This is a brief story of my wonderful Giant Schnauzer Samson and how he is coping with a very debilitating condition with the support of Meadow Farm Hydrotherapy.
Sam first started to show signs of lameness in early 2005 when he had three bouts of limping badly on his front left leg. After resting him for a few days this would ease off and each time I thought that he may have pulled a muscle or knocked himself as he is a very accident prone dog by nature. On the third occasion I took him back to the vets and he had an X ray on his leg which was non conclusive. He was referred to a specialist at the practice who believed it to be the early signs of Arthritis. Sam’s back hock joints had been creaking for some time on rising from his bed. We tried to get him on medication but he has a very sensitive stomach and could not tolerate any of the drugs prescribed.
In May 2006 Sam had a big relapse and could not stand at all on this back legs. It was very distressing to see him like this as it was so painful for him when I had to make him stand and walk to the garden. He just wanted to curl up on the sofa and looked sad. I took him back to my vet who had him in for some more X rays and tests. This time the X rays showed the areas of joint abnormality and along with the tests taken he was diagnosed with Chronic Poly Osteo Idiopathic Arthritis.
On this diagnosis I decided to look into hydrotherapy as I am a great believer in natural remedies and self help. I found Meadow Farm on the internet, I made a telephone call to enquire about the hydrotherapy and was instantly impressed by the professional and friendly response I received. I was invited to go along and have a look round which was not offered from the other hydrotherapy centres I contacted. Being a very fussy owner and only wanting the best for Sam, my husband and I, (and Sam) went along on a busy Saturday to have a ‘quick’ look. Rachel and Sam bonded from the moment they met and nothing was too much trouble. My quick look turned out to be a thorough discussion on his condition and watching some of the other dogs swim. I booked my first course of appointments and have not looked back since.
Sam has not been an easy dog to swim at all and it has taken a lot of patience and understanding from both Rachel and Roger to achieve the results that we have. Sam is not a natural swimmer and no two swim sessions are the same with him as it depends on how he is feeling and what mood he is in as to how well he does. Rachel and Roger instantly know when he is fatigued or has sore joints on arrival and each swim session is adjusted to suit his needs. I would not be confident in taking Sam anywhere else for his swimming as I feel that Rachel and Roger really have an understanding for all dogs and their individual medical conditions. The quality of service is second to none.
Due to Sam’s type of Arthritis he has relapses and flare ups for which there is no pattern. When this happens we adjust his swim sessions and overall activity. Along with the hydrotherapy I also have physiotherapy sessions on a regular basis with Sarah who works closely with Rachel. When Sam is doing well he has a maintenance visit once a month and if more visits are needed Sarah is only a phone call away. In March this year I also started Sam on acupuncture with Roberta who holds treatment sessions at Meadow Farm. Sam walks out of the treatment room a different dog after the acupuncture as it relieves all the muscle tension in his back. Once again the frequency on visits depends on how Sam is and Roberta is very good at getting Sam in for a visit at short notice when needed. Each type of therapy compliments the other and they work together in helping Sam to be as pain free and happy as possible. Each dog is an individual and has different needs and is assessed and treated as such.
When Sam first started to show signs of lameness and then he collapsed he was in a lot of pain. He is not a dog to make a fuss when hurt but he did become very depressed and it was very distressing to see him like that. Both my husband and I were prepared for the worst as we could not let Sam suffer like that but we where prepared to try anything to help him. He was only Six years old and being such a sensitive dog he was struggling with not being able to take medicine from the Vets. However, with a lot of patience and trial and error we have now managed to get him on an anti-inflammatory medicine which helps him and also natural supplements that assist with the condition. I also changed his diet on recommendation of the Vet and this is all contributing to the quality of life that he now has. I did not think that we would get him to his seventh birthday yet alone his eighth. Hopefully we will see a few more birthdays together and although his condition will only progress as time goes on I feel that with all the help from Meadow Farm and the supportive network they work with that Sam will have a good quality of life for a long time to come.
I can not thank Rachel & Roger enough for all there help and support and I would recommend hydrotherapy to anybody that has a dog needing help. One of the added benefits of going to Meadow Farm is the extensive support network that works along side the hydrotherapy – including physiotherapy, acupuncture, McTimoney and T Touch. Rachel has also been able to offer me advice on bedding to suit Sam and has a good range to choose from, along with coats for all occasions as it is important to keep Sam warm and dry. It is the small things that can often make a difference such as walking Sam in a harness now which prevents any further pressure on his neck and spine.
Finding Meadow Farm and taking Sam there has been the best thing that could have happened to us and with the support of my vet I still have a happy and content dog who has a good quality of life hopefully for a few more years to come. It does take hard work and commitment but I truly feel that Sam is worth it as he gives us back so much love and is my constant companion. He deserves the best and he gets that at Meadow Farm.
