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13yr old Lab has very wobbly back legs...

(57 Posts)
ChickenAndSpinachBalti Mon 22-May-17 20:31:35

Back legs have been wobbly for a while. Occasionally going from under her when out for a walk and changing direction. Mentioned it to the vet at her yearly check up in Feb - who said it is just an age thing.

Collapsed on them today for a few moments. She couldn't right herself and only could get back up with help. Seemed a bit stressed out with it all so had a bit of a rest. Has been pootling around again, trotting up and down the garden, weeing OK etc. Seems OK in herself now.

Have booked an appointment with the vet tomorrow. Anyone got any idea if this is a waste of their time? Will they be able to do anything? Should I just cancel it and - well, you know, kind of wait it out until things are...you know.

My beautiful girl - the best dog ever. Anyone have any insight into whether this is kind of it - beginning of the end? sad Do I need to start preparing the DC (and myself) for news?

twentyoneagain Tue 23-May-17 00:42:45

So very sorry to read this.

It's so hard, but I think you know when the time is right. I am at this moment sitting with my thirteen year old Golden Retriever and we have made the decision to call the vet in the morning. He has been on medication for a while now for his back legs and also had a cancerous growth removed two years ago. Up until now he has eaten well and enjoyed short walks but this weekend has virtually stopped eating and just wants to sit and be stroked.

I wish you well and hopefully you still have some happy times with your lovely girl ahead. Is she on any medication?

BiteyShark Tue 23-May-17 08:31:44

OP definitely seek advice from the vets. I know they can't work miracles but hopefully they can check DDog over and treat or manage what ever is causing this. Let us know how you get on flowers

firefighterswife Tue 23-May-17 15:41:26

How did you get on? Did you call the vet x

ChickenAndSpinachBalti Tue 23-May-17 16:19:27

Just got back. DDog is good for a bit. But only a bit sad.

Vet gave her a really thorough examination. Said she was in amazing condition for her age and a fabulous dog <proud>. You could see DDog not best pleased with the vet checking with her back legs - no growling or grumbling, just a slightly askance, "old-lady" look over her shoulder grin .

Vet said the way there was a slight drag to her legs indicated that there was probably something pressing on the nerves in her spine. Could be arthritis/bone based or maybe a soft growth. But in essence means she is losing the feeling in her back legs. Vet could organise tests/x-rays scans etc - but was not sure if necessarily appropriate given her age.

DDog so amazingly good natured Vet said it was impossible to tell if she was in pain - though I said I could tell at home the getting up/down was certainly not comfortable for her.

Vet gave me some painkillers to give DDog so that if she is in any pain (there are certainly signs of arthritis in her joints) that will alleviate it. If it doesn't seem to make much difference then we can leave it.

And as for the dragging legs/possible spine pressure then unfortunately it is just a matter of time. DDog has a happy existence at the moment - but as/when she cannot get herself up or doesn't want to go for walks we should probably make the call for her. If collapsing legs starts to happen more frequently (particularly if it stresses her out) then ditto. I got the impression the Vet was preparing me for this not being something off in the distant future - but to prepare myself for it being at some point over the next few months. Vet looked a bit teary actually. Feel glad to not have to do anything immediately iyswim - but v emotional about the prognosis.

Anyway - thank you for your support. flowers

firefighterswife Tue 23-May-17 16:48:03

So sorry x
Sending you hugs and kind thoughts.
Enjoy every moment with your beautiful dog.

Xflowers

poshme Tue 23-May-17 17:00:22

I read this almost in tears- I have a 13yr old lab & she is getting wobbly back legs. Sounds a bit better than yours- can still get into the car before a (short) walk but not after.
I just can't bear the thought of her going-she's been with me through so much. sad

Booboostwo Tue 23-May-17 21:34:48

I am very sorry it is not better news!

Would you consider a second opinion from a specialist vet? An orthopaedic vet might help arrive at a more definite diagnosis and some issues can be treated, e.g. herniated disc. Is she posing her foot down the wrong way round? Does she have no pain reaction? If yes I would worry about degenerative myelopathy. Sadly there is no treatment for this condition.

Personally I would want to know what it is but I appreciate this may not be the best route to take for everyone. Best of luck with her.

ChickenAndSpinachBalti Tue 23-May-17 22:47:13

Just looked up the herniated disc and she doesn't have any of the other symptoms. She does not appear to be in any severe pain (just possibly general stiffness and arthritis everywhere). Toileting all fine. No fitting or twitching. Etc etc

Vet did ask all these questions (now I know why). Alsoif there is pain re back legs is more a stiffness, if it is there (could be me imagining it). Possibly the slow movement is due to loss of feeling. Vet spent a lot of time feeling spinal area and lot of time testing her back legs in various positions. DDog having a tendancy to stand like a ballet dance at the back..feet crossed and pointing out. Not explaining it well but get saw it Vet suggested more that there was loss of feeling/no pain there. DDog certainly didn't react or "correct" her feet when the vet moved them to a odd position.

Painkillers are more for general (possible) aches and pains. Or maybe for me..to make me feel like I am doing something to help her. Not expecting them to help the wobbly legs though. Will see if they seem to help her slower speed and slightly stuff getting up/down at all, and if not stop them.

