The fourteenth of September loomed large. Sky the Siberian Husky had already been through a lot but maybe, just maybe, Karen could bring an approach that would help.
To back up a little: Sky had never had much hind quarter muscle but had been a normal, active dog most of his life. Fast forward to 9 years old, around 2018, and he started to struggle with exercise and going out with Sue and her partner Mark to do things he’d always done. It had got to the point where he seemed to be going through the motions when walked, but wasn’t coping well and was getting progressively more sore.
Vet examination led to a referral (where the dog goes to a specialist for further exams and tests). While Sky was under general anaesthetic for a CT scan, Sue and Mark were told the dog potentially had an aggressive bone cancer and may only have months to live. The referral vet wanted a second opinion from a CT scan specialist, so a further report was requested.
No diagnosis (cause of the problem/s) or prognosis (way forward) came out of a lot of time and money spent. The advice was to go to one of the University Vet Schools for further investigation.
Sue didn’t believe the pelvic bone growth and loss that was found indicated cancer. She’d found some research on Siberian Husky Polyneuropathy (SHPN), an inherited condition that seemed to explain Sky’s loss of muscle (the bone changes possibly being from the body trying to cope with the muscle wasting). This compounded by advancing age might explain what was happening.
OK, so…’bone doctors’ not much help and ’squidgy bits’ may be the core problem. How to re-build at least some of Sky’s muscle so his bones didn’t have to remodel to support him?
Sue contacted every veterinary physio in the surrounding area. Some called back, some didn’t. Some were friendly and helpful, others sounded more interested in how much money they might make. An appointment with Karen was scheduled based on her qualifications, background and what seemed to be a genuine wish to make a real difference to the animals in her care.
The fourteenth of September loomed large…
And how do you do this sort of thing with more Corona Virus cases each day?!
Fortunately, Sue had a lab background and Karen had a degree in microbiology! The weather was dry and Sky had his appointment at home, outside on a rug, with precautions such as hand sanitiser and face masks being worn.
Karen gently examined Sky, finding the sore areas and muscle groups to treat. She then gave him a range of therapies, including massage, red light and Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy to help with the pain, and start the healing process. Exercises to stretch and strengthen Sky were shown to Sue and Mark. Lots of discussion, questions asked and answered and a relaxed dog in the thick of it all…
Karen provided a detailed report to both owners and local vet, including links to products to help with pain and videos of the exercises demonstrated in the session. She was confident progress could be made for Sky. He didn’t seem like a “neurological case” to her; that is, his nerves and reflexes seemed generally OK. If you’ve ever known a dog with degenerative myelopathy (used to be called CDRM) you’ll know that nerve degeneration in the hind limbs, followed by complete loss of feeling and inability to control urinating/defecating is a tough diagnosis for both dog and owner. But Sky could feel. Things obviously hurt. Counter-intuitive as this may sound, it gave hope. Karen suggested a follow-up visit in 2 weeks.
You might think…the specialists said investigate more and this owner’s gone in a different direction – why? Sue: “To me, it’s about quality of life for Sky. If he didn’t have long to live, what was better: being at home, pain relief and trying to do everything to make his days good ones, OR being a guinea pig at a Vet School where no-one knew what was wrong and there was no guarantee an approach would be found to help?!”
It’s hoped Sky can make improvements via nutrition, physiotherapy and pain relief to give him a window to be able to build more muscle – there may be some good years yet! But worst case scenario? He’s at home with his pack and loved.
These things are always a difficult decision and will be different for every dog. But, as an owner, seeking out as much information as you can, your energy level and positivity can make a difference to how your dog feels each day.
Be a realist, but don’t be afraid to go forward with hope!
Instalment 2 coming soon! Can Sky beat the dire prediction and make a come-back?!
Sue Haritou has a background in veterinary neuroendocrinology. Extensive research experience and founding/running a high growth start-up has included novel lab tests for disease biomarkers, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical approaches.
Karen Couper owns Northern Lights Veterinary Physiotherapy. She holds the Advanced Certificate in Veterinary Physiotherapy and is a member of the Institute of Registered Veterinary and Animal Physiotherapists (IRVAP) and the Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners (RAMP).
To book an appointment with Karen please contact 07517 325 572 or email@example.com