Today we spend some time with Duke and his owner, Catie, in Reno, USA.
Duke is 10 years old and has had arthritis since he was about two years old which for many years never seemed to affect his ability to run, play, jump, or to be a happy dog. In May of 2015 Duke was also diagnosed with kidney disease and pancreatitis. He was able to fight through the initial shock it took on his body, and soon after he started to get a little unstable in his back end.
Catie took Duke to see a physical therapist to help strengthen his back again and to help him maintain balance, while doing acupuncture at the vets. This seemed to slow down the process of him ending up in a wheelchair. For about seven months now, Duke has been in a wheelchair due to the nerve damage that has occurred as a result of the arthritis.
Due to these health problems he is on a strict diet and a lot of medications to keep his kidneys functioning properly. He gets a small dose of Gabapentin with dinner to help with nerve pain.
His back feet are not in the stirrups yet because he still has the function and movement of his back legs, just not the strength anymore.
Can you describe a day in your life with Duke?
On the weekdays, we get up at 4:45 am. Duke loves his sleep and he loves his bed (Mom's bed is his bed). I pull the covers off of him and check to see if there are any accidents. Duke sleeps on top of a puppy pad as well as a towel and for now we have been okay without using a diaper at night.
Duke is an extremely sensitive and dependent dog, so if he does not sleep where he is used to sleeping, he gets very nervous, which ends with him being sick. Honestly, I know this sounds crazy, but it stresses him out to not be in our bed for the night and he will start having diarrhea and the stress is not good for his body. Since he loves his sleep so much, he doesn't seem to help out much when I try to get him up and out of bed. I carry him to the wheelchair and strap him in, shoes on, and out he goes for about 15 minutes for a potty break while I get ready for work.
He and his brothers come in, I make breakfast for Duke, which includes all his meds, rice, low sodium chicken broth, fat free cottage cheese, and nonfat yogurt along with his low protein, low fat wet and dry dog food. I give him this recipe because he is more encourage to eat his food and because this is the recipe I have always used to reset his stomach in the past.
During the day when I am at work, he is always with his brothers as well as my sister and/or mom. They help out so much with him by taking him for walks and helping him in and out of the wheelchair for potty breaks, and always giving him the attention that he craves.
When I get home from work the first thing I do is say hi to him to him and the other boys and we either go to the park or go for a walk (either around the block or up in the hills). I try to keep Duke active for half hour to an hour or more in the evenings.
When it is cold outside, and we get back from a walk, I lay him down and put a hot pad on his back and he takes a quick power nap before dinner. For dinner it's the same recipe with more meds, and then a spot on his bed in the living room while we get ready for bed.
A few times a week he gets the TENS unit placed on different areas of his back and neck for pain management and therapy.
He will go potty one last time and then put in our bed with a 15 - 30 minute massage for his back, legs, neck, shoulders, and chest. It's a great way for him to fall asleep. Duke loves to talk and kick in his sleep!
How do you like to spend your weekends?
The weekends are the best! Snow, rain, or sunshine, this boy is always ready for a new adventure - either in the city or in the mountains, he is ready to go anywhere!
We wake up around 7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. depending on if we have to go to acupuncture or physical therapy. Since there is no stress on having to get up right away it's always nice to say good morning to him and his brothers. Since he has two younger dogs around him they help wake him up and get him motivated by playing with him for a few minutes.
After getting up and ready for the day we usually play the day by ear, whether lounging at home and in the sun outside, if the weather is nice, or by going to a nearby lake or hiking trail. Living in the Sierra Nevada's is amazing because we are so close to so many different and beautiful places to explore. We can go to the one of the many parks or hiking trails surrounding our area, the Truckee River, Boca/Stampede Reservoir, Donner Lake, or our personal favorite, Lake Tahoe.
When we are out and about nothing will stop Duke! He has become a pro when off-roading with his wheels.
What products, tips or tricks would you recommend?
For dogs who are still walking, but dragging their feet I would highly recommend the Petacc dog shoes. The last shoes I bought showed up within a few days and were not shipped internationally. They have a bigger layer of rubber on the tip of the toes and they have lasted Duke a little bit longer than any other shoe.
We have also used the Pawz boots, (more like a rubber dog sock), that stays on his feet really well and helps on the slipping factor. The only issue we had with these is that if they stayed on too long Dukes feet swelled up for a couple hours because they were so tight. So I put them around my shoes for about 5-10 minutes to stretch out the top and it wasn't as tight around his feet, but still stayed on.
I also got Duke a stroller for longer hikes as well as attaching it to the back of my bicycle. He was weary of it at first, but now loves getting in for a free ride. Rugs - We have hardwood floors in the house, so when Duke was still able to walk, he always bee lined for the rugs because it wasn't so slippery.
At first, Duke was in a rear hip harness with a piece of a pool noodle between his legs to help keep his legs apart because he was crossing his back legs and tripping himself. When he was unable to go potty by himself and didn't want mom standing over him is when I decided to put him in the wheelchair for bathroom assistance. Because Duke does not have his feet in the stirrups he is constantly dragging his feet. This was a challenge at first because his feet were bleeding due to him dragging them along, and because dog shoes are expensive! Just like puppy pads, they are less expensive online.
Duke is a very outgoing dog, always wants to be outside and walking around. So, the shoes were extremely necessary for him, but we went through them so quickly! So what we did was turn the shoes around so the bottom of the shoes were facing up and that way they last a little bit longer than the thin material on the top of the shoe.
Are there any treatments that you're currently trying?
Duke goes to physical therapy bi-weekly and receiving laser therapy as well as back rubs and stretches, and he goes to the vets office once a month for acupuncture.
At home he gets nightly massages and a few days a week he is on the TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) for about 15-20 minutes.
What advice would you offer someone who has a dog in a similar situation?
I would have to say that as hard as it is, and believe me, it can be extremely hard, it is the most rewarding thing you could ever do!
I was never expecting to have a special needs dog, but I would do it again and again for Duke. The smile on his face shows me not his handicap, but what he is capable of doing. Life has thrown us some curve balls, but it hasn't stopped us from living the life we are given.
I feel like Duke has taught me more about what living life is about than anyone or anything I have ever read. It is about being in the moment with the ones you love and accepting that your dog is worth it. Worth the fight and the sacrifice you will make because it's your dog. At least, that's how I feel, because my dog has given me more smiles and adventures than I could have ever thought possible, and I am only trying to return the gift of happiness to him in his situation.
Follow the adventures of Duke, Catie and the rest of their family on Instagram @catie.and.the.boys