Arthritis Pain OR Storm Anxiety?

While Callie is walking on the treadmill at a low-impact speed of 2 mph, let me tell you what prompted this post title:

Yesterday I received my copy of the latest issue of Cesar’s Way magazine. Today, since the outdoor temperature and moderate breeze made sitting in the yard a pleasure, I decided to bring the magazine (and my reading glasses) outside with me and read it – cover to cover – while the dogs played together in the yard and watched the neighbors’ chickens and chased squirrels and chipmunks. Close to the back cover was an article by Dr. Sherry Weaver, DVM, titled Is Your POOCH In Pain? Since Callie does have some dysplasia in her left hip, I decided to read through the symptoms and then go back and read the article in its entirety. For those of you who don’t know the symptoms, here are the ones mentioned in the article:

HEAVY PANTING after minimal exertion

Standing with an ARCHED OR HUNCHED back

CHANGES in eating, drinking, playing, or sleeping habits

Personality changes like SUDDEN aggressiveness

HIDING or BEING QUIET and withdrawn

Unwillingness to indulge in favorite activities

Refusing to reach for water or food, or to climb steps

WHINING or WHIMPERING

LIMPING

Okay, so here’s where it gets a little “befuddling”: when we have a storm coming up, Callie will pant and whine AND “hide” in one of her “safe” spots. Three of the aforementioned symptoms of a pooch in pain; but also three symptoms of anxiety or fear, right? So, which way do I go now? Well, I go – if I follow my instincts as Cesar has taught me over the past three years – with a combination of the two. Exactly what combination, as far as percentage of pain and anxiety, I’m not sure of. So, I have to take the time to consider the symptoms one by one. (Please be patient with me, this could take some time…)

First, the heavy panting after minimal exertion: for quite some time now, but especially since the onset of much warmer temperatures, I’ve noticed that Callie pants almost consistently. Not always heavily, but still it seems to be consistent. She’ll pant heavily for about 5 or 10 minutes and then not so much for about a minute or two and then back to heavily, in cycles it seems. Well, watching Callie on the treadmill and then afterwards, I decided the panting could very well be a sign of at least some pain. At that point, I retrieved (no pun intended here for those of you who know Callie is a Golden Retriever!) the bottle of Rimadyl the vet gave me a couple of years ago and broke one of the pills in half and gave Callie one of the halves. While I sit at the kitchen table, Callie is resting on the floor next to the refrigerator; her heavy panting has slowed down somewhat. Now it’s more like the heavy breathing of a runner who has slowed down to a walking pace. The Rimadyl must be starting to work…she’s looking sleepy and her breathing is becoming more “normal”. There are no storms lurking about us that I know of – my Weather Channel alert isn’t flashing and making thunder noises – so I know that for now at least the panting was NOT caused by anxiety. My own energy is calm at least if not calm-assertive, so I don’t think she’s picking up any negative energy from me (other than the uncertainty I’m writing about). And now, I believe, she’s in a light sleep. Walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long probably helped tire her out a bit.

Okay, so on to the next symptom: hiding or being quiet and withdrawn. Well, Callie has never been “quiet and withdrawn” as far as a personality trait goes. She’s definitely what I would call an “extrovert”! But lately, when she knows that my husband and I are both going out, she will go to one of her “safe” spots. I never thought about it until now, but could that be from a mild case of separation anxiety? It’s weird, because when hubby’s at work and I’m getting ready to go out alone somewhere, Callie doesn’t seem bothered by it at all. Any time I leave the house – be it alone or with my husband – I tell the dogs to “watch the house and keep each other company” like they really understand me. (There I go humanizing them again!) Of course, as any good “mother” would, I also tell them “I love you. I’ll be back in a little while.” Silly pet parent! Back to the subject at hand. The only other time I’ve noticed Callie going into hiding is at the beginning of a thunderstorm. She picks up on the energy changes in the atmosphere, but also in ME. While storms don’t frighten me, the resulting power loss that occasionally occurs does aggravate me. I’ve got to work on that. Usually, though, at about the same time that I relax (knowingly or not), Callie also relaxes and comes out of hiding, joining us in the living room. SO, I tend to think the hiding is more a symptom of her storm anxiety than arthritis/dysplasia pain.

Finally, the whining or whimpering: definitely a sign of the storm anxiety because it’s one of the only two times she does whine (the other being the relatively few times when she wants attention that she’s not getting). I haven’t heard her whimper since shortly after she was diagnosed with the dysplasia, before the Cosequin DS and Rimadyl had a chance to “kick in”. And with very few exceptions over the years, I haven’t seen her limping. And believe me, I watch her very closely when I THINK I’ve noticed a limp. (Actually I’ve seen Shadow limp more – always after sleeping on one side or the other for an extended period of time.)

Callie’s first semi-annual (senior) health exam is coming up in August. I’m hoping the vet will tell me that the dysplasia has not progressed significantly (or even minimally) beyond the original diagnosis. I know – have known for 5-1/2 years – what I need to do to manage it. And, with the exception of regular, low-impact exercise, I’ve been doing it. Admittedly, I have gotten lazy over the past several months. First it was too cold to go for a walk at the park, then it was raining/snowing/whatever, now it’s the summer heat & humidity. And just plain not wanting to pull the treadmill out of its corner and deal with two dogs who don’t really want to get on it in the first place. Giving both dogs the Cosequin DS is easy – three a day for Callie, two a day for Shadow (as preventive care) at meal times. It’s the Rimadyl I don’t trust. It’s an NSAID, which isn’t all that good for humans, never mind dogs. So, I only give it to Callie when I think she REALLY needs it, and then only half a dose at a time (which really does seem to do the trick). Maintaining an ideal weight? Well, back in February both girls were a little heavier than the vet thought they should be so I decreased the amount of food a little bit at each meal time. Not so much that they would be constantly begging for treats, but enough that they would leave their feeding areas just a tad hungry. I had cut back on their treats quite some time ago (long before Shadow’s annual February exam) – from at least 3 a day (sometimes more) down to 1 a day, after their bedtime potty break – and now almost no human-food “treats” at all. I could be wrong, but I believe they’ve both lost about 2-3 pounds anyway. They do get some exercise chasing each other and the squirrels & chipmunks around the yard several times during the day. Not the walk that Cesar recommends, but still something anyway. Now, I’m determined to get back to putting them on the treadmill for at least 20 minutes a day, every day, anyway. (The treadmill is better than nothing at all, says Cesar.) A friend of mine takes her senior Collie to underwater treadmill/swimming therapy frequently (I’m not sure of the exact schedule) and says it works wonders for the dog’s spinal problem. It’s an option that I don’t have available to me. The article also mentions laser therapy, but I don’t believe Callie is at the point where she needs it. I’ll have to ask the vet about it.

SO….Arthritis Pain or Storm Anxiety? My instincts are now telling me that for the heavy panting part at least, it’s mostly arthritis pain but sometimes also due to storm anxiety. As for the whining and/or hiding, I have to go with the storm anxiety and possibly a mild case of separation anxiety (mostly caused by MY own actions/reactions).

Forgive me for such a long post, but I typed what I was thinking, as I was thinking it….something I needed to do in order to be able to sort things out in my mind. Hope I didn’t bore you to death with it!!!

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