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Hi, I’m so sorry that my first post here is a request for help. I have lurked this forum since we got our GSD, Dax, about 5.5 years ago, but never had anything to offer. Unfortunately now I’m in a dire situation and I can’t accept the vet’s diagnosis at face value.

We got our GSD from a rescue when he was about 18mo, so I don’t know what kind of breeder he came from, but he has been in excellent health until the last few days. As he has grown older he has had a bit of stiffness and he’s slowed down, but he has never limped so we just added Glucosamine to his food and bought a ramp to help him in and out of the car.

The other day we took Dax on a short morning walk (about 1.5 miles) and then we went out for a few hours. After we got back we noticed that Dax seemed like he didn’t want to get off his bed, even when we opened the back door, which is very unusual. We made our kids egg sandwiches for lunch and Dax didn’t come out to sniff about for scraps and didn’t take the bit of egg I offered him. So we knew something was up and took him to the vet.

The vet x-rayed him and found spodylosis and hip displaysia on the left side and a fair amount of arthritis in the joint. He had a mild fever that they attributed to pain/being worked up. They sent us home with a muscle relaxer and pain medication (previcox and robaxin) and told us to take it easy for 2 weeks. Well the next morning Dax tried to stand and fell over. He looked disoriented and seemed lame in his front leg. We rushed him back to the vet and his fever was up to 104*. They admitted him to run more tests and put him on fluids. They found crystals in his urine, so I was hopeful that the rapid degeneration was due to an infection. They did some more x-rays, conformed that it’s not bone cancer and found that he also has arthritis in his right shoulder and a bone spur in his R elbow. They kept Dax for 2 nights and I picked him up yesterday and he isn’t much better than he was on Thursday. His gait is very awkward and unsteady and he seems really depressed (or maybe out of it?). He is limping on his right foreleg but his hindquarters don’t seem to be working properly. He has a lot of trouble getting his back legs under him—they’re wobbly and slip out from under him. I have been helping him out to take short walks (to the front yard) to pee and poop, but other than that he just wants to lay in his bed. He is eating and drinking, but every time I checked him during the night he was awake, so I’m afraid he’s in pain.

I have found DM and FBC on this forum and we plan to get a second opinion from another vet. We live in Los Angeles, so the chance of a tick-born disease is pretty low (we don’t really have ticks here). I’m wondering if anyone can give input/opinions and also if anyone has had a dog that saw such a rapid decline from arthritis. I’m having a tough time believing it’s just arthritis since he has probably had the arthritis for at least a year and hasn’t shown extreme symptoms. Our dog is still young and I do not want to believe that this is how he’s going to live the rest of his life. He is a beloved member of our family and we will do whatever we need to make his quality of life better.
 

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I am so sorry to hear this. It reminds me of our last dog. He was 18 years old when he died. His back legs gave out on him and before the end I was pulling him around on a blanket so he could get to his food. He lived a great life and it was very hard to see him go. I still cry 2 years after he is gone when I think about him. Our vet said it was just old age and it was time. He never showed signs of pain at all. No whining or wimpering or anything. It can't be old age with your dog. Sounds more like extreme arthritis to me. Does he seem to be in a lot of pain. ??
 

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What area of the country are you in? Have they checked him for tick diseases? Obviously there are orthopedic issues that do explain the lameness but not the fever.
 

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My first GSD developed spondylitis in her spine. Due to the reduced blood flow caused by the formation of new bone, a bacterial infection also attacked her spine. The vet treated it with an antibiotic that would not knock out her immune system, and I kept her going for more than a year by giving her things to strengthen the immune system.

There is a possibility that this is what has happened to your dog. Ask the vet to review the x-rays. The key think was not just new bone forming due to arthrritis, but also bone being eaten away by the infection.

I would also buy a thermometer (the battery operated ones used for humans work great) and keep track of his temp. It could be the infection has not been completely knocked out, especially if it is in his spine. The reduced blood flow means it is very difficult for the immune system to completely get rid of the infection.

I would NOT allow the vet to treat this with steroids, as they suppress the immune system.

I would keep track of his temperature. This is one thing my vet recommended, and I was glad I did it. My dog's normal temperature was only about 99 F. When it went up to 102, I KNEW the infection had come back, but my vet refused to give an antibiotic, as that is the high end of normal for some dogs. Not for MY dog, though!

Wish you the best of luck with this. My dog was only about 7 or 8 when this happened to her, too. She improved somewhat with treatment, but had to be euthanized at the age of 9, because her hind legs were no longer working. :crying:
 

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Oh. I just saw rhe part about LA and no ticks. Oops.

