Dog trains man

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Viva adopted: adressing her health issues in the first two months

The first time we noticed Viva was a half year ago. When her first family had left her in the local shelter. As a dog lover with a weak spot for Hovawarts I followed what happened with her. She got quickly adopted, but things went wrong and she returned to the shelter again after some months. That's when me and my wife decided to adopt her.

Viva in the shelter, 5½ years old
She had issues. She was overweight, flea-infested and had a poor skin condition.

We took her to the vet to look at her skin condition. The vet gave us some Hill's prescription low-allergy dog kibble as she guessed it was probably a food allergy. We also ordered blood work to investigate further for other possible allergies.

Unfortunately Viva couldn't cope the low allergy kibble and went down with some severe diarrea. We changed back to the original kibble to stop the diarrea. The vet got us some new, this time very-low-allergy, kibble. At least she could digest that but the whole thing made me uncomfortable. I don't know for sure if Viva suffers from food allergy as the other allergy test results hadn't come in yet. And not knowing what ingredients she would react upon, what would be safe for treats or snacks? The ingredients listed on the bag looked like something from which each living molecule had been removed. At the end I went along, better safe then sorry at this point in time. But I still have a bad taste in my mouth of getting pushed a Hill's sales pitch without a proper diagnosis.

When we got results back from her blood work allergy test Viva tested positive on dust mites and fungus. The good news was that this was treatable with a vaccine that had no known side-effects, so we ordered that. Now we had the whole allergy picture laid out. And although not overly excited with feeding low-allergy kibble and allergy shots, it would do the trick. We decided to go for it also because we started to notice other issues with Viva that could be a lot more severe.

Viva (left) and Kenzo (right) playing
Getting to know Viva better, other things with Viva started to worry me. She didn't seemed as mobile/agile as Kenzo. When Kenzo would land on her lower back when playing she seemed to be in pain and she stopped playing immediately. Also I guessed that the pain could be a cause for her aggressive, fear-based, behavior with some other dogs we met on our walks.

We went back to the vet to have this looked at. The vet investigated Viva's back and noted something was there that caused pain. We went outside and I showed her how Viva walked. Viva drags her feet a little when she walks (sounds like walking with slippers) and she also moves slowly as if she is tired. And when she is running, I can keep up with here. The vet discarded that to be an issue, but wanted to have a closer look at her back. Again, like with the food allergy diagnosis that didn't feel right.

We agreed to take x-rays of her lower back and got very bad news. Viva had spondylosis, a form of osteoarthritis. Three discs in her lower back were affected and were growing towards each other. This caused inflammation and pain. When left untreated, other discs would follow, resulting in a back as stiff as a board. The vet gave us a glucosamine and omega3/6 food supplement which is good for the inflammation and prevents the spondylosis from spreading. So far so good, but when she also suggested pain-killers and possibly also steroids, we thought that now it was enough. The total picture of Viva on low-allergy kibble, treated with agressive medicine and some of her signs neglected just didn't cut it. It sounded like a future of side-effects and new problems.

Inspired by my Twitter pal @dawgblogger on the possibilities of traditional Chinese medicine (TCVM), stem cell treatment, etc. we went looking for another vet. I found a vet that studied Chinese medicine in China itself, specialised in joint problems and an advocate for alternative treatment giving seminars, teached on universities, etc. She got her Ph.d. on that subject and travelled the whole country to handle the difficult cases everybody else had given up.

So we visited the new vet. Her approach was completely different. When we arrived we started with going on a walk where she observed Viva. Without me telling her she quickly noticed the same issues with Viva's walk I noticed before which our own vet had discarded earlier. After that we went inside and she did a physical examination, with a lot of feeling and rubbing Viva over her whole body. She concluded that the problem was not only the spondylosis in her lower back but also that her weak muscles were not able to support the back properly and had to be strenghtend. It was probably a result of Viva over a longer period trying to walk in a position that would give her the least pain. She was not sure that even more could be wrong, also because the right hind leg reacted differently to some reaction tests she did. But we had to move the muscle problem out of the way first to be able to see if more could be hiding.

