Exclusively Setters

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Greetings!I've been browsing the forum posts off and on for the last few weeks trying to find into on hind-end weakness and/or arthritis and am not finding what I'm looking for.

Bentley is our 10 year old male Irish Setter. He was surrendered at the approximate age of 3 years to a shelter and my husband found and adopted him after Bentley spent about 3 months in the shelter. Nothing is known about his life or health prior to his surrender. Bentley was in reasonable good health with the exception of stomach issues and poor coat. He was also understandably depressed in attitude. After several weeks with my husband, Bentley's demeanor improved significantly and his personality emerged! His stomach issues took almost a year to resolve and he has been doing very well on Taste of The Wild grain-free Pacific Stream which also seems to have improved his coat as well.

To say that Bentley is spoiled would be an understatement! He has his own side car motorcycle and LOVES going for rides. Four years ago we purchased a farmette and he now has a 12 acre hay field with a tree-lined border to play in. He has learned the perimeter of our property and thoroughly enjoys his "yard." He flushes the occasional pheasant, chases hawks and eagles and other birds as they fly over and once tried to "meet" three cranes that had taken up residence in our field for a week (he quickly changed his mind as they didn't respond well to his friendly advances.) We enjoy watching him zig-zag the field chasing down the scents of the deer, coyote, fox, rabbits and other creatures that have visited during the night.

Last summer we noticed that B was slowing down. He was still enthusiastic but he didn't run like he used to do and occasionally exhibited a limp the day after a particularly active day. We started adding glucosamine and MSM supplements to his food at that time. Last fall he seemed weaker so we took him to the vet who, after a brief exam, diagnosed him with reduced muscle mass in his hind legs secondary to arthritis. She put him on carprofen (an NSAID) 50 mg in the am and 75 in the pm. This seemed to help his discomfort and he was enjoying some "better" days but he continued to slow down. We then took him to another vet who did a thorough ortho exam and diagnosed arthritis specifically in his right front shoulder and right rear hip along with in his toes. His back was weaker as well. This vet put him on Deramaxx (deracoxib) 100mg once daily. He also sent us home with literature on everything from stem cell transplants to cold laser therapy to acupuncture. The new medication seems to be working better for him as well.

This summer Bentley's hind-end weakness continued to worsen. He has started slipping and falling when he moves too quickly on our kitchen linoleum floor. We're putting down throw rugs for better traction. He still loves to play in his field but his gait is like that of a bowlegged, old man with hip issues. He walks more and occasionally "canters". On bad days has trouble getting on the couch or making it up the stairs to the bedroom. When he has trouble walking we give him a dose or two of aspirin which seems to help a lot. We started acupuncture treatments and he has received one a week for the last three weeks now. He has three more sessions scheduled.

And so... after all that, I'd like to ask for others' experiences with similar problems. At what age did your IS have problems and what did you do for it? What worked, what didn't? Is this deterioration rate fast or do we need to accept this as inevitable and untreatable? Any and all advice is greatly appreciated!

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As soon as I had finished my long reply, I remembered my beautiful English Setter boy, Bandit. I can feel his annoyance with me from Heaven so feel I need to add that Bandit also developed hind leg lameness in his later years. I rescued Bandit from a dog pound just before his 7th Birthday. He was in a terrible state and even though I kept my promise that I would never leave him for one night, Bandit never recovered from his emotional trauma. He was a skeleton when I found him only weighing 30kg and his skin was a mess. It did not take long to clear up his ears, skin and his coat as well as restore his weight because these were all the result of trauma. There is a photo of Bandit on my page when he lived with the breeder. He was a very handsome looking English Setter boy. Bandit died from Polycystic Kidney Disease in 2000 when he was 12 1/2 years old. He coped well with his hind leg difficulties I believe because of daily, regulated exercise and a natural diet with natural joint supplements. My vet initially prescribed a NSAID but these should not be used when a dog has kidney disease.

