I thought I'd start out by introducing my dogs. My oldest dog is Vinnie - an eleven year old Springer Spaniel.
I've had Vinnie since he was seven weeks old. My previous dog had been a collie, and my family had had collies whilst I'd been growing up. So a spaniel was bit a different! At the time I got Vinnie I'd been involved in agility for about eleven years, and the plan was for Vinnie to be my next agility dog. However, I also wanted to try working Vinnie at what his breed is bred to do - gundog work.
Vinnie started his training for agility at about a year old, and we started competing in 2010. Over the next few years he won up to grade six, competing as a medium dog. He was also working on the beating line on a couple of shoots during the shoot season. Overall he was a very fit, active and healthy dog.
This all changed late in 2016. I started noticing that Vinnie was out of sorts, and not moving as well as he usually did. At one point he also went lame. Following lots of investigation, he was finally diagnosed with Cranial Cruciate Disease in December 2016. At the same time he was also diagnosed with moderate hip dysplasia and the early stages of arthritis in both his hips and knees. Cranial cruciate disease is a degenerative condition - in other words, there was nothing that I could have done to prevent it, and it wasn't going to be something that could be conservatively managed. So I opted for him to have surgery - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO). The first was to be in January 2017, with the second planned for around twelve weeks later; this allowed time for recovery from the first surgery plus six weeks of rehabilitation.
As it turned out, we did the second surgery ten weeks after the first as Vinnie's cruciate ruptured in the other leg. So another six weeks crate rest began... Vinnie actually coped very well with crate rest and restricted exercise. We were working with a local physiotherapist and had a very structured plan for his rehabilitation. Following this to the letter ensured that Vinnie made as full a recovery as possible. I also started taking him for acupuncture to help with pain management. Vinnie was making a great recovery; he got back to working on a shoot as well as doing a bit of agility. However, the acupuncture was showing us that he still had some pain in his lower back. He showed no other signs of pain until early in 2018 when he suddenly became lame. Knowing what I already did from his acupuncture I was sure that the problem was in his back.
With the support of my local vet, our physiotherapist and the vet giving acupuncture I got a referral to Rachel Mowbray at Vale vets in Dursley. Following an MRI scan, Rachel diagnosed Vinnie with Lumbosacral Disease and Spondylosis - more degenerative conditions! Her suggested treatment was stem cell therapy, and so she also harvested some fat cells in order to prepare for this. The stem cells were inserted in April 2018. Vinnie had been on restricted exercise since the beginning of the year, and following the stem cell therapy we were able to start his rehab. Again! This included acupuncture, laser, shockwave, chiropractic adjustments and also hydrotherapy in the underwater treadmill.
So it's been a tough going couple of years. I would say that Vinnie is now about as good as he is going to get. He has a mixture of on and off lead exercise and shows no ill effects afterwards. He's on no pain medication, and has monthly acupuncture for pain management and to help monitor any ongoing pain. If he were to deteriorate then I would introduce some pain medication. He also has weekly hydrotherapy in the underwater treadmill. This helps to keep his legs strong, ensuring that he's not putting too much strain through his back. I do land based physio exercises with him as well to keep his core strong. I have to make sure he is lifted in and out of the car, and he's not allowed to swim; all these activities could cause him to over-extend his spine, pinching on his sciatic nerve and causing pain.
I hope you've enjoyed learning a little more about Vinnie - next up will be Ripley!