How listening to my inner voice may have saved a dog from surgery
Have you ever wondered how many things must happen for something to actually happen? For example: What are the chances of running into a friend on the other side of the world? This has actually happened to me several times. One has to question if this is truly a coincidence. I like to play with the idea that sometimes the Universal forces steer us exactly where we should be – the right time at the right moment. This story is about how one car accident likely prevented a surgery in one dog…
One of the highlights of my day is going for an evening walk with Skai. It is my reward after a day of working with clients, writing, teaching or working on one of my many projects. Sometimes I have a clear idea where I want to go and other times, I just “let me surprise me…”
First I thought I would pick up Millie; a dog that we fostered when Skai was growing up. She is a wild girl so she and Skai had a great time together running in the woods. However, my friends Christen and Mike had just come back from a walk and Millie was tired so we jumped in the car and decided to go for a walk in the East part of North Vancouver. As soon as we drove out of the back lane, an ambulance sped by so I turned my car around and avoided getting stuck in miles of highway congestion. We started heading for the other bridge towards Stanley park, our other favorite place. The lineup of cars for the Lions Gate Bridge was longer than ever.
I looked at Skai, asking him jokingly for an answer. “Do you want to go to Capilano Canyon? What shall we do Skai? Shall we go to Capilano Canyon?" He cocked his head from side to side trying to understand what I was saying. I took it as a yes, turned around one more time and headed for Capilano Canyon, a place where the city feels miles and miles away.
Suddenly, I was very grateful that I didn’t need to drive a long distance and wondered why I even thought of going elsewhere. It seemed like everything was perfect, the air, the temperature and Skai was all charged up for a set of tricks that he loves to perform along the way. He loves jumping on the logs, running through a hollow tree tunnels and drinking from the crystal-clear streams.
We often pause in the middle of our favorite forest – one of those places where time doesn’t matter and the presence of huge trees, fallen logs, ferns and moss make it all look and feel just right. It is no surprise that film companies often choose this part of the forest for filming.
It was almost dark and I decided to take a path that led to an ancient fir, a giant tree that was here long before George Vancouver discovered his promised land that he, likely under the influence of his ego, named after himself.
As I was admiring the incredible site for the thousandth time, a lady with her German Shepherd crossed our path. She appeared so quickly that it felt like she came from another dimension.
”Hi," I said, hearing the little voice in the back of my mind tell me “You should gently tell her that her dog is too heavy and that he will end up in trouble if he doesn’t lose weight. He is a German Shepherd and you know how often they get paralyzed.”
“Come on, I am on a walk and people are not interested in being lectured,” I argued with myself.
“But you could make a difference” my little voice got back at me. “Do you care more about what people say about you than a dog that can’t speak for himself… ?"
“Too late, I am sorry, she is gone,” I replied regretfully and almost out loud.
We started to head for the car when only about 100 meters ahead there they were again, the lady and her dog.
“Hi, nice dog,” I said shyly. “Thank you” she smiled.
“Thank you” she smiled.
“How old is he?” I asked, to enter the conversation.
"He is two and a half but people think he is older because he is a little chunky. He will eat anything, so the vet put him on a special diet for weight loss. He gets tons of exercise, but he is still not losing any weight. It is frustrating.”
We chatted for a few minutes and then I suggested a homemade raw diet. “Your dog would be much slimmer without the grain and other carbs. Just try it.”
“But my vet told me that a raw diet is not good for my dog, or is it?" she answered.
“Well, it depends on who you talk to. I always ask nature for the answer when people can’t agree. What do you think a dog would do in a field of wheat? Eat the grain or chase the rabbit?” I questioned.
“I happen to be a vet too and I used to believe the same “processed food story” years ago. I saw that most of my patients were heavy and not exactly a picture of health and I decided to try real food. I could not believe the difference."
“Oh, you are a vet? I am Lorri and this is Eddie,” she said, her hesitation seemed to have melted away. “This is Eddie’s favorite walk,” she smiled, “Is it ok if I ask you a question?”
“We have just had a challenging time with Eddie. He has come down with urinary incontinence. He is just two-years-old. We had four different people look at him. We have done blood and urine tests, an ultrasound, X-rays and no one can find anything. Now they are saying that we should consider exploratory surgery. I am worried,” Lorri said, sounding very concerned.
“Does he swim or jump?” I inquired, wondering if he had injured or strained his lumbar area. “What does he like to do?”
“Oh yeah, he loves to leap in the water down by the river. He was doing a lot of that when the incontinence started. Wait…could it be…?”
I was relieved that she was getting my point. “Yes, Laurie, it could be and most likely is the cause of his incontinence. I have seen this many times before.”
Laurie still looked a little puzzled.
I continued with the explanation, “Imagine the bladder, it gets its nerve supply from the lumbar spine, just in front of the hips. Dogs that are incontinent have often sprained, strained or injured the muscles and joints along the lumbar spine.”
“What happens is that the nerves have to pass through the tight and inflamed muscles and get constricted or pinched. The more severe this is, the fewer nerve impulses reach the bladder sphincter which simply “numbs out.” It makes sense that Eddie leaks especially after strenuous activity.
“This makes total sense because it usually happens after he leaps in the water!” Laurie points out with excitement.
“Does that mean that I could avoid surgery?” her eyes lit up.
“I can’t promise anything for certain, but it is highly probable,” I replied. “Here is my contact, just send me an email and I would love to tell you what to do.”
We said goodbye to each other.
“I was glad I listened to you,” I said to my inner voice. “You sometimes bug me so much, but often you have a point."
“Just make sure that your ego doesn’t grow too big. There are still many things that you don’t know,” the cheeky bugger replied.
“I have to write a blog about incontinence,” I thought as I was hopping over the speed bumps on the park road. “I am sure that there are more dogs like Eddie in the world.”
How did I figure this out?
It was Caz, a lovely female Ridgeback cross who brought me a deeper insight into this common problem.
Caz was frequently incontinent and her owner, Pat and I struggled with her condition for months. It was back in 2002. I rarely give up in the search for a solution. Because Caz usually leaked urine right after her exercise, I suggested to Pat that we go for a walk together. This way I could observe exactly what happened. There I learned that she was a ball addict and she would chase it in the park for 30 to 45 minutes until she was totally exhausted. The fast sprints and stops put a lot of stress on the lumbar region and it dawned on me that her incontinence may be related to her exercise.
I gave Caz a homeopathic remedy that I knew worked well in releasing the muscle tightness. We also rested Caz with no ball play for a few days.
Like a miracle, she stopped leaking!
Since then, I have treated many dogs with incontinence and learned that more than 80 percent of dogs respond with the reliability of a Japanese train. Of course, we have to first ensure that there is no urinary infection, stones or other common problems.
The dogs that do not respond, appear to have more chronic changes or true hormonal imbalance, but these situations are much less common.
What can we learn from this story?
- Urinary incontinence doesn’t always need to be treated with hormones and is often related to overextension and injury of lumbar muscles and the back.
- Because these muscles become tight, the nerves originating at the spine and supplying the bladder sphincter become constricted.
- The bladder numbs out in a very similar way as your arm does when you sleep on it and wake up in the morning not being able to lift it for a few minutes.
- A numbed out sphincter turns into a leaky faucet and the circle is closed.
Three steps to treat incontinence:
- Prevent your dog from any activity that puts excessive stress on his or her back.
- Massage the lumbar area with a Zoom Groom or another massage brush.
- Follow our incontinence protocol.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM