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Urgent Dog help needed

Aberwacky's picture


My 9-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever has been losing weight the past few weeks, and the past few days has been favoring her back legs.  We have an appointment scheduled for her at the vet tomorrow to see what's going on.

Tonight, though, she was coming back up from the lake from a swim, and suddenly couldn't/wouldn't put any weight on her back legs.  She didn't wince or cry out in pain when we helped her up the hill, but she was shaking and panting. 

We got her in her bed, and she's laying where we put her, still panting, but being responsive and nuzzling us when we pet her.   There's no emergency vet service in our area, and I'm not sure what to do for her tonight until the vet opens in the morning.

What can we do?


"Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." 
-Leo Tolstoy
JAlden's picture

(post #52415, reply #1 of 205)

"What can we do?"

I don't really know but...Give her comfort. Maybe some aspirin to ease the pain. Even though she's not crying doesn't mean she's not hurting. Dogs have a pretty high tolerance to pain.

9 isn't that old. Losing muscle mass isn't unusual as they age.

Best wishes.

Aberwacky's picture

(post #52415, reply #2 of 205)


She got up a little while ago and hobbled to get a drink of water, putting a little weight on the leg.  I gave her an aspirin for any pain (although she usually lets us know if she's hurting), and she's lying on her kitchen bed.  Hugo, my 2-year old, kept going over to pet her to "make her feel good," so she's being comforted.  The panting has stopped.

She's the most amazing dog we've ever had--incredibly smart and in tune with us.  We have dozens of stories about things she's done over the 7 years we've had her (we got her through a rescue organization when she was 2). Everything from going and getting my DH a bag of sunflower seeds when he mentioned he was out, to bringing us a roll of paper towels when we were eating ribs (unprompted), to incredible retrieving feats and being known as the "jet-skiiing dog" on our lake because she loved to ride with us on our jetski.

Her weight loss was certainly needed, LOL, but it has been rapid--very noticeable over the past few weeks, which concerned us.

I'm glad we have an appointment for her tomorrow. 


"Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." 
-Leo Tolstoy
cyalexa's picture

(post #52415, reply #3 of 205)


If you get this before you go:

1. Keep her quiet, confined,  and minimize any forced activity. Offer small amounts of water frequently. As long as she is not vomitting she can have as much as she wants, a little at a time. Withhold food. If her doctor recommends radiographs, or if she happens to need surgery, it will be best if she has been fasted.

2. No more OTC drugs, they may make the diagnosis more difficult and since we don't know what's wrong they could be contraindicated.

3. Check her for ticks. If you find one, remove it with tweezers or a hemostat - no bare fingers. Put the tick in a little bottle of rubbing alcohol and take it with you tomorrow. In addition to one of the rare diseases caused by a tick currently attached, erlichiosis (which is common in OK)  or other tick-born disease (from a bite last season)  may be on the rule-out list.

4. Look around in outbuildings, etc. for indications that she may have gotten into a toxin.

After your doctor does a good physical exam she will probably recommend blood work (CBC, serum chemistry, electrolytes, tick serology) and possibly radiographs. If you can't afford everything, do as much as you can and ask her to prioritize the tests based on physical exam findings.

Please feel free to contact me if you think I may be help.




Edited 5/22/2009 12:11 am ET by cyalexa

shywoodlandcreature's picture

(post #52415, reply #4 of 205)

Not Leigh, and no dogs in distress, but I am so glad you're around! Thanks.

"And then, because of the transitive reactive Halstead-era seizing properties of the Aboriginal Double Humpback Turtle, I thought, what if I add one teaspoon of clarified monkey paste?" Anonymous blog comment on "America's Test Kitchen"

evelyn's picture

(post #52415, reply #6 of 205)

I'm so glad she's around, too. So many good, knowledgeable people on this site, who share that knowledge generously. Thank you cyalexa.

Children are unpredictable. You never know what inconsistency they're going to catch you in next.

In life, learn the rules so that you know how to break them properly.
Aberwacky's picture

(post #52415, reply #8 of 205)


Thanks so much for your response!  I was hoping you'd see my post.

She's doing better today, thank goodness--walking, but slowly--and is in good spirits.  She is such a sweetheart, but I know she can be stoic, and I worry she's masking her pain.

Unfortunately, ticks are a constant here--we live in the woods in Arkansas.  Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is endemic, and I think erlichiosis is common, as well other tick borne diseases.  We do daily checks, and usually find at least one.  We haven't found a tick preventative that is very effective, especially for a dog that's in the water so much. (Heck the human tick deterrents are only  marginally effective up here, it seems.  I can spray head-to-toe with Deet and still find one crawling up my leg.)

