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Jester is 14 this year. He doesn't see or hear all that well any more, but he is still the same dog in many ways. He has always been an extremely energetic dog, with a lot of heart, and he still is, on the inside, but despite the fact that neither he nor I want to admit it, he is finally getting old. In the past month he has developed weakness in his hind legs and is unsteady on his feet some of the time. In the early morning (5AM) when we first get up he seems fine, and demands his fetch play as always. I throw the toy less far these days and make him stop sooner, but he moves just fine when he is fetching. Later in the day he becomes weaker, and sometimes when he is standing still he just sort of collapses slowly to the ground and I have to help him up. He also staggers into things occasionally, but not often. I can manipulate his hind legs and he doesn't indicate any pain, but he has always been a very stoic dog so I can't be certain there isn't any at all.

 

My question: If this were your dog would you go have a bunch of tests run on him, or would you just figure that it is a result of his age and probably nothing could be done? His appetite is normal and his attitude is as good as always.

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This sounds very much like Tilly these days, except that she's increasingly weak when she wakes up and gets better as she moves around. The vet feels it's age related weakness and doesn't suggest doing much for it. Of course, she's almost 18 now, too.

 

She does have arthritis and gets adequan injections for that, but it doesn't seem to do much of anything for the muscular weakness.

 

I'll be ordering a mobility harness tomorrow for her that supports both the shoulders and hips. Up until now I'd just been using a regular harness for support on the stairs (she was falling both up and down them -- really scary!), but now that the rear is weaker, sometimes she has trouble gaining her legs until she walks around a bit and limbers up, so I need something to help her get up and get going.

 

This is the harness I'm ordering: https://www.petedge.com/zpetedgemain/catalog/productDetail.jsf?wec-appid=PEDM_WEBSHOP_TR&page=72A214C22827430A9795247F1BF064D6&itemKey=005056A633791ED2B5864B5340CE8FB3&catalogId=ZPEDM&itemId=TP6964+24+83&wec-locale=en_US

 

I wanted something I can leave on her because she needs it when she's lying down and can't get up on her own.

 

Best wishes for your aging pal.

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I would want to check for basic joint/spine issues that could be easily manageable/treatable with something like adequan or pain medication.

 

I'd also consider a visit to a canine rehab vet/facility to see if there were some basic exercises/activities that I could be doing with him to build/maintain strength.

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Ask vet about Degenerative Myelopathy. My old boy had symtoms at 15 1/2, but not diagnosed until 16, because I did not know about it and thought it was just old age. He did live a year after diagnosis, so was very old when he passed. His rear end would also sag after standing a few minutes. Are his rear nails scraping the ground any when walking?

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Maralynn, there is a canine rehab person here whom I greatly admire and I may have her take a look at him, although ongoing treatment is going to be out of my price range. Thanks for mentioning it, though, because I had not thought of her until you mentioned it.

 

CSW:His rear nails don't scrape the ground when he is walking. He walks fine most of the time, but sometimes he stumbles, and his feet can occasionally cross over each other, both hind feet and front feet, which makes him clumsy. Thanks for mentioning Degenerative Myelopathy (which I have never heard of ). What is it? I will mention it to the vet when I take him in.

 

Any other advice or experience from anyone is appreciated as well.

thanks

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DM is a spinal cord disease that appears in older dogs. I don't want you to worry too much. Knuckling the hind feet over or scraping his hind feet nails when he walks is an indicator. There are other indicators as well. I would not worry too much, but just ask.

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One thing I notice is that some days are a lot worse than others; on some days he doesn't stumble or sink down at all. This makes me think it is mostly, or all, a result of aging, and probably there's nothing I can do about it. He is still for the most part far more energetic than the majority of 14 year old dogs are. People ask me how he can be in such good shape, and I say it's just like people: good food, good exercise regularly, and good love. And being a border collie. :-)

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Funny, I was just thinking that now that I've ordered a mobility harness for Tilly that she's doing better, too, and then I see your post.

 

So, yeah. I suspect these old dogs have good days and bad ones just like we humans do. I have a chronic pain condition and it's definitely not the same for me every day, and I don't always understand why. I'm sure it's the same for dogs.

