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Nick's Lower Back Injury - help?

Gloria Atwater

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2nd opinion on Nick from another orthopedic vet. Some good news! You can read it further down the thread, here:







I have a diagnosis for Nick: Cauda Equina. I've pasted the orthopedic vet's report (and my remarks) further down this thread, here:



A second opinion and another set of x-rays are definitely on the menu.




Dear Sheepdoggers ~


First, I apologize in advance for what is going to be probably the longest, most rambling post I've ever made. But I'm struggling with panic, here, so I hope to hear from people who've had experience with back injuries in border collies. :(


Here is Nick's story. In the latter part of October, I was doing yard work while the dogs were free to play around the place. At one point, Nick ran down to the bottom of the property with his sister, as they often did. He came back up a while later, walking like a 90 year old man. He was visibly in pain, and it appeared to be in his hips or lower back.


Scared to death, I got him in to the vet the very next day. As best my vet could figure, he'd suffered an injury to the base of his tail, right at the bottom of his spine. My vet's guess was that he'd either tried to jump up somewhere and missed and fell back on his rump, or someone ran into him.


I'm inclined to think his little sister, Gael, probably collided with him from behind.


For whatever reason, the vet didn't prescribe X-rays, but we laid Nick up for about 3 weeks, and put him on some Rimadyl. With that rest time, he seemed to recover and his movement looked normal, including leaping lightly into the truck.


But then I ran him at Dunnigan Hills and at the end of the day, (after two good runs on those big hills) I went to put him in the truck ... and he didn't want to jump up. He was hurting again. When I got him home about 4 hours later, he was kind of hitching on one hip.


Of course, I laid him off again. During that time, I got him to a local holistic vet who does chiropractic. She adjusted him and while doing so, she showed me how an off-kilter tilt to his hips revealed that his back was out. When she had done the adjustment, it really seemed to help him.


A couple weeks later, I put him back to work and tried to go easy on him. There was one day of practice when we got home and he again got out of the truck seeming a bit ouchy and stiff. But some more time off, and he seemed good as gold. I finally put him back on the work roster and he seemed sound.


Well, last weekend, I spent 2 days at a friend's house, building fence and working on her arena, and the dogs just ran around and played. When I got done on the 2nd day (this past Monday) ... once more, Nick couldn't jump in the truck. There had been no wreck, no collisions, no wild leaps, just ordinary running around on a flat field, but two days of that was clearly too much.


I got him in to the vet for X-rays today.


We still have no real answers. What I do have is a whole lot of fear.


The X-ray was indeterminate. What it seems to show is that the disk-space between the last vertebra and the base of the tail (I can't remember what L this is) may be a little bit wider than the others, which may indicate there is swelling pressing the bones apart. But my vet said she did not think the disk was herniated or ruptured. (He can walk and trot normally, it just hurts him to perform any upward lifting movement, and his lope looks a bit tucked-under at the rump.)


Another odd thing, on the X-ray, there seems to be a ghostly image of what could be some calcification, a "flaring" at the bottom of the last vertebra and also the first bone of the tail. My vet said this could be Nick's body's attempt to compensate for an injury, by creating this calcification. But she said that if so, that bone would not be smooth, it would be rough, like granite, and that could cause him pain.


However, she's unable to diagnose any further, so she's referring me to a vet in Sacramento, Dr. Bob Richardson. - (EDIT: He is an orthopedic surgeon.) - She's sending me with Nick's X-rays, both the "before" image from when we OFA'd his hips and the "after" image of his lower back that we took today. And she said I might want to get an MRI done, but anyhow, to consult with Dr. Richardson, because he's handled this sort of thing for years and has more expertise than her.


This ... is where I start to panic. Since my vet can't pinpoint just what is going on, all we have are maybes. And those maybes range from Spondylitis to Spondylosis to arthritis to surgery to ... we don't know what.


People, I am scared. to. death. I made the appointment to see Dr. Richardson next Thursday, but his office said the visit and consultation will be $130, and an MRI runs from $1,000 to $2,000 !!!


I don't HAVE that kind of money! I just don't. God help me, I work part time in a liquor store and make $93 a week. My husband is self-employed, so he gets paid for when he works, but this time of year ... things can get slow. Plus his old corgi boy is sick and we need to get HIM in to the vet, because it looks like he's either suffering a return of his bladder infection or maybe something worse.


So ... I'm panicking. I'm terrified. I'm looking at this beautiful dog who isn't even 4 years old, yet, and who carries all my hopes and dreams in his gallant and loving heart, and I'm scared. The unknown scares me. The uncertainties scare me. And the financial aspect simply devastates me. An MRI will wipe out my bank account - and that's if it falls on the lower end of the quote range. There will be nothing left if this vet recommends further treatment.