So, sorry, long story short, no, I don't think we will get another opinion or carry on with any tests. We will love her and look after her and give her a lovely life. (Though still prod her awake when she chases rabbits in her sleep too enthusiastically and noisily whilst we are trying to watch television! )

ChickenAndSpinachBalti Tue 23-May-17 22:50:41

Pls excuse typos. On phone.

BloodWorries Tue 23-May-17 23:05:17

A few things can help with stiffness and arthritis. It's not a cure, but will make her more comfortable for as long as she has left and might slow down the progression.

Yumove is pretty great, but there are others out there. Chondroitin rich foods (such as chicken feet) can be good. Cartrophen injections can be great too, really helps the hips in some dogs. Reducing any excess weight to ease the pressure, and some gentle massage and using wheat bags for warmth, basically the same as with people.
I really do find it's all about keeping them as comfortable and happy as possible. Once they aren't, it's unfortunately time to let them go. Luckily we can do that humanely and not let them suffer.

Judashascomeintosomemoney Tue 23-May-17 23:17:12

I've got a 13 year old wobbler too. Been on Yumove and Metacam for months which worked well for a while but less so now. She's in remarkably good health otherwise. As your ddog sounds similar I'm surprised your vet hasn't given you other options. We're moving on to Cartrophen injections this week but vets have also suggested acupuncture and/or a new targeted laser treatment for arthritis. We wouldn't be going down this route if she wasn't otherwise healthy, and neither would our vet. Your vet doesn't seem to have explored many options with you, maybe you could ask about them.

Booboostwo Wed 24-May-17 12:18:14

But if the dog doesn't have pain reactions so it seems unlikely to be arthritis.

From what you say it does sound like degenerative myelopathy. It is a peculiar disease, there isn't no treatment but sometimes it can have a very slow progression so there is always hope. I got a doggie wheelchair for my GSD who had DM and it really helped keep him active for longer.

ChickenAndSpinachBalti Wed 24-May-17 12:51:48

I think the arthritis is just a general all over. Vet didn't push the painkillers - but just said they were worth a shot in case she had pain elsewhere/other joints (ie separate from the back leg issue). We are to monitor it - just to see if she seems a bit sprightlier as a result of the painkillers. It will not do anything to impact the back leg drag - but just as a precaution in case she is in old-age pain elsewhere.

TBH if it it means any aches/pains/niggles she is having don't bother her I am happy to spend the money on the painkillers (as long as not doing any harm).

And degenerative myelopathy is quite possibly what the vet said (cannot remember the names - just remember the prognosis).

A couple of the vets in the practice can be a bit quick in their examinations. This one was really, really thorough and I trust what she was saying. I don't think it is the right thing to put her under the stress of further tests and exams and x-rays. She is my elegant, dignified long suffering children climbing all over her old lady.

Hopefully DDog will last a lot longer and the progression of the disease will be slow. But we will watch, and love her and make a call when we need to.

Veterinari Wed 24-May-17 21:42:22

The dog does have pain reactions

You could see DDog not best pleased with the vet checking with her back legs
I said I could tell at home the getting up/down was certainly not comfortable for her.

These indicate pain. Additionally if she has spinal arthritis severe enough to compress her spinal nerves that supply her hindlimbs, she may well have neuropathic pain in addition to the arthritis.

It would be worth asking about gabapentin or amytriptilline in addition to the painkiller prescribed to address any neuropathic pain component and potentially correct any tingling or numbness that she may be experiencing as a result of nerve compression.

Addressing neuropathic signs can make a difference to balance/mobility if she's experiencing reduced sensation or tingling.

ChickenAndSpinachBalti Wed 24-May-17 22:12:34

When I said *You could see DDog not best pleased with the vet checking with her back legs* it was more of a "what are you doing back there?" We have had a fair few visits for her anal glands over the years so she is very disgruntled if anyone in the vet goes near her rear end! I guess I would be if I thought someone may be donning rubber gloves! Again. grin

I think she may have been in some general pain/stiffness getting up and down - front and back joints. Not sure tbh if the painkillers are doing much so thank you for this medication advice. She is on Metacam (NSAID) at the moment.

I am due to speak to the vet in a few days (to discuss whether the prescribed painkillers are doing any good) so I will mention the ones you have suggested (though not sure if I will be able to pronounce them!

Booboostwo Thu 25-May-17 07:49:14

Degenerative myelopathy is quite difficult to diagnose. It's usually diagnosed with the genetic test plus tests to exclude all other causes so you won't really know either way without doing a lot more.

See what your vet thinks but maybe there is no harm in doing trials with different medications and seeing what she responds to.

ChickenAndSpinachBalti Thu 25-May-17 08:37:44

OK - A positive update. DDog chased some pigeons this morning. Didn't catch any (obvs as she is rubbish at chasing anything). But there was a lightness and "bound" to her I hadn't realised had disappeared a bit over the last few weeks. So looks like the painkillers are helping?

