By Loni Rodriguez, DPT
Having an animal in pain is really scary.
They can’t talk, they can’t tell you what makes it hurt, how severe it is, how it makes them feel, or what makes them feel better.
You can’t ask questions like, “Does eating make the pain worse?”
Or… “Has this been going on for a long time, you just haven’t done anything about it?”
You must rely on watching their body language and for signs of distress. But man, to base your plan of attack on a dogs sign of pain is really challenging.
It is hard because when you see these said signs (shivering, whimpering, panting), you want to try not to freak out and run to the emergency room. Sometimes, things like this just go away on their own. Also, everyone knows how expensive the vet can be and you are 110% at their mercy which means you have to have a trusted source for care.
Gracie (our 5 year-old Long-haired Dachshund) had suddenly began to show signs of distress one day. The signs would fluctuate, but she just was not herself and we made the decision to take her to the vet. After some blood testing and ruling out the real serious things, she was diagnosed with lower back pain. Now, Dachshunds are known for back issues because of their bodies, but she’s 5 years-old! She does love to play, jump and run but has had no prior history of this…
The vet’s treatment plan was high-dose anti-inflammatory medications and ‘crate’-rest for 2 weeks. I asked about physical therapy, I knew that “doggy” chiropractors existed but they didn’t have any resources for us. Nevertheless, we took the docs recommended plan and headed home. Mommy went into PT-mode.
I texted and messaged Instagram friends all over the country to see who knew what I could do for my dog with low back pain. Soon enough, responses poured in and I was in contact with one of the best animal chiropractors! (Social media is WILD). We spoke briefly on the phone and not to my surprise, the vet’s recommendations were pretty poor and she explained that it was a very ancient school of thought. I needed to find myself a local chiropractor for my pup…
A few days went by, Gracie was looking a bit better but still was well below 100%. She was not really eating, not wanting to leave her crate very much (even though that is what was recommended, I left the crate door open). She really was just feeling like crap. During this time, we also have Mr. Tucker (our other pup) right by her side cleaning her ears, eyes and mouth like a caring little bro – the CUTEST thing ever.
A few more days went by, still not looking up for our furry baby. One morning I woke up to get ready to go to OrangeTheory and took Gracie out to pee. She seemed like she had a little pep in her step without showing signs of distress so I was happy. That was until I took her outside and she stumbled and fell over on her hind legs while going to the bathroom. Her back legs were not working normally! That was it, to the vet ER I went at 5:30 am. Even though I could tell she was not in as much pain, I needed to get her looked at.
After waiting patiently and going through with the evaluation with the ER doc, they cleared her for severe loss of function via some testing and diagnosed her with MILD disc herniation and recommended HIGHER-dose pain medication for 6 weeks and complete crate rest (for 6 more weeks).
But she wasn’t in pain? She was actually happy and seeing some improvements? If you clear the big scary diagnoses and say the leg weakness is a sign of a mild disc herniation then why the 6 weeks of bed rest and super high does pain meds that will knock her out?!
Could ANY of this be similar to a human? (I asked, and they said sort of but not really…) They said that if I did not follow these recommendations, I could be looking at severe negative effects and possibly needing surgery…
This seemed WAYYYY too close to some recommendations made to patients in the past who have made amazing strides without heavy meds, rest, or surgery.
Again, I reached out to the trusted chiro and she said PLEASE find a local doc. So… that is what I did. The SAME day that I brought her to the ER, she was seemingly better so I think she was gradually improving in regards to discomfort and pain, but her leg weakness and lack of coordination continued to be present. I absolutely wanted another opinion. I found a doctor of doggy chiropractic medicine that the other chiropractor approved of. We were seen for an appointment and all of my worries and thoughts of having to rest and medicate her were gone. He agreed with some mild disc-related pain, but explained that dogs are self-limiting. They will do as much activity as their bodies can handle. Yes, I needed to keep her from jumping, playing hard with her brother and limit how MUCH play… but to let her play and be normal. He did some gentle work on her and off we went.
Movement was medicine and she is now close to 100% after about a week.
Now… what did I learn from this experience?
It is really hard to trust ANYONE when your loved one is going through pain. You want what is best, but are not sure who’s recommendations to follow.
I need to continue to be very mindful of how I approach education and treatment recommendations for my clients. I found myself reflecting on how I have approached recommendations to patients. I am confident in what I tell people to do, but they HAVE to be confident themselves before they will follow what I have recommended. Even though I really did trust the original “virtual” chiropractor, I was faced with significantly different conflicting recommendations by an ER doctor… I am SO glad that I did not follow the original recommendations.
Find a medical professional that you trust. Find that medical provider that you really feel has your best interest in mind, has the resources to allow you to make your OWN informed decision on how you would like to proceed, AND has enough humility to admit when they may not know exactly what to recommend, but know someone who can help.
If this story resonated with you, please let us know leave a comment below or shoot us an email. If you are a current client and see Gracie in the office on the regular, give her a hug! She is a happy pup who loves attention.
Looking for the doggy chiropractor? Get in touch and I’m happy to share 🙂