There are common causes behind dog mobility issues, and then there are mysteries. Cookie’s case started as a mystery.
Cookie’s legs transiently not working as if they were partially paralyzed was a mystery. It was nothing I have seen before.
I have put a lot of time and work into taking care of Cookie and figuring out what’s is going on with her legs and how to fix it.
Cookie is a young girl, full of life, and I’ve been really worried about her.
I don’t even want to imagine what not being able to run, play, and chase critters. Because that is her life, what she loves, what makes her happy.
Temporary restrictions are one thing, as long as we can figure this out and fix it. But living with impaired mobility?
The steps we took
After the last event, we immediately made an appointment with her chiropractor and her primary vet. The chiropractic appointment was for Friday, and the primary vet’s appointment was for Monday. In the meantime, when her primary vet read my messages, she also wanted to book her in with an orthopedic specialist. Luckily for us, she was going to be at the vet hospital the following week. We agreed to that and made that appointment as well.
The next day Cookie looked good but we decided to do a leashed walk only just to be sure, particularly until she had a chance to get adjusted. Of course, the leash can restrict her movement geographically, but cannot restrict her enthusiasm much.
When she came back she looked a bit stiff but not bad. It wasn’t until later that day when it was about time for her afternoon walk when I felt she didn’t look quite right. She’d normally mostly relax between her walks but something was telling me she looked TOO quiet.
When hubby asked whether we should start getting ready to go, I expressed my doubts whether we should and whether she’d really want to go.
We decided to put the walk on hold. After further examination, we discovered that the muscles on her pelvis and lower back were brick hard. She is solid and her muscles are tight but they were like rocks. A thorough massage seemed to have loosened them up and make Cookie feel better but we decided she should take it easy anyway.
Appointment with a chiropractor
The next day was Cookie’s chiropractic appointment.
Her pelvis and lower back were quite a mess with substantial joint dysfunction/restrictions. The chiropractor felt that it was indeed possible that these things could be causing her symptoms depending on her movements. But it was important not to jump to the first available conclusion and ignore other potential causes. This made perfect sense to me. The obvious answer may or may not be the right one.
Don’t miss forest for the trees
Fixating on one theory can make one miss what is really going on.
The main worry was that it could be something neurological or systemic. Though we have gone through spinal issues with Jasmine and this didn’t look anything like it. But there is no rule that the same problem couldn’t present differently in different dogs.
I went on to research all potential causes to consider or to be ruled out.
Full range of possibilities ranged from
- parasitic infections
- other infections
- an inflammatory condition
- neurological issues
- immune-mediated disease
- cancer …
Leaving those things on the table to discuss, I felt that systemic didn’t make much sense to me because there was nothing progressive or consistent about the symptoms.
There were also no suspicious findings on Cookie’s recent lab work.
Conditions with transient issues
It made more sense to me to look into and consider things that come with transient problems. And because we didn’t manage to get a video of the event, I grabbed the list I gathered and went on youtube to see whether there would be visual match with any of those.
I reviewed at least a dozen of videos of dogs suffering from each the following: focal motor seizures, myasthenia gravis, and exercise-induced collapse.
None of those was a visual match, not even close.
- focal motor seizure – very little or no control over the limbs; Cookie had control of them they just didn’t respond properly
- myasthenia gravis – a lot of stiffness and rigidness in the affected dogs; Cookie exhibited none of those, her legs were more as if made of rubber rather than stiff
- exercise-induced collapse – heavy panting, all limbs affected, drunken in appearance and falling all over; Cookie didn’t exhibit any of those things
The closest match visually were dogs with DM but it still wasn’t a good match either. Plus that is also progressive.
Revised event notes
Based on that I revised notes from the last event:
- drunken sailor signs – none
- signs of distress observed – none
- typical signs of pain – none as far as I could tell
- heavy panting – none
- trembling or shaking or loss of control of the limbs – none
- stiffness or rigidness observed; rather rubbery, flaccid in appearance – none
- fully alert and responsive
- only hind end affected
- don’t know whether the tail was moving or not, didn’t think of looking at the tail, was focused on the legs
- I don’t believe there was any knuckling present though didn’t have the presence of mind to really look for it or test for it but I think would have noticed if it was happening
- did not appear as limp/favoring of any kind I’ve ever seen
On Monday appointment I presented the vet with 4 pages of detailed notes and observations.
The veterinarian examined Cookie and we discussed things in detail. She too didn’t feel her problem was systemic in nature. She also didn’t believe it was neurological – top contender remained musculoskeletal problem, which brought us back to our initial suspect, Cookie’s pelvic region anatomical issues.
Unless something changed, that was our working diagnosis pending the appointment with an orthopedic specialist.
Figuring out What Might Be Going on with Cookie’s Legs: The Diagnosis
Canine Iliopsoas Injuries Symptoms: Sometimes You Don’t Even Know What You’re Looking At—Cookie’s Hind Legs Transiently Fail To Work
Dog Lameness – Causes and Treatment of Limping in Dogs