As easy as it would have been to manage if it were a tick-borne disease, this is actually very, very good news to us. Especially since we think we have found something that gives Bella some relief AND identified what we think she's doing to her right side.
Let's start at the beginning.
Or at least with Bella's visit to the chiropractor last Wednesday.
We had selected this veterinarian based on recommendations from friends. When your dog is afraid of people, finding vets who know how and have the patience to work with her can be challenging. Especially when that visit will be as "hands on" as a chiropractic one. To be honest, I wasn't sure some of the hands on modalities would even be feasible with Bella since both require her to be at least moderately relaxed to provide any benefit.
So we turned to our friends and our trainers and one name kept coming up again and again: Dr. Rogers at Integrative Animal Health. The doctor roster at the clinic reads like a Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine alumni who's who so we were very confident that the doctors there were every bit as good as the doctors we have been working with. Learning that the two practices routinely refer patients back and forth as required was just more gravy.
But what about the scared-y dog factor?
Bella has never been a fan of the vets' office. Basically having people she doesn't know touch her in any way is always cause for her concern. But the last two times we went to the vets, we left her there for the whole day.
I haven't talked about it much because it's kind of low on her list of issues but Bella does have some separation anxiety. Surprise! Okay probably not a surprise. But leaving her at the hospital the last couple of times we took her there pretty much did her in. By the time she figured out we were going BACK to another clinic on Wednesday morning, she wasn't having any of it.
Pacing, panting, whining and climbing, Bella was hoping against hope that she could make this whole thing not happen.
But happen it did.
We got her into an exam room, did the whole terribly long and boring speil of what happened when and how all over again to the technician and then again when Dr. Rogers came in to see us.
Then Dr. Rogers wanted to 'do an adjustment'.
She wants to do a what???
Bella was lying on a mat in the exam room and Dr. Rogers sat down behind her and started just gently scratching Bella's bottom. You know that spot on top of the tail dogs love to have scritched so much? Yeah, that spot.
I thought my heart was going to shatter into a billion pieces as my poor dog shook from head to toe at the gentle touch of a stranger.
We've never pushed Bella into accepting being touched by strangers because she had so many other fears and issues to work through but I wonder now if we have done her a disservice? We will have to see if the good doctor can ultimately change her mind about strangers touching her.
As Dr. Rogers examined Bella she was making gentle adjustments to her muscles and structure. And she found things. Things no x-rays or ultrasounds or MRIs had been able to find.
First, was that Bella's right-side lameness likely stemmed from an injury in her right foot, not her shoulder. Jan had been saying that all along but the focus, and perhaps rightly so until ruled out, remained on her neck and shoulder.
Next Dr. Rogers found some issues in Bella's left shoulder which we pretty much expected. But traveling on, she also found potential issues in Bella's back and hips.
But as she examined and tweaked our little girl, Bella's panic subsided.
You could almost see her pain release as Dr. Rogers found spot after spot that needed adjustment. Bella's panting eased, her face softened, the shaking stopped. She still wasn't what anyone would call relaxed but for our crazy kid, the change was night and day.
As Dr. Rogers was working on Bella's hips though, Bella's agitation began to increase again and Dr. Rogers stopped, recognizing that Bella "was done" for the day.
We finished the visit with instructions on how to give Bella Adequan injections at home. (Jan gives the shot. Leslie manages the dog. Leslie does not do shots. Leslie could barely stomach the chiropractic adjustments.)
We see Dr. Rogers again on Thursday and I have a lot of questions to ask. I think I was just so happy to have a plan that didn't involve surgery and more medications that make Bella sick that I didn't ask for as much detail as I normally do.
Jan and I have also made some observations over the weekend that we'd like to bring up with the doctor. Until then, Bella is enjoying be free of crate rest and this lovely spring weather. Hopefully now that we've got her on a rehabilitative and healing path and we'll be able to get her pain in check soon.
And so another week has passed and mom hasn't posted anything - again. Good thing she had this pretty picture of me just hanging out there waiting to be shared to remind you all I still exist. Geesh, mom, get with it, will ya?
That's right, in front of God and everybody, Bella did the pancake move and not only refused to get out of the car, she plastered her 60 pound body to floor making Jan have to try and lift Miss Dead-Weight out. And it only got better from there. Did I say better? Yeah, I lied.
Once we finally got her inside the facility (an effort unto itself), Bella tried everything in her power to get outside again including pleading with her obviously horribly insensitive owners to take her home again by climbing into our arms and up on our shoulders. (Individually, of course. Double your horror, double your guilt.)
Bella did, much to her surprise, survive the event. And she was ridiculously happy to learn we did, indeed, come back for her. She was so excited in fact that she tried to do zoomies in the car. This might have actually worked if we had a Hummer, but we don't. We have a Mini Cooper. :?
She was still pretty drugged up when we got home. We gave her a little food and she devoured a bully bone she had left unfinished somewhere (ew) but we tried to leave her be for the night - she just wasn't herself and we didn't want to do anything to upset her. She slept most of Friday but by Saturday was back to her old demanding self
"Why no, Occifer, I'm not stotally toned. Wa hever would you ax?"
As I posted on her Facebook page, the neurologists found nothing amiss in her MRI. They found nothing amiss in her EMG. They found nothing amiss in her exam because the damn dog won't let on where she's hurting in front of them. Everyone is baffled.
Some very good news did come out of the MRI and that is that all the really big scary stuff has been ruled out: cancer, degenerative disc disease, degenerative myelopathy... There doesn't even seem to be a single disc injury. But we do have a game plan.
Starting yesterday, Bella's off strict crate rest. She is still on some activity restriction (no stairs, no off-leash zoomies). I'm sure she'll be happy with whatever sniffing and exploring she's allowed. (I know Jan and I will be happy for her to have something to do besides eat and whine at us for more food.)
We are trying Bella on a course of Doxycycline to rule out any tick-borne diseases. It's a long shot but harmless to try. The thinking is that she hasn't presented straight-forward signs and symptoms for anything so why would we expect her to follow the rules for symptoms of Lyme disease? We should know in just a few days if it's helping and if it's not, we stop. No harm, no foul.
We also have an appointment with a new vet on Wednesday who does chiropractic care. The practice is integrative in their approach and other doctors offer different modalities from chiro and acupuncture to nutrition and massage so we're hopeful that someone among them can do something to ease her pain.
Finally, our neurologist seems to have made Bella her own personal challenge and spoke to the head of Tufts "Pain Clinic" who wants to see Bella because she thinks she might be able to offer some techniques not available elsewhere. (I haven't set that appointment up yet. Bella can only handle one vet visit a week.)
So the long and short of it is, we may not know what's going on with our little crazy dog but we have a pretty good idea now of what's NOT going on. And there are a variety of options we can pursue to try and ease her pain.
That's our first order of business right now: pain management. We may return to diagnostics once she's out of pain but it's time to focus on making her more comfortable. Her response to treatment could even point us in the direction of what is really wrong.
Again, I'd really like to thank everyone for their kind words and support through all of this. You have been a blessing in our lives.