My intention for this blog isn't to talk too much about my dog, but over the past week we've been through some interesting (and occasionally upsetting) experiences with our 7-month old Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy Kenshin, so I thought I'd share.
About two weeks ago when I took him to obedience class (if we're going to have an 85 lb dog he darn well is gonna learn to be obedient), he seemed to be less energetic than usual. I knew this because the prior week he pretty much embarrassed the hell out of me by being entirely out of control. But at this most recent class, he was calm and behaved much more like his good little self at home (as opposed to going crazy as he tends to do in class). He also seemed tired, he wanted to sit or lay down when he wasn't actively engaged, and I even had to coax him to get up at times. Deep down I was relieved and pleased that he was being so relaxed, but I wondered if something was wrong.
As the week progressed he seemed to be more sleepy than usual. He also didn't seem terribly interested in food, which, in Kenshin's case, is a definite sign that something's wrong. We couldn't tell if he was just being picky, because for about a week before he had been eating raw meats and vegetables when we ran out of kibble, so we figured he wasn't too happy switching back to the kibble. We took him with us to Adam's parents for the weekend, where he seemed to have plenty of energy, but then again, his girlfriend Ruby the Golden pup always makes him perk up. He still didn't want to eat kibble, although we convinced him to eat some table scraps.
By the beginning of the last week I was decidedly concerned about his lack of appetite, and he was getting more lethargic. No vomiting or diarrhea, though. Weird. We took him to his Holistic Vet (meh), who said he looked fabulous and was perfectly healthy, and that we should keep giving him lemon zest and pepper to "strengthen his stomach chi," and that we should just keep him on a BARF diet and stop with the kibble if he wouldn't eat the kibble. It didn't help that the morning before he went, he had eaten a full meal, so we were still uncertain if anything was really wrong. I think the vet thought we were being alarmists.
The next day, he was even worse. His entire demeanor was different. He was not happy, he looked miserable. He didn't want to play, or eat, he just wanted to lay around and sleep. Very unusual. The real cause for concern was that he refused to walk up the stairs, and appeared to be favoring his hind legs. Now it was looking really bad. Adam scheduled an appointment with the vet in PA that his parents swear by, a non-holistic vet who professed to be familiar with holistic practices (so we wouldn't catch crap for treating our dog's chi with pepper...that's a story unto itself).
It was encouraging that this other vet did not dismiss any of our concerns and seemed very knowledgeable in diagnosing the problem. Within minutes he had found some specfic sore spots (something the prior vet did not do) on Kenshin's spine that explained the pain in his hind legs. We had done our own Googling and developed a few theories as to what could be wrong, so to allay our concerns the vet did a battery of tests. However the ultimate outcome was that poor little Kenshin was in a lot of pain, most likely due to a bone disease called Pano.
Pano affects young dogs during rapid growth periods, and can last for weeks, causing inflammation and pain, shifting around to various limbs. The good news is that there are rarely any serious ill effects after the disease runs its course, and the treatment is simple pain killers. The vet gave Kenshin a double dose of pain medicine to get things started, and sent us home with a couple additional medications that we could have on hand in case one of his other tests came back positive (lyme disease being a particular concern given our location). By the time Adam and Kenshin got back from PA, Kenshin was closer to his usual self than I'd seen him in over a week. He greeted me with excitement, he was 100% more alert, and he finally started eating again.
His appetite isn't quite back to his usual voracity, but he's eating regularly now. He's happy and alert, and plays with his toys (although he's prohibited from rough play and tug-of-war, his favorite game). He occasionally shows sensitivity in his back legs, usually when it's time to take more pain medication. He thinks his pain pills are treats. We'll find out tomorrow if any other tests came back positive (the initial bloodwork was a-ok), but we're pretty sure at this point that Pano was the problem. I feel much better knowing that he's not in pain any more, and I'm relieved that it wasn't something more serious.
I found it interesting as I researched the disease that a lot of the recommendations our breeder gave us about feeing him coincided perfectly with how to prevent Pano. Although there's no specific known cause, or specific prevention, most of the recommendations I read about were things we already do (give him a vitamin C supplement, feed him adult formula food rather than puppy food). I had a lot of confidence already in our breeder's experience (although she did start Kenshin on the whole Holistic thing...), and my findings seem to support that.
Suffice to say, if you're ever in doubt about what any vet (or doctor) says, get a second opinion. If it seems like all your vet does in a check up is play with your puppy, it's probably true! A 3-hour drive and $500 is well worth it to prevent weeks of pain and misery in a poor puppy who can't tell you where it hurts.