But I'm trying to be useful and think how to help, in at least some small way. I've got rimadyl for Nick. He's already on MSN, and I've got a big tub of Synovi G3 that I've started him on. He'll be laid off for at least the next 2 months, no running, no playing, no nothin'.


And I'll pray. A lot. Fervently.


But people, can anyone offer me anything, on the dubious strength of what I've told you? I'm certain it's a traumatic injury - Nick went out hale and healthy and came back wounded. Until that moment, there had never been a bad moment with his back, ever, and though he's always hurting himself somehow, it had NEVER involved anything in his lower back. So the various spondi-whatsits don't seem to fit. Or at least I'm praying they don't.


But ... help? Anybody? I'll know more - maybe - after seeing Dr. Richardson. I've also got Nick scheduled for another visit with the holistic vet for acupuncture and to see if there's anything to adjust, though that's not until the 22nd, when she comes down here.


What else can I do? What should I be afraid of, or what can I hope for? Just ... please. Somebody. My world is wrapped up in this dog. It's probably pretty pathetic, but that's how it is. So the complete lack of financial resources is more frightening than words can express.


Thanks for listening, anyhow. Some prayers would be welcome, too.





I now realize I'm guilty of perpetuating this injury, by not laying him off long enough, in the first place. Belatedly, I know this. I just hope I haven't ruined Nick for life.

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What's Metacam?


Not sure about an orthopedic vet - maybe that's the guy I'm going to see? I don't think we have any here in this part of Nevada. Anyhow, my soon-to-be-flattened bank account will cut the vet thing short. (Hence the panic ...)


He doesn't seem particularly sensitive to the touch. If I kind of bear down, he'll turn his head and look at me, but it's not a flinch response.


Guess I need to learn about dog massage. Maybe there's some online info I can find. Plus I'll ask the holistic vet, when I see her about the chiropractic and acupuncture. Maybe she can demonstrate some massage things for me to do.


Thanks, Diane.


~ Gloria

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I don't have much to offer others than well wishes and prayers.

When I found myself having to do an MRI on a GSD years ago I was able to find a place via the local dogcommunity that was charging a hit less. It is scary that is for certain.

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Hi Gloria,


I am so sorry to read this. :(


Is it possible that after your consultation with Dr. Richardson that they may offer a payment plan? What about CARE credit? That may help you with the cost.


Sending you and Nick lots of good thoughts.

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I'm so sorry to hear about Nick - what a nightmare. My heart goes out to you.


You already know this - but here goes anyway -


Rest him. Get him used to a sling and help him up and down stairs. I suspect a ramp wouldn't help his hind end.


Call the vet, find out what you're going to get for your money. Explain your situation. More information is a good thing.


Take some deep breaths.


Call UC Davis and see if they have a rehab ortho on the faculty/staff. It's not any cheaper, but an ortho vet may be what you need, and it's not that much farther than Sacramento.


There are probably some doggy massage books - TTouch comes to mind - that would be helpful. I'll poke around later today and see what I find.


There's an excellent ortho vet in Sonoma County, too. I know that's way further for you, but just in case you want another consult . . .


We're all sending good BC Board Mojo for you and Nick!



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It sounds like Lumbosacral stenosis or Cauda Equina- my 14 yo girl Gilly has this. Border Collies are prone to this (many active breeds are). Essentially there are bulging discs that impinge on the nerve roots. Gilly had the MRI & CT to confirm (regular films are not going to tell you much) but her heart & kidneys would not have made the surgery so I opted for rest & steroids. 8 weeks of strict rest & good doses of steroids. She is better now but not the same. Even if you opt for surgery there is always the risk of another disc rupturing.


My best advice would be to see a neurologist. They can thoroughly evaluate Nick & give your best options/prognosis for conservative treatment.


Good Luck- I feel your(& Nick's)pain :(

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Gloria, I pm'd you on facebook. The project can help with this stuff a bit. Please give me a call and get me the phone numbers of the Vets.

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I just googled Dr Richardson, looking at his website it looks as though you are going to the right place.

Metacam is similar to Rimadyl, but does not seem to have some of the side effects. But, they can NOT be given at same time. If I remember correctly, it is 72 hours off of rimadyl before you can give Metacam.

Good luck,


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Gloria, I am so sorry to hear you are dealing with this. I'm not sure I have much to offer other than guesses. But, I will tell you that I was dealing with a recurring injury with my dog earlier this fall. He'd seem to get better and I'd let him run around again, and again he'd turn up lame. What finally worked with him was time. Lots of time to heal. I still don't know what the issue was, but he has been sound for the past month, now, knock on wood. But, I had to rest him for a good two months to get him there. I'm hoping that is all you'll need to do with Nick. (Though I understand how tough it is to ask a border collie to be quiet for 8 weeks. Not easy).

