaviorist and have extensive experience in dog reproduction, as a breeder, for even longer than that.. Canine behavioral issues and training are also my specialties. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

Unfortunately, x-rays are not the best diagnostic tool for a dog showing a hunched back appearance. A hunched back appearance often indicates upper abdominal pain or back issues. The testing would have ruled out many causes of upper abdominal pain however, x-rays might not rule out disc issues. Additional images such as a myelogram, CT scan or MRI would be needed to do that.

With a back issue, it is usually treated with anti-inflammatory medications often with pain relieving properties as well. However, to really get the best benefit, the dog should be kept inactive for at least a week meaning strict crate rest and only short leashed walks for elimination purposes. The dog should only be picked up properly with one hand on the chest and scooping the rear legs so no undue weight is put on the discs of the back. Many dogs with back issues avoid jumping and stairs if they can.

If Bella was given anti-inflammatory medications and is still on them, you might go ahead and try the strict inactivity for a week and see if there is improvement. If so, a longer period of inactivity may allow the disc time enough to heal and no longer be an issue. Disc issues are a problem in longer backed breeds like dachshunds and chihuahua.

Buffered aspirin can be given to a dog with a dosage of up to 5-10 mg per pound every 12 hours for pain. Keep in mind that a dog's body does not metabolize aspirin in the same way as a human and thus should not be given more than a day or two without contacting your Vet. The aspirin may need to clear your dog’s system before other medications can be given, so keep that in mind if you decide to give aspirin and be sure and tell your vet when your dog is seen. If your dog was on another anti-inflammatory medication, it would likely need to clear the system as well before aspirin could be used so consult your vet if that was the case. Read side effects and precautions here.

I do want to mention that usually pressing along the back doesn't trigger a response from a dog with a disc issue. Often it is one specific type of movement that triggers discomfort and since a dog isn't totally sure what movement does it, they adopt the hunched walk to avoid it. Now upper abdominal pain can also cause a hunched appearance but those illnesses like pancreatitis can be diagnosed with bloodwork and examination. Also with many abdominal issues a dog will not have a normal appetite and will have other symptoms such as vomiting and/or diarrhea.

I hope I've given you a different direction to explore and Bella's discomfort is eased. If so, I'd appreciate a 5 star rating. The rating should be based on my answer and not any site issue. Experts are not compensated until a rating is done. If you have any other questions at all, please reply here and I'll be happy to follow up with you even after you have rated. .

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you for responding. So a disc issue would cause the tensing of the stomach, hunched back, grunting, and shivering with pain? When she does quiver, it is allover, but maining in the back legs.
Also, I did receive another opinion from a vet on a similar website. He explained that it could be a uterine infection. Do you think that could be plausible?
Would constipation cause these symptoms? She does seem to strain when she is having a bowel movement. However, she has been going. I have been implementing pumpkin puree in her diet. The vet that I took her to told me to put her on a bland diet of chicken and rice. How long can I keep her on this diet?

If she is having bowel movements then she is not constipated. Adding a little canned pumpkin (not pie filling) will help make her feces more pliable but still firm and relieve the straining. A disc issue will definitely cause the symptoms you are seeing (all of them). A uterine infection would cause similar symptoms but bloodwork should have shown infection and your vet should have caught that cause. Uterine infections usually occur 2-3 months after a heat cycle not 6 months though they can happen at any time. They also usually strike older dogs.

A chicken and rice diet is just to help with stomach related issues. Pepcid might help as well. Read about Pepcid dosages and usage information here:

Chicken and rice is usually used for a few days before transitioning back to a dogs regular food. It is just to give the stomach a rest.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Okay sounds good. As far as treatment would another vet visit be absolutely neccassary? Or do you think at home treatment is reasonable? How long will she display these symptoms? Is it at all life threatening?

You can just do the strict inactivity for a week without medications if you have finished any anti-inflammatory medications that the vet prescribed. Then a vet visit would not be needed. However, due to possiblem interactions between aspirin and pain medications, I wouldn't chance giving aspirin without consulting your vet even if it was just over the phone. Disc issues are not life threatening but can lead to paralysis over a period of time. If it is just an injury it should heal though. Uterine infections are life threatening but as I mentioned, your vet should have caught that since massive infections do indeed show up in bloodwork.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Okay. I haven't received any anti inflammatory drugs from her vet. If I did however decide to have another test done to check for the disc issue, how much would It run me?

This is a hard question as the cost varies widely from area to area. The following site goes over rough estimates for each imaging choice.

For the most accurate estimate, calling around to a few vets in your area and asking the general cost for imaging of the disc would give you the vest idea.

Jane Lefler and other Dog Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you so much for all of your help. It is greatly appreciated!

You are very welcome.

I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Jane Lefler
Customer: replied 28 days ago.
It seems like that definitely was the issue. I got her anti-inflammatory meds and she is doing much better. Thank you so much for your help.

I'm so glad she is doing better. That is what counts.

Customer: replied 28 days ago.
Thank you for following up!