HI Susan, Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with me. It's a shame the veterinary profession is so lacking where you are. How frustrating! I know the vets we've seen are doing their best but medicine is largely a guessing game with animals as well as humans. I work with doctors and see them guessing as much as the vets do. And the vets are handicapped by the inability of their patients to actually use words to describe how they're feeling! Reading your response and others here my husband and I have been doing some of our own research in holistic options. I would love to get Bentley off of the Deramaxx as the orthopedic issues are plenty without complicating his health with kidney problems. I think this with some physical therapy is really the way to go. I know it's inevitable, but if we can help him in any way enjoy his "golden" years, we'll do it!

Hi Jennifer, After all that has been said, I just wanted to let you know that I forgot to say how much I loved reading your story of the great life you have given Bentley and also how much I like the photo of him in the sidecar with your husband. Having a setter in your life is like a fantastic journey, and despite what may come at the end, I for one, would rather have taken it as not. My best wishes as always.

Thanks! We don't have human children, just the fur babies. And we spoil them :-)

Hi Jennifer. Sorry to hear about Bentley. Several of our boys and one of our girls have had hind leg weakness in the last few years of their lives, Kiefer was the only one actually diagnosed with a degenerative condition other than arthritis. namely degenerative myelopathy. All of the boys made it past 12 and 13 years of age, and Rumor was nearly 14. Decisions for euthanasia were all for other reasons, although we came close with a couple of them. The boys began to limit their own exercise off lead. and rarely needed painkillers thankfully. Managed with various  supplements, memory foam beds and even Bioflow magnotherapy collars seemed to help when used in the early stages. We now always use non slip mats etc. on our slippery tiled or laminate floors.

Our oldest dog  Finn is now 10 going on 11. He trots mostly off lead now rather than gallops around. We've had a couple of bouts of acute limb related pain in the past few months so have started him on Yumove tablets. Can't really tell about muscle loss as he is quite underweight due to other issues.

So it would seem that Bentley is showing similar patterns to other older dogs. It seems to be all about keeping them comfortable and responding to their needs, as and when. And relying, somewhat, on their own instinctive sense of self preservation. They are very wise :)

I'm sure you will enjoy your lovely boy for much time to come. All the best.

Thank you for responding Sue! My husband and I have been discussing restricting Bentley's activity by putting him on a lead. We'll probably do this on occasions that we notice any lameness. He does a pretty good job of regulating himself and we can tell he's having a tough day when he only walks his field instead of running. I think I'll have to look into the magnotherapy collar and Yumove. Thank you so much for the suggestions!

Thank you everyone for responding. Every suggestion and story helps give us options. Bentley has had three acupuncture treatments so far and goes in for his fourth (of six) tonight. So far we aren't noticing any changes. We weren't expecting a miracle cure but we'll see how the next few go.

My husband's best friend said his vet suggested Vitamin C for his elder pup. I did a few hours research on this as well as Turmeric a few nights ago and the hubs and I have decided that this is the direction we're going to take for the next couple of months. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory so we're going to transition Bentley off of the Deramaxx and onto the Turmeric. Here is a link for one of the better articles I found: http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/turmeric-dogs/

Regarding the Vitamin C... It is supposed to help to prevent inflammatory arthritis and maintain healthy joints. One article I read said that very high doses can cause bone spurs and worsen arthritis but other studies contradict this finding. One study even claimed to reverse degenerative damage. There are several different forms of Vitamin C available. Unfortunately the most common, ascorbic acid, isn't well absorbed and can cause diarrhea. Instead of reiterating, here is a link to an excellent explanation of the different forms of Vitamin C and veterinary applications: http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/newspics/pdfs/1-8-Form.pdf

I ended up ordering Turmeric and calcium ascorbate in bulk powdered forms from Amazon. They both just arrived so the experimentation begins. Now we need to decide if we're going to start them both at the same time or stagger them to determine which, if either, have any effect.