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What Tess said. I had a similar injury to one dog and took her immediately to the vet chiro and it really helped. Another dog I had had stenosis and a week's treatments with chiro and accupuncture did tons fo good for him. we kept up the accupuncture for many years whenever he would start to get bad and he always showed visable improvement.

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I am so sorry, Gloria. I don't have much advice for you, but I do want to share my experience. My Ike injured his back over the summer, though not to the extent that Nick did. He sort of hunched his back and ran with a little giddyup in his step as well, and he started squatting to pee. I was advised to rest him with leash walks only, and I did that pretty carefully for two months with no significant improvement at all. X-rays didn't show much except a bit of compression in one of his disks and a small bone spur at the base of his tail. My vet told me an MRI was the next step for a more specific diagnosis, but the answer would likely be surgery if I chose to pursue that route. Instead I started bringing him to a chiro and will begin swimming him therapeutically. He is doing much better now. Now, Nick's injury sounds far worse than Ike's, so I am not suggesting chiro is the only answer for him, but the thing that surprised me is that the chiro told me that rest was actually not a good idea for Ike's condition. He said it was better for Ike to be active and to keep his muscles working, as he got quite tight with extended crate rest, which did nothing to help him heal. Of course, I am not suggesting you shouldn't rest Nick, but I thought I'd offer my dog's story as an alternate experience for you to consider along with others that you hear.

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Even if not controlled gentle exercise, then at least keeping him mobile. They lose so much muscle strengh when on complete rest.

I wish I had more to offer that what's already been posted but I'll add my kudos to a good chiro and acupuncture. It did wonders fo Mick. I want to also add that I could tell when I found a good one compared the the first one I tried. She was trying her best but didn't have that special thing we needed. Mick would cringe with the first chiro and not want to let her touch him. The one that did us the best he'd happily get ready for his adjustments and you could see him go AHHHH when she made him feel better.


It's so heart wrenching when it's our go to dog, Any dogs is bad but that "special" dog just tears your heart even worse.


Sending MOJO Nicks way.

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Hi Gloria, is there any way you can get the x-rays and post them? I have a 10yr old lab mix that was diagnosed with spondylosis last March. He had been limping on his right back leg and I took him for x-rays, it almost looked like the limping was coming from his hips. Well, his hips were fine, his back was not, he has spondylosis from about the middle of his back to the base of his tail. He had been walking a little stiff and was also reluctant to jump. He is a complete nut, this dog is like a bull in a china shop. He and my border collie think its fun to bang each other into walls and to see who can topple over the flower pots as they race out the door. The vet said he probably started getting this when he was 3 or 4, it takes awhile for it to develope to the extent that he has it. Some say it is basically arthritis of the spine but the spine bridges to compensate for instability.I was totally devastated when I saw his x-rays, he also has some disc narrowing. Well, we found the limping came from a torn acl so I cannot say for sure if his back played a part in that or not. I now try to be more careful with him also since his knee surgery in July he is just now starting to run again, but I now let him run when he wants, I don't continually throw a ball for him since he would chase it forever and the constant pounding is not good. We also do acupuncture and chiropractic on him along with massage. I starting swimming him since his knee surgery and he has become much stronger through his hips and back. We had gold bead implants put in his spine to help stop the progression of it. If this is what your dog has I wouldn't be too worried about it, there are alot of dogs that have it and never show any signs whatsoever. And if it is just by the one vertebrae you can do alot to stop it from going any farther, you have to make sure the back stays limber by stretching and swimming is great. One thing I do for Cody alot is throw a treat under a chair so he really stretches out his back to get it. I hope this helps if you do get a diagnosis of spondylosis. Cindi

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Gloria, I am so sorry to read of Nick's injury. I can understand your panicky feeling. Having endured a critical health crisis with Kit recently, I know how the mind tends to automatically drift toward the worst case scenario and I sympathize with your situation.


