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Monday, July 9, 2012

Sport Dog Injuries

On June 18th, I took Frankie out into the backyard to practice for our club's largest comp of the year. We were barely into it when I noticed Frankie's mouth was bleeding, pretty heavily on one side. We stopped and I had her go get a drink of water. It's not uncommon for disc dogs to bleed once and a while, since they often bite their tongues when they snatch a Frisbee out of the sky. The bleeding appeared to have stopped, so we went back to it. After one catch her mouth was bleeding heavily again, so again we stopped and got some water. I took a peek in her mouth to see what was going on and discovered that one of her lower teeth on the right side had broken in half! 

The vet was called and a dental scheduled for that Wednesday so we could get the problem taken care of. I picked her up Wednesday night and unfortunately, since I was concerned about her oral comfort level, we cancelled our place at the competition. But Frankie healed and life was good again.

On June 25th I took Frankie out into the backyard to practice for an upcoming Frisbee demo. We worked on a few specific moves and within 5 minutes or so, we were done. Frankie trotted off to get water and walk around like she usually does after a practice and I took my spot on the patio to watch her walk as I usually do. I've become very tuned into my dog's walking and trotting gaits as I've become more and more paranoid about them being injured.  Frankie walked normally, went potty and we went inside to watch some tv.

About an hour later, it was nearing time to get the dogs fed and ready for bed. I took everybody outside one last time to potty and in watching Frankie, I thought I was catching glimpses of her being kind of wonky on her right rear leg. I was concerned, but when I went to check further she went into wiggling spasms and went over for a belly rub. While she was down, I checked for heat or swelling, but couldn't feel anything.

The next morning I woke up and went to let the dogs outside. Frankie was standing in her crate with her right leg hiked way up. Panic on my part, wiggling on hers. I let everybody outside and watched Frankie. She wouldn't even attempt to put weight on it. It was almost like it was so tight that she couldn't lower it. That's about when I started crying. To try and help me out, Frankie hopped over to the nearest Frisbee and dropped it at my feet and backed up, waiting. Silly dog.

I rushed her to the vet, fearing an ACL tear. My vet seemed to agree and referred us to an ortho surgeon who specalizes in knee injuries.
On July 9th, I drove Frankie to the surgeon's clinic to have her surgery. We filled out the paperwork and went in for a thourough exam and xrays. To make a very long story short, we got lucky. God blessed my little blue dog and it was found that Frankie did not require surgery and more than likely, her acl was fine. *happy dance!*

But the instances this year of my dogs going through one thing or another, especially the Aussies with their sports, really has me thinking hard about what more I could be doing to prevent the injuries in the first place. Here are a few of the things that we are beginning or have already been doing to help prevent injury.

*Managing their weight ~ Overweight dogs are going to come down a lot harder then a fit, lean dog.
*Conditioning ~ Ensuring that your sport dog is active and trains in their sport regularly will keep their muscles strong and more able to support the body.
*Adding joint suppliments ~ Fish oils, glucosomine and MSM are all things that my 10yo Lab takes to keep him limber and feeling good. But all of our dogs will now be on this program.
*Nutrition ~ Make sure that you are feeding your dog a well balanced, nutritionally correct diet for their size, weight, age and activity level. Bread and bacon bits from the table do not count as good nutrition! Plus that promotes begging and that's just annoying.
*Regular dentals ~ I knew that keeping my dog's teeth and gums clean and healthy was just...healthy. But I was not aware until my visit with the surgeon that keeping their teeth healthy will also aide in keeping their joints healthy!  She didn't explain the why, but it's interesting and something I'll remember for sure.
*Know your dog ~ Become hyper aware of your dog's gait and watch for any inconsitancies. Dogs are generally very stoic and won't show their pain or discomfort, which is why you need to know your dog well enough to step in when something looks wrong.
*Massage ~ This is one that we are beginning right away! Learning how to warm up your dog properly and massage major muscle groups will not only keep them limber, it will also alert you to any new growths or knots as soon as they appear. Eventually your hands will know your dog's body so well that you'll be able to feel something as small as a mosquito bite that's not normally there!
*Pet Insurance ~ This is another thing we are starting. Pet insurance, depending on which plan you choose, can be a major life saver when it comes to vet bills. And I mean literally a life saver. Major vetting on a pet costs a lot of money and unless you are really awesome at saving money and have some put away for this kind of emergency, chances are most people can't afford it. So their only other option is to put their pet down or give them away. For Frankie, it will cost me about $35 a month to put her on the best plan the company that I've chosen offers. So now in the future, if Frankie does need a knee surgery or something, we will get about 90% of it back with the insurance. Yes, $35 for one dog every month might seem like a lot. But $35 a month is much much easier to do than a $3K knee surgery!  We were forced to take out a loan from the bank to pay for Frankie's surgery, which required that our vehicles be used as collateral and we had to put full coverage insurance on them while the loan is active!  Like I said, we were blessed that we're able to pay it back right away because surgery wasn't needed. But if the opposite had been true, I'd be paying $250 a month for the loan payment AND the extra $100+ for car insurance. Yes, $35 a month is MUCH easier to look at than $350 a month!

We love dog sports and our dogs love doing what they do. Our world revolves around dog sports. I never want to have to take that away from them. We have been given a second chance to do things the right way, so you can be damn sure we are going to do it right this time around.

What else do you do for your animals who are active in hunting, agility, frisbee, etc??  Post in the comments below!

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