She's inside or in our fenced yard during the day, and comes outside with us when we are outside--we're in a fairly rural area, and live on a large lake.

I don't think she got into any toxins (with two little boys, we keep them fairly secured), but it's a possibility.

The rapid weight loss is what really concerned us initially.  She was overweight, but now she's looking positively trim.  Looking trim is not a bad thing, but I think she's lost about 20 pounds in the past month, and hasn't been on a diet.  We'll find out how much she's lost today.

CBRs are a breed that seems to have a lot of Degenerative Myelopathy (sp?), and I'm really hoping that's not it.

Thanks again for responding.


"Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." 
-Leo Tolstoy
Gretchen's picture

(post #52415, reply #9 of 205)

Hope your news is good. So hard not to know. Wishing you the best.


TracyK's picture

(post #52415, reply #10 of 205)

Glad to hear she's a little better today, and hoping all goes well at the vet.

"One of the great strengths of the United States is … we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

                                                            --President Barack Obama

cyalexa's picture

(post #52415, reply #11 of 205)

You're welcome. Good luck at your appointment today. With weight loss as the major complaint the CBC and serum chemistry will be especially important. A fecal will probably also be recommended but if you have to watch what you spend I think the blood work is more important. I will check the veterinary online databases on degenerative myelopathy in CBRs sometime this weekend.

My favorite flea and tick product is Vectra. It is a fairly new product. I have not found a single tick on my dogs since I started using it (and would find an occasional tick with my former favorite product, Advantix). Some things in general about the spot-on flea and tick products:

  1. I am not comfortable with the off-label products. The extra money for Vectra, Advantix or Frontline is well spent

  2. They must be used every 30 days. They spread and accumulate in the skin and this is an important part of how they work, and may be especially important in protecting the feet 

  3. If you have a heavy flea infestation in your house or yard you may continue see fleas on your pets on occasion, especially in the first few months of treatment. This is not a product failure - don't give up. It is also normal to see an occasional tick (will usually be dying and only weakly attached if at all) on treated pets.

  4. DO NOT USE DOG PRODUCTS ON CATS. In fact, keep your dogs and cats separate for 24 hours after treating dogs, if posible.

  5. Pets must be dry when the product is applied and try to keep them dry for at least 24 hours afterwards. Always use non-detergent shampoos on any pet that needs bathing. Removing the oil from the skin removes the ability of the product to accumulate in the skin.

Please let me know how it goes and if you e-mail me, I will give you my phone number.


Aberwacky's picture

(post #52415, reply #12 of 205)

Thanks.  I'll ask about the Vetrix.  Frontline was not very effective for us--we did find fewer ticks, but still found a lot.

Fortunately, we don't have a flea problem, just ticks, which is what we get for living in the woods.  Since a Chessie's coat is naturally oily as part of their protection in the water, we try not to bathe her, and when we do we use a natural olive-oil soap.  Fortunately, she's always been a clean, clean-smelling dog not prone to reveling in strong smells.

I know everyone thinks this about their dog, but she's really been the most intelligent, most amazing dog I've ever had.  I've not been owner enough for her, I think, and haven't even begun to tap her potential.  When we first brought her home (at 2-1/2), we worked diligently with her to socialize her and provide her with enough work.   I could see her being patient with me at times as I tried to teach her a new trick, breaking it down bit by bit as the books say to do, then she would leap ahead of me to the end, having figured out what I wanted her to do. 

We don't regularly work her old tricks any more (her need for work has greatly lessened as she has gotten older), but we can go months without trying one and she still remembers it.

Chessies have a reputation for aggressiveness, but she's the gentlest dog with kids I've ever known.   As part of her early training and socialization, we would take her to farmer's markets and other public places.  We'd trained her to a down and then to lay down on her side when she met small kids, because that way she was less intmidating (she's a big dog).  She got to the point that when a small child would approach her, she would automatically lie down on her side.   When smaller, my kids could crawl all over her, and when she'd had enough, she'd look at me with that "okay, I'm done now" look and get up and go to another spot.  Now that they're older, they'll lay with her on the floor and use her as a pillow, and she just loves it.

And, she has the softest mouth, too.  When she takes a treat, I swear she takes it with just her lips.

She takes her job protecting us very seriously, and for a long time kept trying to retreive us to shore when we were swimming (clearly, humans aren't made to be in the water).  Now, she just will swim out and circle us to make sure we're okay, then go back into shore.

She is still very protective of us, me, in particular.  When DH is out of the house after dark, she goes on guard duty, ears pricked for any unusual sounds.

Thanks for letting me go on and on about her.  You know how it is, I'm sure.

