Mother’s Day: Petey goes to the vet

Petey weighed in at 44.5 pounds.  He has put on 5 pounds in 4 years, probably due to my own inability to exercise him well over the winter. After weeks of inactivity, I had, in the last 4 months, gradually started him and Spin on an exercise regimen – 3 miles twice a week, 5 miles once a week with me on a bike.  In the last month, I had switched his diet over to a largely vegetarian diet.  Then, there had been a break for 2 weeks where we had not exercised because I had been distracted.

We started up again this week – 2 miles on Monday and Wednesday, and then Saturday we had tried to do 5 miles on a breezy cooler day (80F and 15mph wind).  I had not broken a sweat, but Petey stopped after about 2.5 miles – unable to continue.  I had let him lay in a shaded pool of standing water while Spin and I moved down another 200 ft, and waited for him to come to us.  He did after about 15 minutes, as if waiting to recover from dizziness.

Back at the house, I fed him that evening (not wanting to distract any needed circulation immediately after the incident), and then the next morning (clearly not feeling well) I fed him some steak (his appetite was good) and took his temperature (normal 101), and made sure he stayed hydrated with steak-broth.  Checking his gums by pressing my fingers into them, his capillary refill time seemed ok.

I wanted some blood work.  He had seemed oxygen-deficient to me.  There had been no coughing, but a slight wheezing right before he stopped, like he was not clearing fluid from his lungs.  His respiration rate had remained elevated for about an hour afterward even with rest, AC, and cooling.

His blood work largely came back normal (CBC and superchem panel).  His heartworm test also came back negative.  The first vet I took him to, wanted to do the blood work in another room where I couldn’t watch.  Petey defecated all over the place as they muzzled him, and poked him to try unsuccessfully to get a vein.  I ended up remembering what had happened in Wisconsin.   Having no idea what they were really doing to Petey, and knowing that Petey would want me in there with him as they went for the jugular, I barged in, and stopped the whole thing.  We agreed that they were probably not Petey’s vet team, and I left to find one who would let me hold him while they drew blood.

In the end, we settled for some Rimadyl.  He seems stiff.  It could be the joints.  I had thought that maybe his RBC/hemoglobin had gone down, and he had become oxygen deficient, and then maybe his heart couldn’t pump the lactic acid out of his muscles when they switched over to anaerobic metabolism.  He’s an older dog.  The  vet thought his heart sounded ok; the hemoglobin levels were reportedly normal.  He had not been so acidotic that he was throwing up or his respiration was elevated several hours later.  He was just so stiff that he couldn’t lift his leg to pee.

Some reading on EIC.  He did not have this, but the article shows the differentials.  I guess that a muscle CK level would have been useful, if it isn’t in the bloodwork.  I think he needs exercise for his kidneys.  Otherwise, he might not clear waste products well enough from his blood.

He’s recovering (avoiding steps and needing help getting up and down from the bed-48 hours later his resting heart rate is 83 bpm and his respiration rate is 18 breaths per minute).  Palpating his muscles and joints today, the tenderness appears in the joints (all over).

Petey has been incessantly licking the bottom of his front paws, and a little also on the back ones.  There is a small flap on one side, but both sides seem to have outer areas that are at a different level.  I’m pretty sure that was not there initially because there was no limp.  At first I thought that maybe it was due to the fact that they had just paved the road we were on.  But, he had been free to run on the road, or in the grass as he wanted. And, when he had stopped running, he had positioned himself right in the middle of the road – not in the shade or water or off of the pavement.  All of the latter were available to him since he was not following me, and may indicate that Petey’s problem was more internal, than environmental, or that he was disoriented.  We had just stopped for a 15 min water break – with both dogs sitting in water, so the feet may have become more sensitive at this point.  But Spin, who was also with me, and whose feet are more tender, shows no problems. I’m inclined to believe that the foot problem may be an allergic reaction at this point (I had also noticed some unusually strong sneezes on the run).  I am now using bitter apple extract to try to dissuade it.  It could be neurotic, but it is happening with both feet.

In summary, I would say:

a) maybe a metabolic problem, change in diet, weight-related, 2 weeks off from routine.

b) probably some heat related distress.  I am almost certain that this would not have happened had the temperature been 20 degrees less.

c) he may need anti-anxiety medicine for what is going on with his paws.  I could also try benedryl if the apple extract isn’t enough.  The licking seems secondary because as the licking gets worse, he becomes more mobile.  Also, the pads do not appear painful with palpation, unlike the joints.

d) maybe some general factor that was expressed making his joints sore from the exercise (he has been treated for lyme disease in the past).

e) maybe some heart and/or kidney issues.

I think that the blood work was important to rule out correctable systemic problems.  I am not sure that I would be able to find a single etiology for his problems even with more medical work-up.  What hasn’t yet been answered for me is:

1) whether I should change his diet/exercise regimen, and how.

2) what triggered what was an unusual failure in a dog that I know well.

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