There didnt used to be Lyme in Florida but there is now, because snowbirds' dogs brought it down. Could be your area too? I don't know.
@Magwart ud usually really good at these mystery illnesses
 

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I agree with you that the suddenness isn't typical of arthritis, which tends to creep up slowly over time -- unless there's an injury that made it suddenly worse. Have you done a full body massage to see if there are any tender areas?

What's going on with the crystals? UTI? NSAIDs and kidney disease don't play well together, so ask your vet about monitoring kidney function as long as he's getting an NSAID, given the presence of the crystals. Is she on a crystal-dissolving RX diet? (I sometimes see that prescribed for a short term to prevent kidney stones. While I don't love RX foods, sometimes they're just necessary, esp. in the short term.)

You might ask to have an internal medicine specialist review the file. That's probably another $150 or so.

Does he have access to opossums? If so, you might ask the vet about ruling out equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM). They'll first probably say, "That doesn't affect dogs," and assure them that are are definitely canine cases if they go digging for them. It's a weird disease usually found in horses that we've had affect one of our rescue's dogs -- he'd stand up and fall over, almost like the world was tilting sideways for him. He couldn't even stand up in a crate without falling sideways. Our vet was stumped as diagnostics weren't giving us anything helpful until I told her that the foster had mentioned that he had "made friends" with an opossum and sometimes carried it around in his mouth carefully without hurting it...and that was the vet's "aha" moment because she also is a horse person. Opossums are the carrier. We had to send the blood draw to a vet that normally tests equine samples and label it "canine" -- it was some university vet school lab, but I don't remember which one. It was treated with common antibiotics.

The other weird thing I've encountered that causes sudden lameness and symptoms mimicking meningitis is rat lung worm infection -- it's not "supposed to be" a problem in the US, but it's definitely here, and we had one of the first clinical cases ever found in a dog in Louisiana (and our vet has since seen several more now that she knows what to look for). It was a crazy set of circumstances that involved international consultations to figure it out--the rescue spent a ton of money on a special, wonderful dog to try to get to the bottom of it. The dog nearly died. It was a rapid neurologic deterioration that started with rear-end weakness that progressed rapidly. The weirdest thing is that once we figured it out, it was treated with simple Panacur for 7 days, and he made a full recovery from the neurologic symptoms (which had progressed to full rear paralysis). It's usually transmitted by snails (and sometimes frogs), so if your dog eats those...check for it. Most vets in the US do not know it's here, won't have any idea that it can cause neuro problems, or even believe it's a real thing for dogs. I don't know if it's in California.

Those really "far out" things that I've seen cause lameness are enough to tell me that there's a whole world of bad stuff that's very obscure that can cause these symptoms. It takes a really spectacular vet willing to read-up until the wee hours of the morning to find clues in the literature -- mine emails me at 3AM when she has found something on PubMed that she thinks could lead us to an answer in hard cases, and she never, ever gives up. She's a rare, special person who likes solving mysteries for her patients, so people bring her "hard" cases no one else can figure out. I hope you can find someone like that in your area!!! I wish you were closer to UC Davis, as that vet school has an excellent reputation.
 

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Magwart, it is possible this has been brewing all along, and it was the bladder infection that actually knocked the dog down.

With Lili, I didn't notice any problems until we went for an extra long walk one lovely spring day, after a winter of being not very active. That walk stirred things up in spades! At first, I thought it was her neck that was hurting, but x-rays showed it was the lumbar spine. She was already showing proprioreceptor deficit - when they turned her rear toes under, she didn't straighten the foot out right away, as she was losing feeling in her toes.

That's a test the OP can try, to see if it's a neural problem rather than just arthritis.
 

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There is an infection called diskospondylitis that can cause lameness, fever, etc. It can be fungal or bacterial.
 

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What area of the country are you in? Have they checked him for tick diseases? Obviously there are orthopedic issues that do explain the lameness but not the fever.
They stated they are in LA and there are not ticks known to be around so tick borne illness unlikely.




OK that aside -



to the OP:


I can't help with the diagnosis but 1. be grateful it isn't bone cancer (I think be grateful for that) I had one go from bone cancer - affected his brain = just nasty nasty nasty 2. for help with skeletal issues including arthritis - accupuncture & chiropractic worked great for two of my dogs 3. Lazier is another alternative treatment that seems to help.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
First of all, thank you everyone for taking the time to reply. You have given me some good things to look into. I’m still figuring out how to use this forum, so I’m going to try to reply to everyone individually <3
 

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My first GSD developed spondylitis in her spine. Due to the reduced blood flow caused by the formation of new bone, a bacterial infection also attacked her spine. The vet treated it with an antibiotic that would not knock out her immune system, and I kept her going for more than a year by giving her things to strengthen the immune system.

There is a possibility that this is what has happened to your dog. Ask the vet to review the x-rays. The key think was not just new bone forming due to arthrritis, but also bone being eaten away by the infection.