Minnie (the dog in my avatar) had an incident that was somewhat similar, and she recovered without any long term consequences. Forgive me, but it's been several years and my memory of specifics is a bit cloudy. I remember waking that morning with Minnie standing beside my bed staring ruefully and with urgency at me, and the look on her face told me all I needed to know--sheer distress. I got her right in to my vet and Xrays showed a spinal issue. Unfortunately I can't recall with certainty the diagnosis, I believe it was an enlarged disk pressing on her lumbar spine. She was treated with a course of steroids, several weeks of rest (6 maybe), restriction from all off leash activity, no jumping up or down from anything-I had to lift her in and out of the car, and a series of acupuncture treatments from a holistic vet. It may be that a series of Adequan injections (or the less expensive pharmaceutically compounded PSGAGS) would be helpful as well. They wouldn't hurt so you may want to ask your vet if it 's worth a try. I hope that Nick's issue turns out to be transitory as well. I will be keeping you both in my thoughts.

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I second the advice to look into Care Credit (http://www.carecredit.com/). It's basically a credit card that has to be used for only human healthcare or vet care, and can only be used at providers who accept it. But it remains interest free for a certain period (which varies, from a few months to a couple of years). If you pay it back before that, you don't pay any interest.


Good luck. It's such a heartbreaking process to go through.




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My 12YO Cody went through a more severe event. When he injured himself, he could not walk for at least three days, could not get his rear legs to work. My Vet prescribed Novix, Tramadol, and steriods along with a week long stay in the Vet Hospital to keep him under observation. It took about a month for him to get his tail working again and a couple of months more for him to be able to trot. The worst part was the steriods which caused a large weight gain in a very short period. It was a very rough year after he hurt himself. For the first six months I would not let him exercise for longer than 30 minutes a day. At that point after the vet's Okay, I started to increase his exercise periods gradually. Now he can go for over two hours solid with no major problems.


Through diet I got the weight off him. By watching him closely when he exercised we have prevented a reoccurrance. While he is not 100% even now two years afterwards, he is able to run again and work. And I would add he continues to improve in his agility and speed as time goes by.


My vet and I choose the conservative treatment plan, no surgery or expensive specialists. While I was very alarmed by his sudden weight gain due to the steriods, I have to say they did the trick in his treatment. He only requires a daily half dose of Novix with an occasional Tramadol when he over does it now. Of course I still keep a close eye on him outside the house.


Give him a chance to heal up and be prepared for the long haul. He may come out of this with little or no lingering harm, only time will tell.

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I've taken one of my dogs in the past to Dr. Richardson and I have the utmost respect for him. Years ago my Sally had a lingering little thing going on with one of her hind legs. You could convince yourself it was almost anything if you looked at her long enough. The local vet had no real idea either. I would try to rest this little lameness out of her and it would come back then I'd try to rest her longer and it would come back. This went on for about 4 months. I had to find out what it was, so I asked around my friends and one recommended Dr. Richardson, an ortho specialist (used to be in private practice years ago). It took over 4 hrs to get to the clinic. They do real orthopedic medicine there, you'll see this when you walk in.


Dr. Richardson took what I consider to be the most thorough history that I've ever seen or heard from a vet. After this I told him that what I wanted out of this visit was a diagnosis and a plan. He started examining Sally and his first instinct was to see if she'd react to pressure behind her knee. He hit the nail right on the head. He took her for x-rays just to confirm his suspicion. She had what's called a gastrocnemius fabellum fracture. It wasn't full blown yet, none of the fabella were broken/shattered but the gastrocnemius was beginning to tear away from its origin.


I had my diagnosis and plan. There was room for hope, but the condition was certainly in both legs even though only one was hurting at the time. The visit cost me $200 including the x-rays. I tried to rest this out of her per the 'plan'. 3 months crate rest then slow reconditioning. It came back the following winter. Surgery would have meant 6 months crate rest to recoop with no guarantee of success. Long story short.... it was the beginning of the end for her trialing career. The good thing was I went forward with eyes wide open. I finally knew what was wrong and could make better decisions for Sally. Dr. Richardson is the real deal, good luck there.


Another of my older dogs hurt her back when she was about 8 years old. Peggy went out in the side yard with the other dogs and when she came back a minute later she couldn't walk up the steps of the porch. Local vet gave her steroids and 'rest'. Something was really wrong though. 3-4 weeks later I was beginning to witness the decline of my dog. I took her to a neurosurgeon and he said that she was certainly a surgical candidate, but he wanted to apply some more "tincture of time" just to see if there'd be any improvement. I went home and Peggy's decline continued. Again... long story short.... I found a chiropractor that had experience with dogs and had some good reports about his work. I made an appt and went to his office to see him the next day. She improved at the first visit and he wanted her to start working again after the second visit. She had likely subluxated one of her vertibrae (in her lower thoracic/upper lumbar region). His exam was with his fingers, he doesn't even do x-rays (if he needs a film he sends people to a local radiology practice). The initial regimen was moderate exercise followed by a massage of her lower back. She needed periodic adjustments for the rest of her life. I was able to get her back on the trial field a year or so after her injury and she won some places at trials after that but no more wins. So this was a dog that could've had a back surgery (again with no guarantee for success), and was saved from going through that by chiropractic. She lived to be 15.