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I would think that a rehab person would be able to assess and give you an idea of exercises to help in one visit if there isn't major issue going on. There are often simple exercises that can pretty easily be done at home. I think that rechecks tend to be quite a bit cheaper than the initial visit as well. Definitely worth calling and explaining your situation and asking about it.

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Many years ago, when I had a senior dog exhibiting hind quarter weakness, I found acupuncture and therapeutic massage provided some relief for him. IIRC, as he continued to decline with age, the last ditch remedy was prednisone. That did forestall the decline for a time, but there may be newer, better protocols available now.

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I second at least consulting with the rehab vet. My rehab vet was always quite willing to provide exercises, etc., we could work on at home. In fact, I'd guess most rehab vets would expect the owner to do a great deal of the daily rehab work at home. If you have anyone around there who practices holistic medicine you might want to consult with that person as well. They may be able to provide you with natural antiinflammatories that can help ease any discomfort (e.g., I had my old Boy on cinnamon and turmeric that last couple of years of his life), At this point I wouldn't be worrying about degenerative disease issues so much as just making sure that he's as comfortable as possible.

 

It could even be a vestibular issue messing with his balance on occasion.

 

J.

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It could even be a vestibular issue messing with his balance on occasion.

 

FWIW, when I asked the vet about possible vestibular issues for Tilly, who paces in clockwise ovals, she told me that without the characteristic head tilt she wouldn't be inclined to think that.

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I would love to take him to a holistic/rehab vet and also to the dog rehab person that I respect in town but unfortunately I have been hit with some massive unavoidable expenses in the past few weeks and can't afford it. If I ever can afford it, that is what I will do. I know that chiropractic made all the difference for my Kit dog, who has chronic pain and stiffness. But I cannot afford $85 a week for chiropractic treatments for her. :-(

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  • 2 weeks later...

So sorry to hear about your boy. I work in physical rehabilitation at a veterinary referral center and weakness in older dogs is very common and can be caused by a variety of issues, either individually, or collectively.

 

Degenerative Myelopathy is a degenerative genetic disease that affects the myelin surrounding the spinal cord and nervous tissue. Myelin is like the freeway for nervous signals headed to their destination so that they can tell a muscle to fire. When the "freeway" starts degenerating (getting lots of potholes) the signal does not get to it's final destination as quickly..... Initially this is seen when dogs start dragging their rear feet, then begin to walk on the tops of their feet, loss of balance (falling down while turning especially) and appearance of looking "drunk". It always starts with the dragging of feet because the degeneration occurs first at the furthest point back and slowly makes its way to the front of the dog. DM is not common in border collies.

 

Orthopedic conditions can also wreak havoc on strength and ability to rise. Arthritis in the knees and hips or low back, when severe, can mimic neuro-like signs when both rear limbs are affected. If it is arthritis, pain control and moderate exericse should help.

 

Geriatric onset neurologic disorder...this is just the body wearing out. Sort of like DM, but not a genetic disease. Things just get slower.

 

The first thing I would recommend is to be sure that any pain is resolved because pain will exacerbate any neuro dysfunction or like I mentioned above, mimic it.

 

Several short walks a day are better than one long one.

 

Assisted standing and balance exercises (pick up one front leg at a time for 1-5 seconds) can also help.

 

It is hard, hard, hard to watch old dogs move into the geriatric phase of their lives and all we can do is make them as comfortable as possible with the means that we have.

 

Best of luck to you.

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Heartful, thank you for this information.

I will try those balance exercises and see if that helps.

 

I have stopped letting him run so far to play frisbee. Instead, we play every morning outside while I have my coffee, with a different throw toy. I am sitting down and the toy is different, so it cannot go as far. He loves any fetch game, any time, any where, no matter how far or short you throw it, so it still makes him happy. I am noticing that he is not limping any more and his hind legs don't go down as often. He still stumbles sometimes, but it seems that not letting him run quite as much and as far is making things a bit better.

 

I think he'd never, ever give up. He would run himself into the ground. So it is my job to moderate what he does now that he is older. He is still happy and that is the main thing.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Try adequan. It has done absolute wonders for my 15 year old. He did not want to be social at all because of the weakness. He also has muscle loss in his hind legs. We are in the 3rd month and wow! It's like we threw him in a time machine! I do have to say, if you do want to give it a shot, learn how to give the injections yourself. You will save a lot of money.

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