Meadow UPDATE FOR SAMSON
UPDATE ON SAMSON AUGUST 2008
Since writing my original testimonial about Sam and his arthritis there has been significant changes to his health and we have been through many months of ups and downs and traumatic experiences, that I feel I must share them with you so that you can understand just what can be achieved and how much joy it gives to be able to share more time with Sam and to see him happy once again.
Sam had an assortment of lumps & bumps on his body that I kept a constant watch on alongside regular visits to my vets. Then he suddenly developed a tiny spot on the tip of his right ear. This seemed to appear overnight and started to grow rapidly. Each time I was at the vets I got them to check it and I’m sure they must have thought of me as a paranoid owner but as the weeks went by it was growing rapidly and got to the stage that it was going to be uncomfortable for Sam. On yet another trip to my vet it was decided that it needed to be removed with a wide margin. Poor Sam had to have almost half of his ear removed. Whilst he was under anaesthetic they also decided it would be wise to remove some of his other fatty lumps from under his chest and abdomen. On his return home Sam was a very unhappy dog as he did not cope very well with the effects of anaesthetic, so for several days I had the nursing hat on and it was close supervision at all times. Sam gets very stressed if he has to wear an Elizabethan collar (this was also going to rub on the ear) so for a week I slept on the sofa next to him to make sure he did not shake his head or lick his many wounds (not much sleep though). Rachel has a lady who makes coats to order and between us we designed an all in one PJ Suit that would stop Sam getting to any of his wounds. This was with me within a couple of days – you can’t get better service than that! While Sam was recovering and his wounds healing he could not go for his swim sessions so, I had Sarah visit twice a week for physiotherapy and he had extra acupuncture sessions with Bobby which helped enormously to control his many aching joints. Once his scars had healed it was back into the pool with Rachel and Roger - twice weekly to start with to build him up gradually and get back to where we were before the upheaval.
However, shortly after this both Rachel and I noticed how his general overall condition was starting to decline. Sam was getting extremely lethargic and lost all interest in play activities. His coat was thinning and although I could not pinpoint any specific one thing to tell my vet I knew that all was not well and that it was not just old age. After several visits to my vets I was still not happy with the ‘old age’ explanation and asked to have some tests carried out. These tests did not pinpoint anything specific so I then asked if I could be referred to a specialist centre. This was the best thing that could have happened for Sam.
In January 2008 we had our first visit to the specialist referral practice and we had a very long and thorough consultation with an internal medicine specialist. As I keep a daily log on Sam and his health I had this to pass on, which helped enormously. Nothing was too much trouble. Sam stayed in for a few days for many tests, ultrasound and x-rays. To cut a very long story short it was found that Sam was hypothyroid (an under active thyroid gland), he also had suspected inflammatory bowel disease and inflammatory spinal disease. The plan was to treat the thyroid first before going on to investigate the other problems. This is a very easy problem to treat once diagnosed and the levels of medication are correct. Having an under active thyroid can stay undetected as a lot of people put the symptoms down as ‘old age’ and the signs can be so varied and diverse – but you know your animal better than anyone so if you feel that something is not as it should be don’t give up – keep going until you get answers. It can be very frustrating and demoralising but go with your instincts and don’t let anyone make you feel that you are being paranoid. As soon as Sam started his medication the changes where dramatic – I had the old Sam back. The depression lifted and he wanted to play again. His coat started to thicken and grow back with a shine to it and his skin improved so much. He was generally a much happier and healthier dog, although his back pain was getting worse.
Back I go again – this time to the specialist centre to see the neurologist. Again Sam had to stay in for a few days (much to his disgust) and he had an MRI scan, more ultrasound and other tests. We came away with a diagnosis of intervertebral disc degeneration and advice on what Sam can and can’t do (much of which was already in force due to the arthritis) and some neurological pain relief. Hydrotherapy was a must along side the physiotherapy and acupuncture. The medication he was prescribed for this condition is very expensive, but well worth it as Sam was much happier after just a couple of days. He had no problem with an upset tummy and I have noticed that due to a reduced level of back pain he has less problems with his digestion and toileting. We are know at the end of April 2008 and looking forward to getting back to regular swim sessions, alongside maintenance visits of physiotherapy and acupuncture.
This was not to be. One afternoon whilst grooming Sam after his walk I notice a large swelling on the inside of his left hind leg. This was not there the day before. Over the next two days I noticed that the swelling would alter shape slightly and appear at times more pronounced than others. Sam had an appointment booked at the referral practice the next day for a routine check on his back, so whilst there I asked the vet to have a quick look. Straight away he was concerned and got the surgeon in to have a look. Sam was whisked off to have some cells taken for analysis and I was to await a phone call later that day. This test came back as abnormal cells and I had to take Sam back first thing in the morning for further investigation. This involved another MRI, ultrasound and many more bloods. This was not looking good and I’m by know very tearful and fearing the worst. I have a phone call from the vets to say that the scan shows a large tumor in the gracilis muscle and do we want to go ahead and have it removed whilst Sam is still under anaesthetic. What a situation to be in! Sam had been through so much over the past months and I was concerned as to how he would cope without this muscle alongside all his other problems. I had to make a decision so I asked Sam to be brought round so that we could bring him home and have a couple of days to think what was best for him. We went to collect Sam on the Saturday morning and the surgeon showed us the pictures on the scanner. Again nothing was too much trouble and after a lengthy chat about the situation he went to get Sam from the kennels. At this time because I had found the swelling so quickly the tumor had not spread beyond the gracilis muscle (the muscle was already dead) and if we did not go ahead with the operation Sam would only have two months at most.
