I took Zac to VetHab in Raleigh today to see Dr John Sherman about his mystery limp. I was very, very impressed with the exam. And ta da! We finally have a real, honest to goodness diagnosis, not a "well, it's nothing obvious so it must be x" as we'd gotten previously. I've spent the last year stretching and resting and dealing with a supposed iliopsoas muscle strain and it turns out it's actually a gluteal strain. The iliopsoas is a very deep muscle inside the rear leg, while the gluteal is the outer muscle. In a person, a gluteal sprain would result in a literal "pain in the ass". So Zac, more than just BEING a pain in the ass, actually HAS one. It fits very well with the skip/limp i've been watching for so long, where there's obvious pain on extension of his right leg going down hills and on counter clockwise arcs. And certainly makes more sense than "it's gotten to be a habit" or "he's protecting his leg because he remembers it hurting" as i've also been told. I just don't think dogs think that way, or at least not this particular dog. Dr Sherman was able to get a very obvious pain reaction (vocalization) out of Zac in 3 different types of challenge to that muscle.
Prognosis on this is very good but unfortunately, as this has been going on for about a year, it's a chronic problem and the treatment is a lot more involved than if i'd just gone there when it was an acute injury. Dr Sherman will do 2-3 shockwave treatments, 3 weeks apart, to break up adhesions in the muscle. This is almost like re-injuring it so it can be healed up properly. Zac will have rehab/therapy sessions 3 times a week in between at VetHab, doing underwater treadmill, massage, etc. And hopefully i'll have my Zac back at 100% physically for the fall trials. He might be a little wild with only a little sheep work to get ready mentally, but he should be physically ready.
For reference, here is the video i made of Zac's skip. The first 40 seconds or so are just normal trotting around, the second half shows lots of examples of the skip. I made this to show the vets since Zac doesn't do the skip on leash in artificial settings.
I was very impressed with Dr Sherman and his practice will be a great resource in the future for us, especially diagnostically. I certainly won't hesitate to go there, and to get there more quickly after an injury, in the future. Here is VetHab's webpage:
It's so good to have a real diagnosis!