Thursday, 26 April 2018

Empowering the carer.

All the dogs we work with are special in one way or another. And they’re just as special when they come back after a while. 

I met handsome senior boy Alfie last November after he’d given his Mum a scare with his rear leg wobbles and his inability to lift his rear feet. When his Mum took him to the vet originally she was told “He’s just getting old” – a statement which I’d like to ban as there always seems to be an unspoken appendix to that sentence of “So let’s just leave him as he is”. 

His Mum continued to question that ‘diagnosis’ and discovered that it is more likely he has lumbar/sacral junction neuropathy and was treated with steroids. These made an almost immediate difference to Alfie. Originally, he was on 7.5 mg a day, which was gradually reduced to 2.5 mg before being put back to 5.0 mg as his symptoms worsened again very quickly. 

Since my initial visit, his Mum has been doing all her homework with Alfie almost every day. She said "My massage skills aren’t like yours and he knows it, but he puts up with me as he knows he is going to do his stretches for treats afterwards”. Like me she has her own names for the massage moves. Myofascial release is the ‘sweater’ move as I always describe it as trying to loosen your sweater. She has also been monitoring the progress of his muscle tone using my simple chicken fillet analogy. She said “Look – he now has chicken fillets in his thighs” which indeed he did. Coming along nicely Alfie. Equally important his Mum knows that she is now doing everything that she can to help him and not just watching him “getting old” 

Alfie went to the vets a few weeks ago for a routine check up of his medications and they are now reduced back down to 2.5 mg – with no ill effects which is great news. His Mum said “I was waiting for his legs to go but they haven’t. And he is so happy. He is a Steroid Kid”. 

He’s doing all his stretching exercises very well – which is clear from how improved his back muscles are – but he didn’t like the mini obstacle course. Now that he can walk a bit further they go up the fields, there are lots and lots of tufty bits – small uneven rises and downs. When his Mum found a ball and put it in one of the small hills, she found he scampered to find the ball. In doing so he was going up and down his own real live assault course. And he loved it. This is now a game they play regularly giving Alfie the varied exercise to his legs that he needs while he thinks he is just having fun. His Mum said “I know it must be exercising his core muscles as when I go to place the ball, I can feel it working mine – double bonus. It is exercise for both of us”. 

His Mum bought a set of wheels for him when he was at his weakest but they are sitting in the corner of the room not having been needed or used. When his Mum got them out to show me, Alfie’s expression was one of “Woah Mum….we don’t need those anymore”. And let’s hope that continues. He has also been treated by Chris and started yawning and sighing almost immediately. 

He still has his little niggles, as we all do, but now Mum is alerted to the issues and straight away puts the correct plan into action – reducing the walks, turning back when Alfie has had enough plus some extra massage. 

He has clearly got the idea now of the power of physical therapy. Alfie loves it all and why not? And with an empowered Mum – can’t beat it!

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