Having a dog means so much joy, especially in everyday life with all the hilarious situations that can arise, their peculiarities, and how their different personalities manifest themselves. We have a dog because we love dogs and because we love to train for hunting and tests – and even though it’s our hobby, it has also become part of our work. Getting a new dog always means so much anticipation, curiosity about the individual, new discoveries in training, and it involves a lot of work to get a dog that works well for hunting and tests. Several years of work, long trips, lots of money, time, sweat, tears. Yeah, you know.
So it’s so damn sad, feels unfair and heartbreaking when it doesn’t go as you dreamed. Young dogs who turn out not to be healthy are some of the worst things about having a dog. This fall, we received two incredibly sad messages. One concerns Elsa’s only 1.5-year-old Labrador Yarrow. The other concerns Lena’s 4.5-year-old Cocker Bix (who is her husband Lars’s dog, but Lena is part of her training and everyday life and loves her “as her own”).
Elsa about Yarrow:
Yarrow and I have teamed up properly now and started taking some courses together. He has felt great to work with, and I started thinking about test starts in the spring. According to the plan, of course, he would be x-rayed sometime between 12 and 18 months. It became closer to 18 due to house building, vacation at the veterinarian’s office, and then a sick veterinarian, but eventually, it was time. I went there thinking “this is just a routine thing.” All x-rayed siblings have had good results, and the statistics for parents and their siblings etc. look good (both I and the breeder checked this before mating). He has never limped, and all the time he has grown proportionally, had balanced food, moved in the right amount in varied terrain, etc., etc.
Therefore, it was like a bolt from the blue when she who x-rayed him said “this doesn’t look so good” about the elbows. It was a Friday, so all weekend and a few more days, I had to think and worry about the results (SKK reads off on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Then it came: ED 2/3, MCPD, and/or OC in the left elbow 😢😢
I immediately booked a visit to a really good orthopedic veterinarian, recommended by a friend, and got a cancellation to see Annika Falkenberg the same day. (Yarrow has been with Annika regularly together with Keen, but it’s been quite a while since he was there). Annika found tension in the elbow, and when she released some of the tensions, it was visible that he relieved a little on the left elbow.
A few weeks later, we were able to come to the orthopedist and were told what we suspected: a hunting career is not a good idea for Yarrow 😢 Surgery is not an option – one surgery is done on dogs with less arthritis, and the other on dogs with more. It’s still not a good idea for a hunting career, and there’s always a risk with surgery.
Now it’s all about giving him the best and pain-free life for as long as possible. The veterinarian said that he could probably be fairly symptom-free for 2-3 years, but that he’s not a dog that will get old 😢😢. However, what was comforting was that he said I couldn’t have done anything differently and unfortunately, ED (elbow dysplasia) sometimes occurs even in lines where all others are completely free. It’s just maximum bad luck ☹️.
The only glimmer of hope in the darkness is that Yarrow’s extended family will be very happy 🥰🤣 In my current life situation, unfortunately, I can’t have three large dogs and I need a dog to train for hunting and hunting trials. Therefore, Yarrow will move to his extended family. They have taken care of him when I’ve been away, and it’s been difficult to bring him home again 🤣 He has to be there for at least three nights each time to have time to sleep in each child’s bed, for example. Yarrow will have a fantastic family life with fun activities that put as little strain as possible on his elbows. It will be empty here without him, but of course, he will come and visit when the extended family is away – or I’ll go visit him if I miss him too much.
Lena about Bix:
Since I have a history of strange illnesses and issues with dogs, I am very observant of behavior changes. The advantage of that is, of course, that I can spot issues early – and often things can be addressed or the dog can be helped in various ways, but not always. In December 2021, Bix suddenly started licking herself a lot on the inside of her hind legs. We turned her upside down and checked and checked; was there a bite? skin redness? was the skin dry? but we found nothing strange. Sometime during the fall, she had also started attacking Flippa, whom she used to play with. It turned into full-blown fights a few times and the pack was very tense, which was a bit shocking. ☹️
Then she started doing some odd things on walks. Bix is a dog with crazy speed and she is almost more in the air than on the ground. We usually call her our popcorn. 🥰 On walks, she would often take off and just run at 190 kilometers per hour straight ahead, turn around and come back just as fast and end with a “pop”. NOW she started stopping when she got out and waited for us. Very strange for Bix. We took her to the physiotherapist who found some “junk” in her lower back and down one hind leg and we thought that was solved. But it wasn’t. It came back and when we tried to massage her, she always lay on her back so we couldn’t get to her back. We went to the vet a couple of times during this time – blood tests were taken, things were pinched here and there.
And then we went back to the physiotherapist (several times) and on the last occasion she said “this is something other than muscular, you need to go to the vet” and stopped the treatment. 😢 So we got a referral to an orthopedist and yes, she showed pain in her back even though she did one of her “pops” even in the examination room and the vet laughed and thought she couldn’t possibly be in that much pain. But we who know Bix know that the last thing to leave her is popping… We got pain relief but on the follow-up visit, we agreed on a CT scan and then we finally got the answer. You kind of feel like you’re going crazy (am I exaggerating? am I seeing ghosts?) when there aren’t such clear reactions – but she did show pain in her back when the orthopedist went through it. Bix is predisposed to herniated discs in the vertebrae L4, L5, L6, L7 and S1. That means she doesn’t have a herniated disc yet, but she will (most likely) get one sooner or later and there will definitely be arthritis around these vertebrae. 😢😢😢
It was actually a shock to receive the news; Bix with all her speed and joy, she hunts like crazy and we had planned to mate her this winter. She is 4.5 years old and of course, we had seen many years ahead of us with hunting and trials and training. To retire such a young dog is just heartbreaking. 😢But there is no alternative. As long as she is not in pain – she has been given pain relief and receives physiotherapy and treatment regularly – she can be with us. We will not operate. We are now trying to find a new everyday life with Bix, with a moderate amount of activity. We have reduced the worst inflammation and our plan is for her to have a moderately active life because a quiet life is not an option for this dog. Lars has found the nosework gear and she is a genius at it, so it may become her new hobby. The difficult part is not knowing anything. You just have to accept that we do not know how it will go, when it will get worse, when it is enough, etc. But we just have to take it one week at a time and slowly find new routines.