Makes me feel very guilty for not having noticed a bit sooner. Though I will allow myself a bit of leeway for not noticing as we had MIL 2 year old DDog staying for the last for 3 weeks so my DDog spends most of her time trying to ignore the irksome teenager dog and just look staid in comparison to the bundle of energy visiting.

It may get me a flaming on here but I am not sure we want to go down the route of lots of tests. Vet did suggest it - that we could find out 100% what was causing it - but not with any encouragement (iykwim).

Will keep any eye on things. Make sure she is happy. Maybe let her lick the dishwasher as it is loaded a bit more.

Thank you all.

tabulahrasa Thu 25-May-17 09:03:32

You want to be (IMO of course) weighing up whether the stress of diagnosing an issue will be worth it in terms of changing treatment.

My dog has spinal pain that we haven't investigated properly - because there are no conditions that could be causing it that we're willing to do other than pain management and we can do that without having to investigate it.

If there was a treatment that would help that wasn't spinal surgery (he should not a good candidate for that because of his medical history and other issues) we'd send him for more x-rays and an MRI, but we can't see any point in putting him through that when the treatment would still just be painkillers.

So no flaming, but, if it could be something treatable and the treatment is something you'd do, it might be worth getting tests, if not, then you're as well just making sure she's comfortable and not getting them done.

Booboostwo Thu 25-May-17 15:30:07

Personally I like knowing what is going on but if your dog is likely to get very stressed at the vets and/or at risk from the anaesthetic then it's not worth it.

Great news that the painkillers are working - if you have a solution then maybe there is no point in knowing what is causing it.

Veterinari Thu 25-May-17 23:00:58

I wouldn't go with further diagnostics but would go with multi-modal (2 or more) analgesia (painkillers)

A 13 year old large breed dog with osteoarthritis WILL be in pain - it's pretty much inevitable, but we tend to put it down to being slow/stiff/old. Old age is not a disease and slowness/stiffness is a sign of pain.

Glad your DDog is starting to feel better OP, and sorry that your Vet wasn't more confident in this. I'd definitely want to consider the possibility of neuropathic pain - a basic Neuro exam looking at how she positions her feet etc will give you some idea of any reduction in sensation that may indicate a neuropathic component without expensive tests.

I wouldn't be looking for degenerative myelopathy or other conditions at this stage without first ruling out the obvious (osteoarthritis and spinal nerve impingement)

Veterinari Thu 25-May-17 23:04:06

Personally I like knowing what is going on
Sadly this drives a lot of owners to put their animals through aversive experiences in order to chase a diagnosis.

I prefer a problem-listing approach where we treat the patient and presenting problems - often this naturally leads to a diagnosis, but its patient-focussed rather than diagnosis- focussed, so their welfare remains paramount, even when having to make difficult decisions without a specific diagnosis.

ChickenAndSpinachBalti Thu 25-May-17 23:41:56

Thank you tabulahrasa you have summed it up - and it was kind of the discussion I had with the vet. Tests etc would find out exactly what was causing it - but would be unlikely to lead to a cure and only give her horrible experiences - so seem pointless to me. The stress of trips to the vets (DDog likes the people but hates the car journey cars, full stop and the whole waiting room stuff) is just not worth it.

She just bounded to greet me after a night out. So definitely feeling better. And thank you Veterinari I will speak to the vet about some additional painkillers. The vet seemed to want me not to be spending money unnecessarily (so only a short does initially in case they didn't work/got an adverse reaction etc). So the fact we are having positive results may indicate additional pain relief may be useful too.

I am obviously sad that she is going downhill overall (but only natural I suppose, given her age) but delighted to see my happy dog bag thanks to some painkillers.

ChickenAndSpinachBalti Thu 25-May-17 23:44:10

Oh and Veterinari the Vet did do quite a lot with DDogs feet. Kind of folding them backwards (so the top of her paws faced down iyswim) - I think to see what DDog did/if she moved them. Is this the kind of neuro exam you are talking about?

Booboostwo Fri 26-May-17 00:30:19

That's a pretty judges and unpleasant post veterinari. I never said I seek a diagnosis at all costs and certainly not at the cost of my animal's welfare! Nor did I suggest the OP do so.

Since we are on the topic though here are a couple of instances of spectacular misdiagnoses by local vets corrected by seeking a firmer diagnosis from a specialist:

- adult GSD limping on front leg, after x-rays vets certain he has bone cancer and should be put to sleep asap to avoid suffering. Orthopedic vet diagnoses an infection which was treated with antibiotics. Dog dies of unrelated condition three years later.

- adult German Spitz with a persistent cough is diagnosed by x-ray with chest tumour, recommendation PTS as too large and awkward to operate. Oncologist looks at me as if I am crazy and sends us to cardiologist who diagnoses an enlarged heart due to a mitral valve defect. Dog lives another seven years on heart medication.

- adult horse has bizarre collapsing incidents in hind leg. Osteopath vet diagnosis misaligned pelvis, horse starts falling over after treatment, I am told that he is 'finding his balance again' and to wait it out. 18 months later following referrals to neuro, ortho and toxicology we find out he has poisoned himself by playing with the bark of a yew tree.

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