We agreed to start a treatment with acupuncture for the pain and an exercise program to start training her muscles. Involving swimming in a pool with a treatmill and do a lot of walking up hill. Viva got her first acupuncture right away and we started the exercise program. The vet suggested to do this for a couple of weeks and then to re-assess the situation depending on the progress Viva has made. She instructed me to be on the lookout for any change in behavior that might indicate Viva was in less pain. In the mean time we can also talk allergies and nutrition again, as she suggested there are other options then low-allergy kibble. And she wanted, like me, know what ingredient triggered Viva's food allergy. But she stressed to work on her back now first, as the allergies seem to be/get under control with what we were currently doing.

I liked this. She noticed a lot more of what was wrong with Viva. Without even looking at an x-ray or other info. One thing in particular I noticed which I thought gave a lot of hope. When she was examing Viva and pressed on the top of her back, it looked stiff as like you would press on a woaden board. She repeated the examination of her back after the first acupunctur treatment, and I it was clearly noticeable that Viva's back reacted with more movement and flexibility to her touch.

And that is where we are now. Will undoubtedly be continued. For more information on treatment of joint problems, allergies, Chinese medicine, stem cell treatment and a lot more, please visit @dawgblogger's blog. On these topics it is one of the richest and most clear sources of information on the Internet.

Kenzo (left) and Viva (right)
One thing is for sure. Even Viva is struggling with her health, she still enjoys every day with her new family, Kenzo in particular. We have been on a vacation, started training in obedience and tracking on our own and have already been on lots of dog walk adventures. And she enjoys it as much as her health will allow it. Probably even more then that.

For us it is an absolute joy to see her getting better mentally. We hope her health will follow soon. And that she will have a great "second part" of her life.

She deserves it.



  1. Good for you! I have always found that vets that actually interact with the animal during an exam find out much more about the animal than those that rely on tests to give them results. Tests are important but taking a good amount of time touching and looking at the dog seems to get the best diagnosis.

    However we have had problems with holistic vets too. Best rule of thumb is go with your gut which is what you did.

  2. So true! Must keep your eyes open at all times. Here in Denmark there was even an issue that in stead of acupunctur, hormons where injected (behind your back).

  3. Love this article. I'm so glad that Viva found a good, loving home with you, your wife,and Kenzo. Over in my area, a lot of people really love their dogs - they dress them up, walk them (sometimes) and pet, love, and give them treats.
    Problem is, they couldn't be bothered to get the necessary vet care for a dog with problems like Viva's. The second Fido gets "aggressive," has medical issues, or "isn't working out," it's either lights out or off to the pound...where in one week it'll be lights out.
    I don't know if you can understand how profound and inspiring it is to come across people who try, who are willing to find an alternative vet, treatment...who are willing to do things FOR their dog, rather than just expecting unconditional love ....and all just because.
    I really adore you and @dawgblogger, who not only love and care for your dogs, but do what it takes for them to have a better life. Maybe you won't be able to cure her 100%, but you'll do whatever you can to get her as close as possible, and that just astounds me. Not very many people around here have that attitude.

    I wish the best for Viva on her journey with her new, almost perfect, family. She is truly a lucky little lady. =]
    Keep us updated! I want weekly blogs! (Or at least biweekly! haha)

  4. Thank you for your kind words.

    Like you I also doubt it is possible to get Viva on 100%, but I am hopefull we can get her so close that she can have a good and meaningfull life. A life without pain and lot of fun playing with her (doggy) friends, and a good job (she is still a Hovie :)

  5. Is Viva going to get a Twitter profile too? It could be traumatizing if she finds out Kenzo has one and she doesn't.

    Seriously, what a lovely story. Good for you for taking on a dog that had been given up for lost.

  6. Least I should do is change the avatar :) Coming soon!

    Thank you for your nice words.

  7. Ooh! Your wife should make a Viva twitter. =D And then Viva can't be sad if/when she finds out that Kenzo gets a twitter to talk to lovely dogs like Jasmine and she doesn't!


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