Again, thank you James, Shirl, Susan, Sue and "human friend" for sharing your experiences, thoughts, concerns and suggestions! You're awesome :-)

Hi Jennifer

In case you might be interested this is a link about how to give Turmeric to dogs http://www.turmericlife.com.au/turmeric-for-dogs/how-to-feed-turmer.... Also I have found the best form of Vitamin C to purchase is Ester C. The brand I use is Wagner. If this is not available in America, there should be a substitute. Ester Vitamin C is amazing. An example: Hobson became seriously ill the first week in October. I thought he was going to die. I gave him 6-8000mg Ester Vitamin C throughout the day and he slowly picked up. He had not been diagnosed for Hemangiosarcoma then. What had happened is that Hobson had suffered an internal bleed. Ester Vitamin C helped him through.

Best Wishes to you and Bentley from Susan

Excellent advice! Thank you so much. I was just adding the turmeric to his food plain. I didn't realize the oil and pepper increased absorption and will make the paste from now on. :-)

Update: Well, the acupuncture did not produce any noticeable results after six treatment, once a week. We started him on Turmeric and Vitamin C and tried to wean him off of the Deramaxx with terrible results. So Bentley continues to take 50mg Deramaxx every morning along with 1800mg turmeric and 4000mg Vitamin C. We have no idea if the turmeric or C is helping but the only side effect we've seen is increased thirst which would be completely normal for these supplements.

A heartbreaking excursion recently found Bentley foundering in about 4 inches of fresh powder snow. We were about 10 minutes into a walk when his hind end became so weak he just laid down in the snow. After letting him rest for a little while I was able to coax him a short distance to a road where I picked him up and carried him home. The good thing was he didn't mind being carried and just looked around like it was no big deal.

After this we restricted his activity in the snow and I found a rear end harness on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008RER6E4?psc=1&redirect=true... .

This device came either by itself or with a chest harness. Since I already had a chest harness I just ordered the rear portion. The main reason was to help lift him into our truck when we take him for rides. As soon as it arrived I put the full getup on Bentley and took him out for a walk in the snow. The first few minutes were amusing to watch as he got used to the straps between his legs. The waist strap I put on initially to make hold it in place while I got the leg straps on then removed so he could pee at will on the walk. He finally got the hang of it and I was amazed at how steady his gait was. I figured it was a fluke since he'd been resting for a few days, but we have consistent results every time we've used it for the past two weeks. I'm hoping that it offers enough support to allow him to build up his hind end musculature over time. I'm just so happy to see him out on his usual walks again! Attached are pictures of the harness from today's walk.

Attachments:

Update: Bentley's rear leg muscles have atrophied so much he has very little hind end control. Despite this he still is in very good spirits and goes on short walks two to three times daily. I'm trying to keep up his activity level because a sedentary lifestyle is the worst thing you can do for arthritis. I bought a two part harness, one part goes around his shoulders and connects to another harness that goes around his hind legs. This really seems to have helped stabilize his gait especially in snow. Tonight I found all sorts of information on kinesiology taping when looking for information on how to stabilize his fore leg "wrists" and keep them from collapsing as he walks. I wrapped one of his forelegs in an ACE bandage tonight and am hoping it will help him.

He doesn't often exhibit symptoms of pain. We're managing his arthritis with golden paste (turmeric, black pepper and coconut oil) twice daily in his food and Duramaxx once daily. For infrequent bad days he gets Tramadol. My husband and I have been cautiously optimistic about how much longer he will be with us. He is still in great spirits, enjoys his walks on our farm and loves to lounge on the back stoop and watch the birds. He still has too much love of life to consider euthanizing him any time soon.

In the meantime here is a video I found on youtube on taping to help stabilize hind end weakness:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziFctV9m0zk

And anyone else's experiences are greatly appreciated!

Hi Jennifer thanks for updating us! I cannot give experts advise I am afraid , so just letting you know that we are following the development of Bentley with much sympathy.. he is  really having as much care as possible from you guys and I am happy that he is in good spirit and mood! i hope with the tapes and the harnesses he can still enjoy the life and do some walks. actually, thanks a lot for all the tips and suggestions that you are sharing with us. my brother has a 12years old bracco who starts to develop loss of controls in the legs and arthritis so i am looking at all your posts for him..

a big big hug to bentley, i hope he can have lots of nice and happy days and of course lot of cuddles days with you! XXX silvia

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