Slipping and Sliding

Golden retriever Cali with a tennis ballCali’s has an ongoing issue with her back legs slipping out from under her. I’ve seen some posts on the Facebook group (ick, I know) for her Morris Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study mentioning the same thing … but not always with the same results. So I decided to share Cali’s story in hopes that it might help another dog.

She’s had an odd gait for a while, especially running. Her back legs seemed kind of floppy. One friend said it looked like her whole back end was going to just fly off of her body.

She never seemed to be in any pain, though, and loved to run, hike, and jump off the deck to chase tennis balls.

When I noticed that she was swinging her back legs out to the sides while walking, though, I decided to try to figure out what was happening. It was more noticeable on her right side, but both legs were arcing outward when she walked or ran — more noticeably when she was tired. She was also slipping a lot on our hardwood floors and sometimes on the sidewalk.

We went to her Morris study vet, who took some X-rays and decided that Cali had a partial ACL tear. She prescribed Adequan.

I did the Adequan injections for a while, but I did not think it was helping. And I did not think that Cali had a problem with her knee or ACL. She did not seem to be in any pain and still loved running and jumping.

I took her to see another vet in town, whom I have known for years and who is an excellent diagnostician. He examined Cali and watched her walk inside (slippery floor) and outside, and run. He agreed with me that her knees look fine and she did not seem to be in pain. He thought there might be a spinal or neurological issue, and he recommended consulting with a neurologist.

It turns out that veterinary neurologists are few and far between. None are in Montana, but there is one in Pullman, Washington, at the vet school hospital. With a months-long wait for an appointment.

We made an appointment, and waited. In the next couple of blog posts, I will continue Cali’s story.

Is There an Emergency Vet Near You?

A red cross with a paw print in the centerMy sister sent me a link to an alarming article in the Whole Dog Journal about emergency vet services reducing their hours.

The writer, the WDJ editor, says that three clinics in her area had suspended their overnight services, and that she’d heard of this happening in other parts of the country.

Even if you’ve never used an emergency vet, now’s a good time to check out what is available in your area and whether they’ve made changes to their hours.

I decided to do that, and I discovered that both emergency services in Missoula are still working — 5 pm to 8 am weekdays and 24 hours on weekends and holidays. Whew.

When I mentioned the article and the reduced hours, one clinic’s response was “we’re doing quite the opposite!” — they are planning to expand their hours to 24 hours 7 days a week. The other partners with a “regular” vet clinic and is open when that clinic is not, so effectively … yep, 24×7. Missoula’s pets are in good hands.

I’ve been lucky. Cali hasn’t needed emergency services, and the only time Jana did … it didn’t turn out well. But the emergency clinic staff and vets were wonderful, and I was very appreciative that they were available, late at night on a holiday.

The reason clinics are cutting hours appears to be staffing shortages. When I was trying to find specialist services for Cali a few months ago, I ran into that problem: Appointments for the nearest doggy neurologist (3 hours away in Pullman, WA) were booking out several months. They have a shortage of veterinary anesthesiologists, they explained, and they do not want to schedule exams if they cannot then perform the recommended (very costly) scans.

Cali may not need to go; she’s trying some alternative therapy while waiting for her appointment, and it was never an emergency situation.

But I am relieved to know that if we ever do need emergency care, it’s available.

I’ve got both clinics entered into my contacts. But I hope I never need to call them.