My 12-yr old German Shepard. It's not hip dysplasia but is it more than arthritis?
August 31, 2007 6:43 AM   Subscribe

My 12-yr old German Shepard. It's not dysplasia, but is it more than arthritis?

My elderly german shepard had a sudden change in health and started having incontinence and difficulty walking. It seems that his back legs actually cross each other when he walks and sometimes it looks like his back end is jack-knifing. He seems entirely unaware of his bowel movements (poops where he's laying), but gets up and urinates just fine.

The vet said it was not hip dysplasia, and has put him through different rounds of incontinence and arthritis medication. He is currently on a thyroid medication and a steroidal arthritis med. When first transitioned to these from the the incontinence med it was a radical change for the better, but only for a couple of weeks.

Any insight would be appreciated.
posted by doppleradar to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
I thought the crossing legs was universally recognized as a neurological symptom. This sounds like a nerve or spinal problem, and it also sounds like your vet is sort of...stupid? Your dog probably doesn't have a bladder problem, he probably has diminished sensation.

I think a new vet is what you need.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:01 AM on August 31, 2007

oops: bladder = bowel. Though he may also have reduced bladder sensation but pees out of habit so you're not seeing that problem yet.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:09 AM on August 31, 2007

My (long-ago deceased) dog had a similar problem at around the same age. It was definitely neurological but I am not sure of the particulars. I was 19 at the time and in college away from home so all I got was news over the phone.

Seconding the second opinion suggestion.
posted by cooker girl at 7:32 AM on August 31, 2007

Best answer: I agree that it sounds neurological. I would suggest getting a referral from your veterinarian for a specialist. The Central Texas Veterinary Specialty Hospital may be a good option. It looks like their Internal Medicine team works with neurological disorders. (I saw in your profile you're in the Dallas area.)

I used to work in a specialty veterinary hospital. It's usually worth the visit. Your regular vet is essentially a General Practitioner. It sounds like your pet needs the attention of a Specialist.

Best of luck to you!
posted by clpage at 7:49 AM on August 31, 2007

I am not a veterinarian, though it sounds like you should seek a second opinion. This sounds like degenerative myelopathy and is something our shepherd has and was diagnosed about a year ago. It is very common in shepherds, especially as they get older. However, be sure to consult a veterinarian as this may not be your dog's condition.
posted by chrisroberts at 8:33 AM on August 31, 2007

A different possibility (I'm not a vet, so I'm not sure how relevant or likely this is) is bone cancer. Our 10 year old muttdog - she was a big girl, about husky/sheperd sized - developed bone cancer which progressed quickly and resulted in incontinence towards the end. She also had difficulty walking but this was accompanied by difficulty getting up, sitting, posturing (getting into position to urinate or defecate) and anything that had to do with her hindquarters in general. I was told that it presents very differently in different dogs.

It's worth noting that this is generally diagnosed via x-rays (which I'm assuming that your dog has had if dysplasia has been ruled out), so if it hasn't shown up on those, it may not be the problem.
posted by oreonax at 9:38 AM on August 31, 2007

It sounds very much like degenerative myelopathy. The crossing the back legs is a symptom is pretty indicative of that. Our vet says it can't be cured. But it progresses rather slowly, at least it did for our shepherd. It doesn't hurt them, however. Our girl never seemed particularly distressed about it. We were, though.

Here is a site with more information. I have never put a link in a post before, so here goes:

Degenerative myelopathy

posted by WyoWhy at 9:49 AM on August 31, 2007

You have to get a referral for Central Texas Veterinary Specialty Hospital, but they're DEFINITELY worth it. We dealt with them extensively for several months this year.
posted by Addlepated at 10:55 AM on August 31, 2007

Response by poster: I was thinking neurological at first, because it's almost like he has no feeling back there (defecating seems to take him by suprise when he notices he's doing it). It came on so suddenly I thought it might be a stroke or something...
posted by doppleradar at 5:58 PM on August 31, 2007

Best answer: If you don't want to go the referral route, you could try taking her down to the Texas A&M Univ. Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The clinicians there are pretty awesome. My girlfriend's a student, and many of our friends are students. My roommate's girlfriend graduated from there last year.
posted by SpecialK at 6:19 PM on August 31, 2007

Response by poster: An update: Turns out it was severe, progressed spinal arthritis. He took a sharp turn for the worse and the vet recommended putting him down for quality-of-life reasons.
posted by doppleradar at 7:48 AM on September 16, 2007

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