Sigh.  I hope she's okay.  I know she won't live forever, but I hope we have her for at least a few more years.


"Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." 
-Leo Tolstoy
JAlden's picture

(post #52415, reply #13 of 205)

She sounds like a great friend. We don't see too many CBR around here but I've always liked them. That fur is cool how it waterproof.

So her picture is ....coming?

madnoodle's picture

(post #52415, reply #14 of 205)

Wow.  She sounds like a lovely dog.  I hope all goes well today, and I'll check in later to see if you've posted any updates.

What if there were no hypothetical questions?


What if there were no hypothetical questions?


AnnL's picture

(post #52415, reply #15 of 205)

Holding good thoughts for your beloved pet.  Hoping that it's easily diagnosed and treated.  Riley is halfway through a 30 day course of doxy for Lyme and RMSF, so I know what that can do to a dog and how scary it is.  Good luck.

"The elders were wise.  They knew that man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard; they knew that lack of respect for growing, living things, soon led to lack of respect for humans, too."  Chief Luther Standing Bear, Lakota Sioux

"The elders were wise.  They knew that man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard; they knew that lack of respect for growing, living things, soon led to lack of respect for humans, too."  Chief Luther Standing Bear, Lakota Sioux

Biscuit's picture

(post #52415, reply #16 of 205)

I know everyone thinks this about their dog, but she's really been the most intelligent, most amazing dog I've ever had.

I'm sure you aren't exaggerating in this case - Chessies are known for being highly intelligent, highly skilled dogs.  They are one of my favorite breeds, but they really need so much exercise, and lots of water time, and a Chessie just wouldn't fit in with our lifestyle.  A great many SEALS I knew in the Navy had Chessies if they had a dog - they were the perfect fit for them; loved water, loved hard work, trained well, highly intelligent.  One SEAL I knew took his Chessie everywhere - to all his training sessions, work, everywhere but his actual missions (G).  She became his Unit's un-official mascot. 

Please let us know what the Vet says - it makes me a little sick to my stomach to imagine what you are describing in her.  She's too young for that kind of rapid weight loss and other symptoms, and I can't stand to think of such a terrific dog suffering like that.

Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.
- Mark Twain

"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."  - George Bernard Shaw

Aberwacky's picture

(post #52415, reply #24 of 205)

Chessies really do take a lot of work--many people think they're like Labs, but they're a very different breed, as you know.  It's sad how many end up in rescue because owners weren't prepared for what it takes to raise one.  STRONG leadership, consistency, lots of work for them (they really need a job) and a huge emotional commitment.  They can be incredibly frustrating, but in the end, the rewards are huge.  It's far more like having a toddler than the other breeds I've had (and that's not a positive thing, LOL).

I know couldn't take on another one now--not with our long commute and two small children taking up so much of our time and energy.  When we first got Carah, we had time to devote to training and socialization, and it has really paid off.  We wouldn't have the time to do that now.

The rewards of successfully training and partnering with a Chessie are so incredible, though.  I will have another one at some point in my life, when I have the proper time to devote to it. 


"Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." 
-Leo Tolstoy
cyalexa's picture

(post #52415, reply #17 of 205)


Your last post is one of the most touching illustrations of the human-animal bond I have ever seen. You and she are very luck to have each other. You are being way too hard on yourself when you say you have not enough of an owner. Clearly you are a wonderful owner.

I will be thinking of you and your pet.


P.S. It's Vectra and it worked lots better than Frontline for my dogs.

Edited to add - urinalysis may be on the list of important tests if her blood glucose is elevated. She could be diabetic (weight loss and weakness are common symptoms as are excessive thirst and hunger, and excessive urination)

Edited 5/22/2009 11:29 am ET by cyalexa

RuthWells's picture

(post #52415, reply #18 of 205)

I am seeing this late, and hope that you're at the vet getting some answers. She sounds like an amazing dog. Hugs.

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

pamilyn's picture

(post #52415, reply #19 of 205)

Leigh, thinking of you today. Hope you report back. Your dog sounds amazing. My Main Coon is losing use of back legs and it is making me very sad. I hope you are O.K. Pamilyn

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

Aberwacky's picture

(post #52415, reply #20 of 205)

DH and Carah are back from the vet.

The vet did a pretty thorough physical exam, had DH walk her, did range of motion tests, etc. 

The good news is that she does not have any broken bones in her hips or legs, and had good movement in all directions. He doesn't think it's bone cancer, either, and thinks the hip/leg pain is arthitis.  (When walking, she's putting her whole foot down, not just the toe pads, which he said indicated hip pain). He gave her prescriptions for 50mg Tramadol, 2 pills 2x day, and 150mg rimadyl, once a day, to help with the pain.  There's enough for a week, then we'll see.