I would also buy a thermometer (the battery operated ones used for humans work great) and keep track of his temp. It could be the infection has not been completely knocked out, especially if it is in his spine. The reduced blood flow means it is very difficult for the immune system to completely get rid of the infection.

I would NOT allow the vet to treat this with steroids, as they suppress the immune system.

I would keep track of his temperature. This is one thing my vet recommended, and I was glad I did it. My dog's normal temperature was only about 99 F. When it went up to 102, I KNEW the infection had come back, but my vet refused to give an antibiotic, as that is the high end of normal for some dogs. Not for MY dog, though!

Wish you the best of luck with this. My dog was only about 7 or 8 when this happened to her, too. She improved somewhat with treatment, but had to be euthanized at the age of 9, because her hind legs were no longer working. /forum/images/Germanshepherds_2016/smilies/tango_face_crying.png
He definitely does have spondylitis, and the vet checked for infection. He had high BAND cells, which is indicidive of a bacterial infection. I think that paired with the crystals in his urine and disorientation led him to the dx of UTI. Dax is currently taking 2 antibiotics, a muscle relaxer and a painkiller, no steroids. I will get a thermometer and take his temp to figure out what his base temp is. Thank you so much!
 

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I agree with you that the suddenness isn't typical of arthritis, which tends to creep up slowly over time -- unless there's an injury that made it suddenly worse. Have you done a full body massage to see if there are any tender areas?

What's going on with the crystals? UTI? NSAIDs and kidney disease don't play well together, so ask your vet about monitoring kidney function as long as he's getting an NSAID, given the presence of the crystals. Is she on a crystal-dissolving RX diet? (I sometimes see that prescribed for a short term to prevent kidney stones. While I don't love RX foods, sometimes they're just necessary, esp. in the short term.)

You might ask to have an internal medicine specialist review the file. That's probably another $150 or so.

Does he have access to opossums? If so, you might ask the vet about ruling out equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM). They'll first probably say, "That doesn't affect dogs," and assure them that are are definitely canine cases if they go digging for them. It's a weird disease usually found in horses that we've had affect one of our rescue's dogs -- he'd stand up and fall over, almost like the world was tilting sideways for him. He couldn't even stand up in a crate without falling sideways. Our vet was stumped as diagnostics weren't giving us anything helpful until I told her that the foster had mentioned that he had "made friends" with an opossum and sometimes carried it around in his mouth carefully without hurting it...and that was the vet's "aha" moment because she also is a horse person. Opossums are the carrier. We had to send the blood draw to a vet that normally tests equine samples and label it "canine" -- it was some university vet school lab, but I don't remember which one. It was treated with common antibiotics.

The other weird thing I've encountered that causes sudden lameness and symptoms mimicking meningitis is rat lung worm infection -- it's not "supposed to be" a problem in the US, but it's definitely here, and we had one of the first clinical cases ever found in a dog in Louisiana (and our vet has since seen several more now that she knows what to look for). It was a crazy set of circumstances that involved international consultations to figure it out--the rescue spent a ton of money on a special, wonderful dog to try to get to the bottom of it. The dog nearly died. It was a rapid neurologic deterioration that started with rear-end weakness that progressed rapidly. The weirdest thing is that once we figured it out, it was treated with simple Panacur for 7 days, and he made a full recovery from the neurologic symptoms (which had progressed to full rear paralysis). It's usually transmitted by snails (and sometimes frogs), so if your dog eats those...check for it. Most vets in the US do not know it's here, won't have any idea that it can cause neuro problems, or even believe it's a real thing for dogs. I don't know if it's in California.

Those really "far out" things that I've seen cause lameness are enough to tell me that there's a whole world of bad stuff that's very obscure that can cause these symptoms. It takes a really spectacular vet willing to read-up until the wee hours of the morning to find clues in the literature -- mine emails me at 3AM when she has found something on PubMed that she thinks could lead us to an answer in hard cases, and she never, ever gives up. She's a rare, special person who likes solving mysteries for her patients, so people bring her "hard" cases no one else can figure out. I hope you can find someone like that in your area!!! I wish you were closer to UC Davis, as that vet school has an excellent reputation.
Having an internal medicine specialist review his file is a great idea. I hadn’t thought of that!

We do have opossums here. I see them frequently. I will look into EPM and see if we should have the vet can send off some blood work if it seems to be a concern. I’ll also look and see if we have lungworm in our area.

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. This is helpful info.
 

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I agree with you that the suddenness isn't typical of arthritis, which tends to creep up slowly over time -- unless there's an injury that made it suddenly worse. Have you done a full body massage to see if there are any tender areas?

