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Barney It's a Dog's Life

Barney through the ages

Barney through the ages...

Barney, my little were-puppy… well, I suppose he’s not really a puppy anymore… will be seven years old on Halloween! He’s more a middle-aged were-dog these days. He’s been going grey since he was about 3 and now sports some impressive old man eyebrows – I look forward to seeing how distinguished he looks given another couple of years. Sadly, recently Barney has shown another sign of aging – one I’m less keen on than the greying face!

As some of you might be aware, Barney is a rescue dog. Back in 2008, my family took him on as an emergency measure, when his previous owners decided to euthanize him for various behavioural issues that they felt unable to cope with – most seriously nervous aggression towards adult strangers. 
Originally we were supposed to be a temporary stop-gap, a “foster home” but I fell in love with him and he never left. Anyway, we’re pretty sure Barney had two homes before ours, neither of which took very good care of him. I also strongly suspect he wasn’t bred by the most responsible of people – certainly not people who would bother doing health tests on the parents. 
Anyway, given his likely poor breeding, known poor care as a young dog, plus the fact he occasionally does idiotic things like jump off 9ft high rocks onto more rocks below; I’ve been saying for years that Barney’s hips are probably pretty bad. Until recently though, he never showed any signs that this was the case. Then, a few months ago I noticed he was looking slightly stiff after exercise, mostly when he’d had a lie down for a couple of hours. I put him on supplements and for a time things seemed to improve. 
In the past few weeks though, Barney started showing a few signs of discomfort again and this time, I noticed his gait was a little odd, especially at the beginning of walks. It wasn’t quite a limp but his back legs weren’t moving as they normally would. Finally, last week, he was running on a playing field and slipped on damp grass. Not a bad slip – he wasn’t going very fast or turning - but it made him scream and he was barely able to make the short walk home. I tried to take a look at his legs and got growled at, which is totally uncharacteristic for my dog.  
I’d been planning on taking him to the vets about his arthritic symptoms in the near future but after that incident, I knew he needed to go immediately. So, the next day off we went. Barney is not the most cooperative patient but the vet managed to do a fairly thorough examination and said that he had really limited range of motion in both hind legs, as well as loss of muscle mass. Hip dysplasia was very probably the cause of Barney’s symptoms. 
We had X-rays done a few days later and in the evening I went back to discuss the results. The vet started with the good news. Barney’s generally in excellent condition and his knees and spine both look fantastic. Then we took a look at his hips. Oh. Dear. I didn’t need the vet to point out the problem!
Hip dysplasia was confirmed in both hips, with the right slightly worse than the left but both hips are pretty terrible looking. The damage caused by his badly fitting joints is what is causing him the pain and making things like getting up and even walking, uncomfortable for him. To be honest, I amazed he wasn’t showing more signs of pain earlier. 
On seeing the X-rays, I worried Barney’s hips were so bad, he would need surgery to remove the head of his femur, followed by months of intensive rehabilitation. However, our vet didn’t seem to think that necessary and believes we can get him happily back on his feet without such invasive procedures. 
We’ve started him on high quality supplements and he’s also having a course of cartrophen injections. These injections often work wonders on dogs with arthritis as they help repair damaged cartilage and prevent further breakdown, plus they lower inflammation and increase blood supply to the joints. He’s having one injection a week for a month, then, assuming we see improvement, he’ll carry on getting them once every three months. 
You don’t see effects from these injections immediately but hopefully in the next month or so, there will be significant signs Barney is feeling less sore. Until then, he’s on restricted exercise… 30 minutes a day, of walking and trotting on soft ground. We’re only a week or so into the new routine and Barney’s already getting bored. I’m having to make up all kinds of games to play inside – mainly hide and seek games. He’s doing a good job learning to sniff out my house keys, which I hide in various places then ask Barney to search for them. I’m hoping that as well as being a “fun” game, this may prove useful one day, if I ever really DO lose them… We shall see! 
My vet has also suggested I look into complementary treatments. Barney loves swimming – it is his absolute favourite thing to do, so I’m definitely going to be looking into hydrotherapy as this treatment really helps build up strength in a dog’s back legs. We seem to have a couple of dog hydrotherapy pools locally, so I’m hoping we can get started with that quite soon. I’m sure it will be an interesting experience for us both and fingers crossed will be a useful tool. 
Unfortunately, hip dysplasia is a degenerative disease, so by the time Barney is 9 or 10 years old, he will almost certainly need to be put on painkillers long term. Still, I’m hoping that with careful management and some regular swimming in the doggy pool, Barney will be able to lead a relatively active and pain-free happy border collie life. 

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 Posted by our regular Barney Blogger Megan

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