Following my last post on Terra's unsoundness, she had been having regular acupuncture for a 'sore back'. Terra has had a sore back for, oh, round about the last 3-4 years so I was unsure whether this was even the cause of the present problem (the RH intermittent foot dragging). The acupunture didn't seem to be helping much, so I radiographed her back at work.
I found some abnormalities in her sacrum on xrays, what's called an increase in sclerosis 'whiteness' of the end of the vertebrae:
The combination of the intermittent foot dragging, and the abnormal radiographic findings was partly suggestive of Cauda Equina Syndrome, although she did not have any other typical neurological or pain responses when the appropriate tests were performed. So we decided to just wait and see how she went.
The next morning, Terra had a markedly abnormal gait on her RH, almost 'hippy'. Since she had not had a full neuro exam the day before, I proceeded to give her one, and to my horror I found she had a delayed placing reflex on her RH,fairly markedly delayed at times.
The placing reflex test is a test we do to judge the dogs ability to know what its limbs are doing. It looks like this:
When you turn the dogs paw upside down, the dog should immediately correct it. Failure to do so can indicate an abnormal neurological system (failure of the nerves in the foot to transmit to the brain). Terra's foot looked like this:
I.e. she was not turning it back the right way up. I immediately booked her in for a specialist surgical consult, with the view that she might need more advanced imaging. After our consult, the vet agreed that her xray was abnormal, as was her gait and placing reflex. She also had almost hypermotile patella reflexes. So she was admitted for a CT with contrast, to check for spinal damage, and particularly for any bulging discs that might be pressing on the spinal cause and causing the deficits. If she had any disc disease then that would be the end of her agility career, as doing agility would be too high risk of causing a total disc rupture.
Obviously I was concerned about this, but my primary concern was that she had something that was going to impact on her normal life. At only age 7.5 I did not want anything like a ruptured disc to happen which would cause her to need spinal surgery. So Penny and I consented to the CT and went home to wait..and wait. Must say that we are *much* better with keeping owners informed then the specialists are! Eventually we got the results- no spinal disease, discs are all fine. Presumed soft tissue injury (causing pain and her not wanting to move her foot as per normal), but the vet had no idea where. So..back to rest, and normal soft-tissue muscle therapies..obviously partly relieved but still concerned, especially with the lack of diagnosis.
Will she compete again..? I certainly will be doing everything in my power to have her running with me again! (photo by Bronnieren11)