Both of these doctors did well by me and my dogs. You will meet Dr. Richardson, and if you'd like the name of the chiropractor you can PM me. His practice is actually with humans. He went to Palmer and began working on dogs when he was in school. He's very good. I'm naturally skeptical of chiro because I was trained in the medical model, but no more. When I saw how Peggy was helped I began to have him work on me at our visits after he saw my dog. I know it sounds funny, but it's true. BTW his rates are very reasonable


Good luck with your dog, and PM me if you want the name of that chiropractor.



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If there is any lingering question of a herniated disc, I would seriously question any advice to ignore crate rest, or to encourage activity--other than therapeutic swimming under the advice of your veterinarian. It doesn't take all that much for the gel/fluid from a ruptured disc to put additional pressure on the spinal cord, or even for a bulging disc to do the same.


It sounds like your veterinarian has ruled out the above, but I think you should be aware of it, just in case.


Just to give you some comfort... It hasn't been that long since the injury, correct? I think you have good reason to hope that this will be resolved with the help of your veterinarian. I had a dog that was paralyzed in the back. After a few weeks of treatment, she came back up and could run and play again. I never had a problem with her back after that.

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Sounds a bit like my old dog.


You may want to try a rehab vet.


Both of my dogs have had misaligned pelvises (ie crooked hips), which can cause lameness and all sorts of bizzare symptoms which are mostly muscle spasms. My rehab vet said that SI subluxation (and i'm not talking subluxation in the chiropractic sense) is pretty common and from my experience most vets don't know to look for it.


You said that your dog's hips were crooked...are they still crooked?


Unlike the chiropractor, the rehab vet will give you exercises to keep the pelvis in place. This makes all the difference in the world.

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Yet another Care Credit vote. It was a real lifesaver for me. I wish I could help more.

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Wolftown has started a fund to help Gloria's Nick.


The MRI has been paid for. Contributions can be made at our site.




Sorry in advance if this is wrong to put here.

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Guys, thank you SO much - for everything. You all rock. :D


Let's see if I can manage some replies ... As for Care Credit, we actually do have that! But it's already kind of maxed out, because I had some emergency dental work done (broke a tooth) and then we spent about $800 on tests for our old corgi, a couple months ago, when we thought he was in renal failure. (Turned out to apparently be a really, really bad bladder infection.) So until we can pay that back down, Care Credit is off the menu. *sighh*


However, it looks like we have some help coming, so at least at this date, the financial strain won't be so bad. God has indeed sent His angels among us. :)


Per how much rest Nick gets ... at this point, I'm treating him like he's made of glass. Until I get to Dr Richardson next Thursday and get his orthopedic expertise, (and probably the MRI,) I'm not taking any chances. Nick is a house dog and he doesn't go anywhere without supervision. So far, his little sister is the one most impacted by the change! :P


As for calling UC Davis ... we'll see. I've help with regards to my visit to Dr Richardson, and the MRI if he wants to do that. But other than that, again, finances are a definite limitation. However, I'll know better what we're looking at, after seeing Dr. Richardson. (Dr. R is, by the way, an orthopedic vet. I didn't realize that when I panic-posted last night!) :rolleyes:


I'm going to pursue the chiropractic and acupuncture angles, definitely. Nick has an appointment with our local holistic vet when she comes down on the 22nd.


Cindy, thank you for the link about Cauda Equina Syndrome! That's another thing I can ask Dr. R about, when I see him. Knowledge is power, they say, so I'm open to all eventualities. The symptoms do sound relevant - and if it should prove to be CES, I can hope Nick's case is not very advanced, since his symptoms are quite mild, compared to those outlined there.


Though who knows what it will turn out to actually be ... :huh:


Therapeutic swimming sounds promising! I'll have to see if anything is available over here, since I'm pretty sure the local pool won't allow dogs. :P


To everyone who has shared experiences and spoken well of Dr. Richardson - thank you. Thank you a thousand times! I feel a lot better about things, if only for the fact that Nick is exhibiting virtually no symptoms today. This tells me that he's not in a lot of pain, which gives me hope for a positive outcome to this whole thing. I dare to hope that, so long as his (carefully monitored) mobility looks good and he's not in visible distress, his long-term prognosis may be good.


At any rate, I feel a good deal more hopeful. I'll keep everyone posted, when I know more!


Guys, thank you, all of you, for everything. Now I just hope I get a good night's sleep, tonight. :P

With fond regards,



(and Nick)

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