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Need Advice on age related hind end weakness

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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Hi Jennifer, It's called peripheral neuropathy and sadly my boy has it as well. I first read about it on here from another member on the forum, before my boy developed it aged 11. He had spondylitis of his lower spine for years and has been on anti-inflammatory meds (previcox) for that, then he started to 'lose' control of his back legs occasionally (especially on slippery floors) and we noticed that he had lost muscle mass around his rear and hind legs, and could no longer jump in and out of the car. We took him to a chiropractor who confirmed the same diagnosis. She said (although I already knew) that it is incurable and any treatment might only slow the progression. She also said in Romeo's case the inflammation in his spine was affecting the nerve signals getting through to his back legs, preventing them from working properly. I think the progression rate is simply down the individual dog, but yes, I have already accepted it as inevitable. I have noticed a fairly reasonable rate of deterioration in my boy. He is able to do less and his legs weaken much faster than normal. We were advised not to overdo the amount of exercise by the chiropractor (although we were not doing that anyway, as he was not able), who told us that they basically turn from rear leg driven to front leg driven in order to compensate for the loss of power in the back legs. My boy is twelve next week, Jennifer. Without peripheral nueropathy I could have seen him getting to thirteen/ fourteen, but not now. I have not tried anything else yet at this stage med wise, so I think I will have to explore that option shortly myself (might try the aspirin too!). To be honest, I now count each day/week/month with him as a blessing and try to give him as much love and attention as possible. So I am very sorry to hear about Bentley, Jennifer. I had a short period of denial myself about this situation we find ourselves in, and I hope you take what I have said in the realistic sense that it is intended. My sincerest regards and best wishes, James. P.S. I forgot to add that I massage his legs and back every day.

Thank you so much, James! I'll be asking my vet about peripheral neuropathy and any other treatments available at his acupuncture appointment next week. The last time we were there she suggested physical therapy in a pool. While I love the idea, it sounds really expensive. Nonetheless, I'll look into it with the hopes of rebuilding some lost muscle in his back legs. I am realistic though so my goal at this point is mostly slowing the progression and making him as comfortable as possible so he can enjoy life as much as possible. Thank you for sharing your experience!

FYI, if you decide to try aspirin for your boy I read that it is recommended that you use buffered instead of uncoated or enteric coated and that you use it for no longer than five days at a time. I believe the recommended dosage is 5-10mg per pound. I gave Bentley 750mg (two full strength adult aspirin) as a loading dose with dinner one night. The next day with breakfast I gave him 486mg (6 baby aspirin at 81mg each). He was doing so much better by that afternoon I didn't give him any more.

I just read that gabapentin is also prescribed for dogs with nerve pain. It's a fantastic med for humans commonly used for diabetic peripheral neuropathy. I just didn't know it was okay for canine use until now. Cool

Thank you again for responding, James! I'll try the massage too :-)

Hi Jennifer, I considered the hydrotherapy option but ruled it out as Romeo would not go into it and also because it would stress him out. However, if Bentley likes swimming or going into the water it might be a good option. I checked it out over here and it was not that expensive plus someone was with your dog the whole time that you are there! You also have to balance out exercising/maintaining muscle without exhausting, as you have to remember that it is not a case of building muscle in a normal healthy dog. The chiropractor gave us some exercises to do by getting him to go from a sitting to standing position 6-10 times at a time to exercise his quads (once/twice a day). Remember that Bentley will be getting pain relief from the NSIAD meds he is taking (the same with my boy). I would not go any further with the gabapentin at this stage, unless you are sure that he is in a lot of pain or he definitely needs it. Also, is Bentley experiencing any incontinence or bladder issues (it was this that lead to Romeo's diagnosis of spondylitis one/two years pre onset of peripheral neuropathy, and which the previcox NSAID has worked well for). Anyway, just a few more thoughts for you to digest. Best wishes.

Hi James, B has his acupuncture appointment tonight. I'm going to ask about the physical therapy. I like the exercises of sitting to standing. I'm going to see if she can recommend other options too. No, he hasn't had any bladder or incontinence issues, thank goodness.

Reading this I am wondering now if this is what my nearly 10 year old Irish had. Last summer she began limping as if she had arthritis. It got worse despite anything I tried and a very, very expensive and protracted veterinary treatment. I was told at the beginning it was probably sciatica and it all ended as a mystery with the best guess as pancreatic cancer. She had spent weeks staying at the vets, entering on her own wobbly legs and ending up unable to stand. It was traumatic for her, poor love - and me: I was rather hugely pregnant. I tried to hold her and comfort her as much as I could when they put her down. It was so, so horrible. But maybe this is what she had..