Sam came trotting out with the surgeon and you would not have known anything was wrong. He was full of beans and wanted to play. It was Sam that told us to go ahead with the operation. We had to give him a chance. Over the weekend my husband and I did a lot of soul searching and looked at ways of funding the operation. We had by now used up all of our pet insurance quota for the year. I had no qualms about selling my motorbike as it could always be replaced at a later date – Sam could not – and I must have spent hours researching on the internet – let alone how many tearful conversations I had with Rachel and Sarah. It was going to be a major operation and a long recovery.
Sam went back on the Monday morning as the operation needed to be done straight away before the tumor spread. What a stressful time and many, many sleepless nights. The operation went well although Sam had to stay in for the week. He had a drain in and was bandaged up. Because Sam does not do staying away from home very well and gets depressed I went each day to visit him. He would not eat or go to the toilet for the staff at the centre so I would go armed with goodies and we had a quiet room to ourselves. When I brought Sam home he instantly cheered up and was a first class patient. He was on complete rest and once again I camped out in the lounge at night so that I could keep a close eye on him. Because there was such a large space in his leg from where the muscle had been we had a problem with the build up of fluid. Over the next weekend the whole leg blew up and we went through a very rough Sunday night. Sam was in great discomfort as his leg was so swollen he could not get up without help and I feared that something had gone very wrong. Rushing back to see the surgeon, Sam gets another week of in-house nursing and another drain put in. If it did not start to heal this time there was the possibility of needing another operation. Again I do daily visits and this time he comes home with the drain still in. We travel back daily for check ups and after eight days the drain comes out. Fingers crossed this time. He had two further visits to remove fluid and three further visits to check on the healing. Eventually we get the all clear, no further operation required. I cannot tell you what a relief that was. We are on the road to recovery at last.
The tumor was sent for histology which confirmed that it was a Grade 2 Soft Tissue Sarcoma. If I had not spotted the swelling so early and acted promptly it would have been fatal. I urge you all to thoroughly check over your companions on a regular basis and if you have any concerns get it checked out as soon as possible – better to air on the side of caution. At the time of writing this if we had not gone ahead with the surgery we would no longer have Sam with us. If you could see him you would not believe that he has been through so much. He has just had his 9th birthday which is remarkable. He looks so well and is back to being full of the devil and extremely happy.
Whilst Sam has been recovering he has had intense physiotherapy and acupuncture which sped up the recovery process and kept him pain free, he is getting stronger each day on his leg. Sam has also just started back swimming and even walked up the ramp into the pool (normally he is lifted in by Roger & Rachel) he is using his back leg extremely well. It can only get better from here on.
I should also like to add a small piece about Sam’s tummy troubles. He was having bouts of sickness along with passing blood when going to the toilet. This had escalated during the January and he was also having very bad ‘wind’. This was so awful that he would even sniff the air and get up and go out of the room! He was on a vet prescribed diet for arthritis but after having seen the internal medicine specialist and speaking with Bobby and Rachel we decided to try him on a sensitivity diet to see if he would benefit. Sam is not a food orientated dog so it would have to be appealing to him or he would just not eat. Rachel gave me a sample to try and it was an instant success. He has a mixture of tinned and dry and I have cut out all other treats with additives in and he only has some healthy option treats from Rachel’s shop. Rachel has also been helping to develop a probiotic for dogs with digestion and joint problems and Sam was included in some trials on the product. This has been amazing. For the first time ever Sam was able to have his anti inflammatory medication without being sick – he even took his pot of probiotic with him for his stays at the vets so as to keep his regular dose going. This has helped him recover faster after all the anaesthetics and medication and we have had no more sickness or passing of blood. Due to being a natural product it does not interfere with vet prescribed medicines and Sam shall be staying on this for the long term. Finding the right diet to suit each individual dog can be time consuming but it can make the world of difference to there overall health. Thanks to Meadow Farm, Sam is enjoying his food much more and really benefiting from the change.
I cannot thank everybody at the veterinary referral practice enough for all there hard work and dedication – they do remarkable work and are all very sincere and caring – Sam got to know them all extremely well.
I would like express my heartfelt thanks to everybody at Meadow Farm for all there hard work and dedication and for being such a support throughout these difficult times.
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