Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ding-Dong, Pain Calling

Poor Baron, last week was a bit rough for him. It's hard being a dog and not being able to tell people what's wrong with you! We had noticed some random pain responses (whining) off and on for a days early last week, so I was watching him carefully trying to figure out what was hurting him.

An Army of Pain

I didn't get a very long time to observe! Last Wednesday morning at 2:00 am Baron woke me up screaming in pain. It was horrible and I hate that feeling that there is nothing you can do to help. I managed to get him calmed down and into bed with us for the rest of the night (he normally sleeps in a kennel next to my bed).

When we woke back up at the regular time, he was feeling better again and was acting pretty much normal. There was more whining in pain, but it was back to being at random moments and wasn't as intense. So I thought, well I would wait and see how he was doing after work. Long story short, he was still in pain and so we took him to the ISU Emergency clinic that night at like 10:00 pm. It made for a really long day!!

Have Pain Your Way

So of course we take Baron into ISU and they can't get a pain response out of him. He did show mild responses to getting his neck flexed to the right and extended upwards, but nothing drastic like he was showing us at home. They are always stinkers aren't they?!?

I was ultimately disappointed in ISU though. They sent me home with Gabapentin as a pain reliever and told me it was basically the start of wobblers. I asked about doing X-rays and they told me that X-rays wouldn't help with a diagonosis and would only rule things out. Right ISU, that's what I want, but they siad they didn't think they were needed. But then again, I didn't really agree with anything else the doctor told me either! :)

First, Gabapentin for acute pain is not really the way to go. It takes a while to build up in the body so it's not immediately effective and there are no anti-inflammatories in it. I did ask about doing an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) but ISU wanted to do blood work first. Which is a good thing because NSAIDs can affect the liver, raising liver enzymes; however, Baron had blood work done just a few months ago so that should been sufficient. Apparently not for them. So we took the Gabapentin and thought we would reassess the situation in a few days.

Second, just because my dog is a 7-year-old Doberman is experiencing neck pain does not mean that it is wobbler disease. I know wobbler disease is really prevalent in Dobermans, but he wasn't showing any of the classic signs. No ataxia (weakening) of the muscles, dragging the toes of the rear legs, and no change in his gait. Dogs affected by wobblers will often have a crouching stance with a downward flexed neck as well.

The wobbler disease that is seen in Dobermans is caused by instability of the vertebrae in the neck which causes spinal cord compression. This compression is usually not very painful (at least not as painful as what Baron was experiencing). Usually the instability is caused by bulging of the disc or herniation of the disc contents. Sounds fun doesn't it? :(  In Dobermans the C5 to C7 vertebraes are mostly affected.

Image taken from Wikipedia (I know, I know it's not a real source, but it's a good image!)

There are several ways to help dogs affected by wobblers but that would be a whole seperate blog post in itself!

Sometimes You Feel Like A Pain, Sometimes You Don't

Baron was still very much in pain on Friday. He was barely walking and just sat there trembling. Every time he moved he would whine and cry. It tore my heart out and obviously something else needed to be done. So Saturday morning I took him into my vet (Story County Veterinary Clinic). They suggested it could be a soft tissue injury, spondylosis, or a cervical disc. For more information on spondylosis click HERE. This blog will never end if I keep going off on tangents :).

We also took him off Gabapentin and put him on liquid Metacam and Tramadol. I gave him his first dose when we got home from the vet (so about 9:30 am). Then loaded up the car with Cross, a foster dog (available through Illinois Doberman Rescue), and drove up to Iowa City on a transport. We handed Cross off to another IDR volunteer and headed right back home.

When we got home 4 hours later, Baron was back to normal. Literally, back to normal and acting like his regular self. Obviously the Metacam and Tramadol did their job! :)  Now that we at least had the pain under control, we could start to figure out what was causing it. So Baron was scheduled for X-rays at my vet on Tuesday (yesterday).

The X-rays showed some slight spondylosis in a few areas but nothing to be concerned about at this time. It didn't point to any cervical disc problems either, so it's looking like a soft tissue injury.

His back

His upper thoracic/neck

So the plan is to keep him on the meds through Christmas and keep him quiet. He's not real happy about the 'keep quiet' part, the pain meds have him feeling frisky again! But after Christmas we will start weaning him off the meds and seeing if the pain comes back. Baron will also get his very own visit to the Chiropractor, probably at the end of January, to see if she notices anything off as well.

Wish Baron luck and send good thoughts his way!


  1. Sadly, I'm not surprised with ISU's behavior. When I took Kaylee in for sporadic, severe displays of pain... they had her for nine hours, did radiographs of the wrong areas, and charged me $900 for the advice to "rest her and keep her quiet for a week."

    ... took her to a veterinary chiropractor, and for $35 she was diagnosed with a partially dislocated shoulder. One initial adjustment, two followup adjustments, and she was FINE. If I'd had listened to ISU, who knows what kind of damage would have been done.

    1. Yes, I was really disappointed. You'd think at a teaching hospital they would teach better :). At least I got out of there for only $96. I still can't believe they refused to do X-rays, apparently they don't want my money!