Monday, April 13, 2009

A Crick in the Neck

Nobody other than Tyler (who's seen it for himself) has really understood what I meant when I described Popeye's neck craning. He holds his neck at a weird angle (almost like he's turning it to look in another direction) as he pulls himself across the floor. He started doing this around the time we got his new cart at the beginning of February. At first, he just did it a little. So little that I would see it, blink, look at him more closely and wonder, "Did I really see that?"

Now I finally have it on tape. It's taken months to get enough footage so that somebody who hasn't witnessed it firsthand can recognize what's going on.

He mostly did it at first when his hind legs were being dragged on the left of his body, meaning he was leading with his right front body. Popeye has a tendency to lead with his right side. If you try to stand him up on his hind legs, his body will naturally bend towards the right.

As he used the cart more, the craning increased. He started to do it when his hind legs were on the right, and eventually he did it every time he pulled himself. He even started doing it a little while in his cart.

In the beginning of March, I sent the cart back to Eddie's Wheels for adjustments. During that time, I took him to the vet who said she noticed some soreness in his right shoulder. He was put on Metacam (anti-inflammation) for about a week. It didn't make a difference.

Soon after, his itching (from allergies?) started getting out of control so we switched our focus to that. He was put on Prednisone 5mg for 2 weeks. 1 tablet morning & night for 3 days, then 1 tablet daily for 4 days, then 1 tablet every other day for 1 week.

The Prednisone stopped his itching, but quite unexpectedly, also completely stopped is neck craning. And of course in the meantime, he didn't have his cart to use.

Once he stopped the Prednisone, however, the itching slowly came back. A few weeks later, it has returned full force. He rubs his neck against the carpet, uses his paws to scratch his face (not sure if it's his face he's trying to scratch or his ears), chews on his forearms so that there are patches of missing hair, and constantly licks and chews between the pads of his front paws.

In preparation for his surgery, he can't take Prednisone for the time-being since it weakens the immune system. And I'm not sure I want him to continue to take steroids anyway.

In the meantime, the neck craning has also returned, though not to the worst degree yet. I had hoped that changing Popeye's cart to neutral balance and taking off the weight from his shoulders would solve the problem, but it hasn't. I expect the more he continues to use the cart, the worse the craning will get, like what happened last time.

The vet, chiropractor, and physical therapist haven't been able to figure it out yet. On Wednesday, he goes to an acupuncturist that was recommended to me to see if that will make any difference.

I don't know the source of the problem, but it looks as if there is a strain somewhere on his body that makes it painful for him to use his full range of motion when pulling himself on the floor. So he holds his neck in a certain way and lifts his rear off the ground a little more so that his arms don't have to stretch quite so much as he "walks." You can see he holds his body a lot more stiffly when he cranes his neck.

Popeye has to stretch his body a lot more when he drags himself along the floor than when he walks upright, either in his cart or sometimes he just lifts his rear and uses his hind legs as props. I'd like to figure out the cause of the neck craning, but I'm also hoping that with the removal of his hind legs, he won't have to twist his body so much to move and that might take off some of the stress underlying the craning.


Wild Dingo said...

i wonder if his craning is related to his itching on his neck. since he can't use his back legs to scratch, and he rubs his neck to itch it, then maybe while in motion, its itchy or somehow "stimulated" there that he needs to address it somehow, and he cranes to try to reach it or alleviate the itch or stimulation?

seems to me the prednisone, since its an anti-inflamatory would get rid of the craning only becasue it would take away the soreness and inflamation which of course would take away the itching as well. and since prednisone took away the stimulation, there's no need to "crane" and address. the constant craning may not necessarily be "mechanically" related. in otherwords, maybe he's doing it voluntarily to alleviate some stimulation from the area that's itchy or painful? overtime, the craning to reach that area would cause muscle soreness of course.

the more i see his legs are in the way, the more i think surgery would be more helful to him. poor little guy. Loki would LOVE mouth wrestling him and playing "who has the biggest formosan mouth?" aaarrrhgh...

Sugar said...

If he were human, I'd say it was a pinched nerve due to disc trauma. Humans will often strain their necks in the opposite direction of the neck trauma, for relief. Wild Dingo's explanation makes perfect sense, too. Don't you wish dogs could speak human? I often wish Sugar could speak English-- except for those moments when she gives me the "death glare."

Seeds of Love said...

Any idea when Popeye will have his surgery?