He thinks the muscle wasting (she's lost 25 pounds) is proably due to whipworms, but couldn't get a fecal sample to confirm.  We're to take a fecal sample back. Her current weight is 89 pounds, which would be perfect in other circumstances.

He's worried that the wasting may be liver cancer (apparently CBRs have a tendency to get that), but wants to wait a few weeks to test for that.  No real treatment except for chemo, and he doesn't want to put her through that (and we don't either).  He wants to see how the pain meds do, and rule out the worms first.

She did test positive for RMSF (it is endemic here), so she has a prescription for Doxycycline Hyclate (100 mg), which we're to wait until Monday to give her (2x daily) to give her gut a chance to get used to the pain meds first.

DH forgot to ask about the new tick preventative, so we'll cover that when we take the fecal sample in.

As usual, she behaved beautifully while at the vet, except for lots of panting and drooling (clearly nervous and/or in pain).  They're always impressed with her.  We've only been using them for about 2 years-the practice is fairly new, and we had to find a new vet when we moved up here.  We loved our old vet (she went through the bone cancer with our adopted greyhound with us), and hated to lose her, but the new vet is okay so far.  He's not one to push lots of expensive tests, etc. at you, and really seems to care about the animals.

THanks for the good wishes, everyone.


"Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." 
-Leo Tolstoy
roz's picture

(post #52415, reply #22 of 205)

I found myself doing exactly what suz was doing...checking in for a positive outcome. It seems she is doing bit better, but with more tests to come.

Your 'voice' sounds better than the first posting. I do hope your pup improves...your worry made me cry. Hugs to you.

Be impeccable with your word. Don't take anything personally. Don't make assumptions. Do your best. Don Miguel Ruiz
cyalexa's picture

(post #52415, reply #26 of 205)

Hi Leigh,

If you have a whipworm problem, ask for Interceptor as your heartworm preventative. It is the only one that contols whips.  If your dvm does not carry that product contact one of the online pharmacies and have a prescription form faxed to your doctor's office (one of the few times I ever recommend this). You will still have to go through the regular whipworm treatment, usually 3 days of Panacur at least once and maybe twice, but the Interceptor will prevent future problems. The eggs can persist in the environment for many years and reinfestation is common.

If she does not respond to the doxy and pain meds, I suggest you ask for at least a serum chemistry test, if you have the resources. It may reveal important things and many of the diseases have treatments, or at least meds for control.

Also, review the label on the rimadyl and call your doctor if you have questions. While your doctor may use it differently, the label dose is 1 mg per lb twice daily. Perhaps you are supposed to give a total of 150mg, divided (in other words, 75 mg twice daily). If I were dosing her, I would use 75mg twice daily if she is still a little overweight (we don't need to dose the part of her body weight that is fat), and 100mg twice daily if her weight is normal and she is quite painful. The name brand tabs taste good and are easily broken into halves or quarters. The generic products are not flavored and not as easily broken, but certainly less expensive and just as effective (we never carried those where I worked because we wanted it to be easy to give the meds, but it's what I order for my pets)

I hope all goes well and will look forward to a good report in a couple days, if not before.




Aberwacky's picture

(post #52415, reply #27 of 205)

Okay, I re-read the Rimadyl label, and it says "give 1 & 1/2 tablets, by mouth, once daily for inflammation.  Give with food.  Rimadyl 100 mg chewables."   DH says the vet said the Tramadol would work with the Rimadyl to make it more effective.  Maybe that's why she's getting the smaller dose?  If I remember correctly from my greyhound, Rimadyl can had adverse affects on kidneys (or another system)?

She weighed 89 pounds today, and that's a good target weight for her (she's not still overweight, in other words).

I'll ask about the serum tests.  We're not averse to spending the money, we just don't want to suject her to unecessary testing and are very ignorant about canine testing.  DH is more averse to it than I am, LOL, but we want to help her.  He usually takes her to the vet because his work schedule is easier for that sort of thing.

What do the serum tests check for?

Thanks again for your advice and assistance.  I wish you were our vet!


"Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." 
-Leo Tolstoy
shywoodlandcreature's picture

(post #52415, reply #30 of 205)

Leigh, I just want you to know that Peter and I are following your story with keen interest and our best hopes for your dog's health. I've always thought dogs were one of the better ideas God (or Goddess or Gaia, or Buddha, or whomever) ever had, but that their short lifespan was one of the worst. Our two mutts couldn't hold a job if it came liver-flavoured, but we love them dearly, and would be heartbroken if they develop serious health problems.