What's going on with the crystals? UTI? NSAIDs and kidney disease don't play well together, so ask your vet about monitoring kidney function as long as he's getting an NSAID, given the presence of the crystals. Is she on a crystal-dissolving RX diet? (I sometimes see that prescribed for a short term to prevent kidney stones. While I don't love RX foods, sometimes they're just necessary, esp. in the short term.)

You might ask to have an internal medicine specialist review the file. That's probably another $150 or so.

Does he have access to opossums? If so, you might ask the vet about ruling out equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM). They'll first probably say, "That doesn't affect dogs," and assure them that are are definitely canine cases if they go digging for them. It's a weird disease usually found in horses that we've had affect one of our rescue's dogs -- he'd stand up and fall over, almost like the world was tilting sideways for him. He couldn't even stand up in a crate without falling sideways. Our vet was stumped as diagnostics weren't giving us anything helpful until I told her that the foster had mentioned that he had "made friends" with an opossum and sometimes carried it around in his mouth carefully without hurting it...and that was the vet's "aha" moment because she also is a horse person. Opossums are the carrier. We had to send the blood draw to a vet that normally tests equine samples and label it "canine" -- it was some university vet school lab, but I don't remember which one. It was treated with common antibiotics.

The other weird thing I've encountered that causes sudden lameness and symptoms mimicking meningitis is rat lung worm infection -- it's not "supposed to be" a problem in the US, but it's definitely here, and we had one of the first clinical cases ever found in a dog in Louisiana (and our vet has since seen several more now that she knows what to look for). It was a crazy set of circumstances that involved international consultations to figure it out--the rescue spent a ton of money on a special, wonderful dog to try to get to the bottom of it. The dog nearly died. It was a rapid neurologic deterioration that started with rear-end weakness that progressed rapidly. The weirdest thing is that once we figured it out, it was treated with simple Panacur for 7 days, and he made a full recovery from the neurologic symptoms (which had progressed to full rear paralysis). It's usually transmitted by snails (and sometimes frogs), so if your dog eats those...check for it. Most vets in the US do not know it's here, won't have any idea that it can cause neuro problems, or even believe it's a real thing for dogs. I don't know if it's in California.

Those really "far out" things that I've seen cause lameness are enough to tell me that there's a whole world of bad stuff that's very obscure that can cause these symptoms. It takes a really spectacular vet willing to read-up until the wee hours of the morning to find clues in the literature -- mine emails me at 3AM when she has found something on PubMed that she thinks could lead us to an answer in hard cases, and she never, ever gives up. She's a rare, special person who likes solving mysteries for her patients, so people bring her "hard" cases no one else can figure out. I hope you can find someone like that in your area!!! I wish you were closer to UC Davis, as that vet school has an excellent reputation.
I forgot to answer you about his UTI. He is not on an Rx diet just yet. The vet wants to wait until his follow up in 10 days to see if that’s something that we should do. They did imaging of his bladder and he did not have any stones. He is taking simplecef, baytril, previcox and robaxin. I’m not sure if any of those are NSAIDs. I will look it up.

His blood work came back with elevated BAND cells, which the vet said are indicative of a bacterial infection. His neutrophils were high and monocytes were very slightly elevated and eosinophils were quite low. Hopefully that reads as infection, not kidney disease.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
There is an infection called diskospondylitis that can cause lameness, fever, etc. It can be fungal or bacterial.
Because of the crystals in his urine the vet thought it was a UTI, rather than diskospondylitis, but I don’t think it has been totally ruled out.
 

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What area of the country are you in? Have they checked him for tick diseases? Obviously there are orthopedic issues that do explain the lameness but not the fever.
They stated they are in LA and there are not ticks known to be around so tick borne illness unlikely.




OK that aside -



to the OP:


I can't help with the diagnosis but 1. be grateful it isn't bone cancer (I think be grateful for that) I had one go from bone cancer - affected his brain = just nasty nasty nasty 2. for help with skeletal issues including arthritis - accupuncture & chiropractic worked great for two of my dogs 3. Lazier is another alternative treatment that seems to help.
I am very glad that it isn’t bone cancer. Our neighbors had to put their Doberman down due to bone cancer. Horrible disease. We found a local vet that has an acupuncturist in their office, and we will be making a visit soon. I also found a chiropractor that’s about 15 miles away that we would be able to get to. One of the vet techs asked if the vet had suggested laser treatment. He didn’t, but I’ll ask when we go for follow up. Thank you.
 

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"eosinophils were quite low"

I looked this up, and here's what I found: A low number of eosinophils in the blood (eosinopenia) can occur with Cushing's syndrome, bloodstream infections (sepsis), and treatment with corticosteroids. However, a low number of eosinophils does not usually cause problems because other parts of the immune system compensate adequately.

I'd go with sepsis as being the cause, not Cushing's.
 
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