The undemanding patient

NICK BARNETT
Last updated 13:07 14/06/2012

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.

Injured PhoebePhoebe 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?

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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17 comments
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Jess   #1   01:30 pm Jun 14 2012

Poor Phoebe :( Your very lucky though! My baby had OCD in her legs and had to have surgery, which then required she be on crate rest. She was most unimpressed! I'm surprised we didn't get the neighbours ringing the SPCA for suspected animal abuse with all the noise Maddy was making! Good luck with Phoebe's recovery, I hope she feels better soon the poor thing.

Ms+S   #2   01:32 pm Jun 14 2012

Sounds a lot easier than a 6 mth old puppy who was on kennel rest for 4 weeks after surgery on both her hocks. She has osteochondrotis. 3 and a bit months later, and she is still on a restricted exercise regime. Kept in a seperate pen from her big bro all day, then playing under supervision only when I am home. If they start to get too boisterous (at 34kgs and 38kgs), one has to go outside for a quick 'timeout' to calm down. It's a slow, expensive, and time consuming problem, but worth the effort. Hopefully she will be 100% ok once she stops growing.

Helen   #3   01:36 pm Jun 14 2012

Thanks for the update Nick - fingers crossed for your star patient making a full recovery is on the horizon. How is Connor taking it? Is he upset that Phoebe can't come out & play? On these cold mornings a snuggly crate is a nice place to be. Max & Basil send "get well" woof ruufffffff

2 cats 2 dogs   #4   01:43 pm Jun 14 2012

Awh, what a cute photo. Good to hear she is sticking to doctors orders and I hope she makes a full recovery. Piglet has 2 slipped discs in her back due to a car accident years ago. Most of the time she is fine but occasionally she gets a flare up so it's off to the vet for a shot of doggy morphine. She ends up sitting somewhere warm for hours staring at nothing, poor wee thing. She has learnt not to jump up so high or to over exert herself in case she hurts her back again

LoriM   #5   02:25 pm Jun 14 2012

Poor Phoebe, hopefully Connor is also respecting the bed-rest and not trying to get his play-mate up! Fingers crossed that she doesn't need surgery.

Chrissi   #6   03:29 pm Jun 14 2012

At least you got her on rest before things got too bad, best wishes for her recovery. When we got our cat "done", she came home with 4 stitches in her stomach on the evening of the op, by the next morning there were 3, it stayed at that number all day. The morning after, she was down to just 1. A quick trip back to the vet to get a cone stopped her pulling the last one out, but it was a tense half hour of finding that she only had one left and calling the vet, while trying to stop her curling up as though to wash and pulling at it with her teeth, then getting out for the cone (had to take her along to keep an eye on her). She was most unimpressed that we stopped her.

Gigi Ewing   #7   03:53 pm Jun 14 2012

Glad to hear that wee Phoebe is on the road to recovery. My former dachshund went through a similar affliction and was on crate-rest as well. She was on Prednisone and a pain killer and it totally contributed to her being quiet and calm. It is not a surprise that Phoebe is open to her "bed rest," as her memory of the back pain is still fresh in her mind. Very normal. Keep up the good work and pretty soon, she will be back to her stubborn, annoying and fabulous dachsie self! Sending healing thoughts to her and patience for you.

mchaggis   #8   04:31 pm Jun 14 2012

Pleased to hear Phoebe seems to be recovering Nick. That is good news.

I think animals know what's best for them when their are either unwell or injured. They sensibly go with their instincts, something which seems lost in the human species!

MRG   #9   07:42 pm Jun 14 2012

Alot of animals when injured try and find an enclosed, darkish spot to hole up in. It is their instinct to do so, as they fear attack or expulsion from the pack/herd.

Our cat Max ( he has been on Furry Friday before with Juno the doberman) dislocated his back leg a while ago. He managed to get home somehow (we live up in the pacific and he has a huge area of agriculture fields surrounding us full of mice to hunt). Found him meowing for help at the bottom of the stairs.

As there are no vets here - it was a case of wait and see how he did. he spent close on two weeks, by choice, in his "box" (an empty wine box with some old blanket bits in it). The fact that Juno spent most of that week sleeping in front of the opening to the box, presumably to "protect" Max may also had something to do with it.

He slowly recovered, but is not really his old self any more. He used to be a highly independent cat, but now is quite cuddly. Which is annoying at 2 in the morning when he decides he is cold (by local standards) and decided the best place to try and park up is under my chin........

Hope Phoebe gets better soon and does not need surgery.

Eddie   #10   08:13 pm Jun 14 2012

Poor Phoebe. My family's Corgi Nicky yelped after falling down some steps when he was about 8 years old (he was a rescue) and some months later he started to lose the use of his back legs. He was treated with steroids and seemed to be improving and then he overdid it and got worse again. Unfortunately we had to have him put to sleep. It was heartbreaking. It was so hard trying to keep him still as he constantly wanted to follow me around the house. It became obvious that major back surgery was the only other option, and it was doubtful whether on a dog of his age it would help. I'm glad Phoebe is doing well considering. Nicky also had hip dysplasia coming on, and he was quite overweight.


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