Last week after loading the dogs into my car at the barn, Juno started whimpering and acting very strange. She tried to crawl onto my lap and practically yelped when I touched her belly. I quickly pulled over and carried her out of the car to check her out. The poor thing was standing all hunched up and looked so miserable, I almost cried. My first though was that she had been kicked by a horse, but although she’d been running around the barns and fields while I’d been walking my horse, I knew that she hadn’t been able to get near anyone since it was evening and the horses had all been put away for the night.
I’ll admit that the way she was standing really scared me; it was exactly like our dear Gracie had stood when she ruptured a tumor in her spleen, but Gracie had been under treatment for cancer for almost a year at the time, so this didn’t add up.
First thing I did was palpate her from head to toe to see if I found anything; she reacted pretty strongly to pressure on her abdomen and reacted slightly to pressure over her spine, around mid lumbar region. Her head, neck and chest were all good as were her legs, just the belly and back.
I did check her gums for color and capillary refill as that’s a fast way to tell if they might be bleeding internally and she looked great, but I was still scared.
So off we go to the vets (of course it’s a Saturday night), but my vet was pretty cheerful for someone who just got dragged out from his house & away from his family. He checked her over and really quickly figured out that she’d probably strained a vertebral ligament while tearing through the fields after squirrels. After a Rx for Rimadyl and Tramadol along with a week of rest, off we went; poorer but calmer.
The reason I write this is twofold. First of all, every pet owner should be able to assess their pet’s general health and well being; get a heart rate, respiratory rate and feel around for abnormalities. This is important in an emergency, but it’s also really important on a regular basis just to know your pet’s baseline or norm. If you don’t know that, you might not be able to tell when something’s wrong until it’s too late, because not everything presents obviously, like Juno’s hurt back. Some things are subtle, like new lumps, increased respiratory rate or a change in activity level or appetite.
In just the past 2 years, I’ve seen a few friends’ dogs die pretty quickly from heart disease, cancer and poisonings, all things that needed a quick diagnosis and response. Yes, some of them would have died no matter what, but I’m pretty sure most of us want our dogs as comfortable as possible.
Secondly, because of Juno’s conformation (her build), I’ve always been aware that a back issue could be a problem; dogs with long backs are prone to back injuries. Because I did a DNA test on her, I knew she wasn’t genetically pre-disposed, but just by looking at her, you can see that a problem might arise, especially in such an active and athletic little dog.
The good news is that she recovered very quickly and my husband and I have taken to only carrying her out of the car-no more jumping! Repetitive movements like jumping out of your car can really cause quite a bit of damage over the years. We’ve always had a step by the side of the bed for them, but lets face it, they probably get in and out of the car a lot more often than in and out of bed.
Happy dog days to you all!