Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Sign of Trouble

I try to not let Coulee's health issues surface too often in my daily life, but they are always there in my thoughts.  Always.  I think part of the problem is that we don't know what is wrong, so I obsess about everything that is slightly out of the ordinary.  Lacey could be exhibiting the exact same "symptom" and I wouldn't give it a second thought, but with Coulee I wonder what it means.

Sometimes I think I should stop obsessing and just let it go - what will be, will be.  Nothing we've done has made an impact at all on her health.  NOTHING.

Although we did discover that she is at Stage 3 kidney disease before she started showing symptoms. Or at least we think it is kidney disease - you never know with Coulee!  I guess time will tell.  We are getting another blood test today, so we'll see what weird and wonderful things show up this time.

My obsessing has also finally created the lightbulb moment that this is a sign of trouble:

I used to think she was looking old and gaunt some days, then I realized that the tight facial muscles you can see above were a sign of her pain.

On walks she still runs like a wild woman.  You'd never know there was anything wrong at all.

Her gait isn't the same as it was in her younger years, but it appears to be permanently altered and no longer appears only when her feet are showing major symptoms.  I used to think it was a sign of discomfort, and while I guess it may be (assuming she is always slightly uncomfortable - which is entirely possible), it is now the "norm".

But when her face starts doing this, I know it is time to head for the car.

I try not to let it get to that point, but it happens. There is a pretty fine line between having fun and doing too much. We've started doing some leash walks and while they don't bring out the pain in her feet, they only hold the household madness back for so long.

The main thing that has motivated me all these years to walk regularly (aside from a happy dog), is the peace and quiet at home that comes with a well exercised dog.  Nothing drives me battier than barking at every little noise, chasing the cats, wanting to constantly play fetch, beating up Lacey, etc. etc.  She just can't settle if she hasn't had enough exercise.

And if I slow her down for a week or so, she just runs more when I finally let her off leash.  I don't even need to play fetch - she just drops a toy at my feet and runs a giant loop just for the sheer joy of it.

The good news is, we don't think the running and walking does more damage (unlike a sprain for example) but I still hate to see her in pain after a run.  I feel like I've let her down by not seeing the signs earlier. I'm still trying to find the balance.  It changes from week to week depending on the state of her feet, which makes it even harder to get it right.  Some days I expect her to be hurting after and there is nothing, other days she is hurting and I don't expect it.  But I think I'm getting better at reading the subtle signs.

If only they could talk...


Taryn said...

If it helps at all....you are not alone in your obsessing...I've got corgis, so every bad fall, fearless leap, rough tackle or stumbled mistep has me scrutinizing for back issues. Both boys have spots, when manipulated by my chiro vet, that appear to cause discomfort. So any time one of them doesn't seem to be moving right, I instantly think something must be wrong with their backs! It can be very hard letting them just be dogs sometimes.

manymuddypaws said...

Pain is hard in dogs- it's hard to know what the balance is. I do think that although her activity doesn't cause more damage- it does obviously cause her more pain. So while it is great that the running doesn't make her feet worse I do think that figuring out the balance, and the stopping point before the pain comes is the key.

I struggle with Wicca in the same fashion. The dog can't live in a bubble. But at the same time if I allow her to run like a crazy dog she will hurt. If I allow her only to wander around in a leisurely fashion- sniffing etc. I can still exercise her without the pain. We've gotten creative on walks, and only once in a very long while do I actually let her run with a group of dogs. For me my goal is to have her as pain free as I can. Medication is the last choice.

What about playing more brain games with Coulee- do some nose work stuff. Even on your walk. I've got these cool food tube things- you could plant food in the them, and then hide them in the field. She will learn to methodically search for them- getting exercise but at a less frantic pace, AND her brain will be tired too. Because I think for Coulee it is that frantic speed she runs at- Coulee doesn't do things slowly, or gently. She 100mph. That is a lot of impact on her feet.

Just some thoughts and ideas. I think you are on the right track with finding balance. The pain face is not something you should see- especially because you can prevent her pain pretty easily at this point.

Andrea said...

I still remain impressed by how well you can read, and how in tune to your dogs you are!

WigglyZack said...

I truly know how you feel and Coulee is very lucky to have someone keep such a good eye on her. It's true if only they could talk - some dogs hide how they feel so well. Hopefully her blood tests came back good for you.