It may well be, human friend (please let us know your first name, so as we can use it when replying to you). I am very sorry to read your story about how you lost her. Losing a beloved animal is the same as losing a beloved human. The way you are affected by it is exactly the same. What is also the same is that despite what happens at the end, you would not have been without them. My best wishes.

Oh my goodness! My heart goes out to you. How sad and frustrating :-(

Just a thought...I am assuming that his spinal cord is okay and there is no evidence of compression or prolapsed disc....It could be just degenerative and there is not much you can do really that you are not doing already...


I think the vets are assuming it's degenerative. Yeah, I know we're just delaying the inevitable :-/

You are just making sure your Bentley is pain free and doing your best to minimise his symptoms. Wishing you and Bentley all the best


Thank you, Shirl :-)

Hi Jennifer, many of my English Setters have suffered orthopaedic problems. My first English Setter, Jessie who was born on 1 September 1990 was diagnosed with extremely serious hip displaysia. My vet, who was a good one, did not think Jessie would live longer than 3 years, if that. She died from the mismanagement of kennel cough by a specialist vet when she was 14 years 8 months old. My English Setter, Rose who I rescued on 2 April 2006 when she was 7 years old had suffered orthopaedic problems from a puppy. Rose was in a terrible state in all ways. Her spine was roached, her front legs splayed out and her hind legs bunched up underneath her. Rose could barely walk. Rose died at the age of 13 years and not from her orthopaedic problems. My English Setter, Hobson who was born on 10 June 2003 was actually a healthy puppy with good conformation. Unfortunately a neck injury he suffered in October 2010 was continually misdiagnosed by vets and "natural therapists" for 3 years. Hobson is still alive and battling Hemangiosarcoma now. His chronic neck and hind leg problems are not helping him, but he is still fighting.

I started off using NSAIDs but would never use this type of drug again. The side effects are not worth it and I really believe that natural products work better. Hobson has been taking Tramadol and Gabapentin daily since May 2014 without any side effects. I have discussed these drugs with the pharmacists as well as Hobson's vet. There are natural products you can use like Traumeel which I have tried but stopped using because Hobson had never been diagnosed correctly. I feel comfortable that the Tramadol and Gabapentin are helping Hobson without any adverse side effects.

In Australia we are plagued by incompetent, arrogant vets including the ones who call themselves "holistic" as well as natural therapists. To this day I have been unable to find a competent acupuncturist to treat my dogs and my horses. If you find an accupuncturist who knows what they are doing, this will help Bentley. Only in July 2015 after constant Google searches I found an excellent animal chiropractor who uses very gentle techniques. I tried a canine physiotherapist but did not find her useful. Massage is excellent too. The love in your energy in itself will make Bentley feel good. 

Unfortunately the natural health industry has become the same as the drug industry and just because something is natural does not mean it can do no harm. I research everything thoroughly. For instance there is a big focus on "fish oil" at the moment. If you do a Google search you will read that "fish oil" is not necessarily good for your dog. 

What you might have to do with Bentley is not allow him to canter for a while. You might have to place him on a lead and walk beside him. He will soon adjust. Our dogs who are used to being active will always try to do too much. Hobson used to be an athletic, strong dog, and he is very stubborn as well, but he quickly adjusted to walking quietly on a lead by my side. In fact as time went on he felt safer beside me. Right now the fact that Hobson can get up on his own and walk a short distance is a miracle.

I have also had to place rugs down on the tiles for Hobson. Last year for a while he was at extreme risk of becoming permanently paralysed. The rugs do help.

Hobson is not supposed to be alive right now. If miraculously he continues to improve I am thinking of having some sort of a cart made up for him in the future so that he can still come on walks. At present it is too dangerous to even lift Hobson into a car. 

I was unable to find anything in Australia but there are aids you can purchase in America to assist with hind leg lameness. It all depends on the problem and the dog.

As for the inevitable, we are all going to face this one day. I am in for the "long haul" with my dogs because they are not "just dogs" to me. They are my family and my life.

Wishing you all the best with Bentley. I am certain you will be able to help him. His little sister will look after him too.

Best Wishes from Susan




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