"And then, because of the transitive reactive Halstead-era seizing properties of the Aboriginal Double Humpback Turtle, I thought, what if I add one teaspoon of clarified monkey paste?" Anonymous blog comment on "America's Test Kitchen"

cyalexa's picture

(post #52415, reply #34 of 205)

I am not comfortable giving advice contrary to the doctor that saw the pet, but, I would have prescribed 3/4 tablet twice daily of the 100mg tabs. The most common adverse effects of rimadyl (and all drugs in that category) are related to gastrointestinal problems, including ulcers, and kidney damage. The kidney damage is usually only of concern in dogs that are dehydrated, undergoing anesthesia, or already have problems with their kidneys. The GI problems are more common but usually resolve once the meds are stopped. Watch for vomitting, loss of appetite (I'm assuming she is currently eating OK), diarrhea, dark or bloody stools. If you see any of these signs, stop the rimadyl and call your dvm. The tramadol is pretty safe. They are frequently used in combination. If it turns out to be primarily arthritis, we can discuss therapeutic diets - they are very helpful.

The serum chemistry test (will probably cost about 50-60 dollars) gives indicators of liver disease, kidney disease, hydration level, and certain metabolic diseases including diabetes. It is a very useful screening test. If everything is normal it tells us that most of the important organs are functioning within normal limits. If things are abnormal it gives a direction for further testing or some guidance as to treatment. Of course, it's not foolproof and some diseases, especially in their early stages may not alter the test results enough to call them abnormal. There are several practical things that can be done to help support pets with liver or kidney disease, and diabetes can usually be controlled with a willing owner (it's a lot of work and expensive at first).

I will be away from my computer for most of Sat and Sun then starting Monday will be able to check in only occasionlly for about 3 weeks. Feel free to e-mail me for my phone number, I am happy to help you if I can.  

Maedl's picture

(post #52415, reply #39 of 205)

I, too, read your post earlier today and came back this evening for an update. I am thankful that it is positive. I am a sucker for dogs (and believe me, they know it!). Although I don't have one of my own, I am absolutely loopy over the dogs of my friends. Give yours a scratch behind the ears and a big hug for me.

Between the Alps and the Chesapeake Bay:
Where Food and Culture Intersect

Margie Between the Alps and the Chesapeake Bay: Where Food and Culture Intersect
Marcia's picture

(post #52415, reply #36 of 205)

I hope it is just arthritis, which can be difficult enough. Good luck, Leigh. It does seem that it's been one thing after another for you guys.

debe5t's picture

(post #52415, reply #44 of 205)

I could hug you for being here and all your caring and advice.Wish you could be my animals in person vet.

Thank you for sharing your expertise.


courgette's picture

(post #52415, reply #45 of 205)

Sorry to hear of your dog's health problems. We had two elderly cats pass on two years ago and it is very difficult to lose a special pet. She sounds wonderful. I had never heard of this breed, off to google.

Hopefully it will be something simple and treatable. She sounds truly specail.


Aberwacky's picture

(post #52415, reply #46 of 205)


Walked with Carah down to the lake today, and noticed she seemed to be having trouble placing her feet--reminded me of when your foot is asleep and you try to walk.

This is not a good sign.  She was also sometimes getting her toes turned under when she placed her foot, which is a sign of degenerative myelopathy.  I checked the tops of her toenails for wear, and there is a worn stripe down the tops of them on her hind feet.  Another sign of DM.

She had a hard time getting up to come back up the hill, and I helped her.  She stopped about halfway to "rest" and I couldn't get her to come the rest of the way on her own until she'd laid there for about 5 minutes. 

I sat with her, petting her and hugging her, crying, and I'm crying as I type this.  I'm so afraid it's DM, which is non-treatable and terminal, leading to paralysis of the hind quarters and eventually organ failure. 

I'm going to ask the vet to get a blood sample to send in for DNA testing.  Chessies (and Boxers, French Bulldogs, Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Rhodesian Ridgebacks) can have the testing free as part of a study at the University of Missouri. 

Carah seems to be in good spirits, which is positive.  Her owner, on the other hand, is not.


"Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." 
-Leo Tolstoy
BonnieinHolland's picture

(post #52415, reply #47 of 205)

Leigh, I am so sorry.  I know about special dogs, being on my fourth and fifth Golden Retriever, raised from pups.  It's so painful seeing them get old and have problems.  My latest girls now are five and six years old, and every moment with them is lovely, and every year, it does me pain to seem them getting older.  Your give your girl the best you can give her and lots of love and patience - that's the best you can do, as well as seeing to the proper vet care, of course.  Many thoughts, Bonnie