It's been an interesting few days with Zac since he was cut loose from in-clinic care with VetHab last week. His daily homework for the first week of at-home rehab was 2 walks on a flexi, making sure he did a bit of each gait - walk, trot, canter, light gallop - followed by 5 minutes with the cone cavalettis. Walks were to be increased by 3 minutes every other day (starting at 15 minutes) with at least 2 hours between sessions.
When we went out to do his sessions Thursday evening, he was still skipping, a bit more than i was expecting. Dr. Sherman had said i might see the occasional hop as Zac figured out that his muscle didn't hurt any more and got used to the movements again, but this looked to me like it might be more than what he was talking about. How disappointing! I went ahead and did the sessions and tried to keep it pretty light and avoid the places i knew Zac would skip (downhill on a counterclockwise arc) since that had been the prevailing instruction i'd been getting over the treatment weeks - to keep him on leash so he wouldn't skip.
Friday morning i was on the phone to Vethab bright and early but Dr. Sherman wasn't in. The receptionist said she'd get a message to him and call me back, but i never heard anything. I went on ahead to the dog trial and did his sessions there. I was pretty concerned after the first one. The ground was fairly uneven, with shallow tire ruts and clumpy grass, and Zac skipped a fair bit. This was no good, it really didn't look much different than what i'd have expected pre-Vethab. I just kept the two sessions that day pretty light on the intensity and took some mental notes. Saturday and Sunday, the area we'd walked in Friday was covered with cars, so i walked him on some much less lumpy ground, along a gravel road and in areas behind the vendor tents, and he looked pretty okay, no excessive skipping.
Monday morning i was on the phone to Vethab the minute they opened and got a time scheduled to see Dr. Sherman that afternoon. Dr. Sherman examined Zac and couldn't find any kind of pain reaction. The gluteal is still sound. So we went outside and after watching a tech trot Zac around and not getting anything, i finally got them to let me show them myself. Off the leash, trot down a hill, skip, skip, there ya go. I think it surprised Dr. Sherman a bit, how easy it is to reproduce and how consistent. He jumped right on Zac and started poking and prodding and still couldn't find a thing to explain it. So he pulled out some boots and bells and started trying things to see if he could lessen the skip, and we formulated a plan, on the idea that it's a habit or muscle memory or some such.
Monday evening Zac did his session with boots on all 4 feet, and a bell on the "good" rear side, to make it a little less comfortable than the bad side. I didn't find this set up to make much difference to Zac, as he continued to skip about when i'd be predicting it (after looking at it for over a year, i can predict it pretty well!). The plan was to try this for 2 sessions and then take the boot off the bad side, giving it better traction and making it feel even more comfortable to use. I decided to forego the second 4-boot session and go right to 3 boots on Tuesday's first session, rather than just keep up the skipping, and i dropped the use of the bell. I found this arrangement did indeed decrease the skipping to about 50% of what it had been. In his second session, i rotated the boot on his good rear side so that the seam was underfoot, to make it a bit more uncomfortable. It was pushing things along a little faster than we'd planned, but i just couldn't see wasting time and having him doing it "wrong" (skipping) repeatedly - that seemed counter to the idea back in the short leash, don't let him skip period. With the seam turned underfoot, the skipping dropped considerably, to maybe 10-20% of what it was without boots or with 4 boots. I talked to Dr. Sherman today and we're going to follow this plan and re-evaluate next week. I may need to make the good rear side a little more uncomfortable as Zac gets used to the boots by putting kibble or beans or something in the boot. It'll be interesting to see how he does these next few days, especially as the area i'll be able to walk him in at Edgeworth this weekend is very rough and lumpy, where the ground at home is pretty smooth even if it's sloped. I walked him there Sunday evening when i dropped the camper off and he hopped a fair bit. Hopefully with the boots, he'll set that bad side down more and get stronger and more confident on it. I did notice, after the first evening in 4 brand new, clean boots, that one was definitely less mud-crusted afterwards. I'm wondering if Zac hasn't been compensating off that leg even when he's not skipping.
As for the other dogs, I took them all to a chiropractor yesterday that we'd not seen before, and liked very much. I was wanting to have Spottie and Gael adjusted, and Zac examined, but ended up running all 6 dogs through for quick checks. Bart got a fair bit of attention to even him up from compensating for the bad shoulder, and Jet and Billy both got a thumbs up as they were in pretty good shape. Gael's back needed some adjusting, and Zac's pubic bone (out from skipping probably). Spottie had a very painful back and needed a fair bit of work, and will get follow up attention. It was obvious she was in pain and that it hurt when worked on - i've never seen Spottie curl a lip or growl ever! She and Gael were a little sore yesterday but this morning, everyone seemed bright and happy and bouncy, and more playful than usual. We'll be going back soon. And by "we", i do mean we. My dogs get rehab and chiropractors and massages, and all i get is a bag of ice and a handful of ibuprofen. I think it's my turn!