The undemanding patient

01:07, Jun 14 2012

How do you keep a high-energy dog inside her crate for three straight weeks, as your vet has commanded? Well, in our case, it's been less of a problem than I expected.

Phoebe last went on a walk on May 31, just before her hind legs began collapsing whenever she tried to stand. Since then she's been in her crate the whole time - apart from a couple of visits to the vet, one careful session lying on a lap, and three or four toilet breaks a day.

X-rays showed that Phoebe has calcium deposits on three vertebrae. The effect (as I understand it) is that the softer discs between the bones of her back have much less room and are therefore being pressed on. Long-backed, short-legged dogs are prone to just this kind of condition, often around the age - 4 years - that Phoebe is now.

So Phoebe is on two meds and "strict bed rest" until we know if surgery is going to be needed. Getting a pill (or, annoyingly in this case, half or quarter of a pill) into Phoebe is easy: just press it into a shred of sandwich-cheese, squash it into a lump, and get it within snout distance of her.

More surprisingly, the strict bed rest has also turned out to be easy. Phoebe stays all day in her well-padded crate and agitates to be freed only when she needs a toilet stop. When she does, I carry the crate out to the front yard, leash her and let her do her business. Afterwards, she totters straight back to the crate. She'll bark at an outdoor sound such as a visitor arriving, but otherwise is quiet.

So the wilful, sometimes bitchy Phoebe has turned out to be an excellent (i.e. undemanding) patient, something I wouldn't have bet money on. Or maybe dogs, when they're injured, become temporarily sensible?

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The reward is that she does seem to be getting better. She's still tottery, but seems stronger than a week ago and is in better spirits. She looks front-heavy, since my partner clipped her close around the butt and tail when Phoebe was going through a bout of diarrhoea.

I imagine that Phoebe is sticking to her crate because she knows she's unwell. She knows that if she moves around, it can hurt like hell. If I stoop to look into her crate, she often utters a low growl, as if to say "I don't want you to move me." But when she starts to feel better, she'll want out, and that's when I'm expecting an era of whining and barking to begin.

But who knows? She has surprised me so far.

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