My dog has carpal varus. It’s a congenital deformity in short legged dogs where there’s uneven growth in the long bones of the forearm (foreleg). It results in severe bowleggedness. Let’s put it this way, while Aussie’s shoulders and elbows are a good 8 to 10 inches apart, because of the uneven growth of the bones below her elbows, her wrists/ankles touch and her feet turn out. It is something that can be corrected via surgery, but it would have had to have happened before she was a year old. Considering I didn’t even get her until she was almost 10 months old, we missed the window of opportunity. It hasn’t slowed her down much over the years, but after a frank conversation with one of our vets, we’ve been watching her closely for complications.
Besides just looking strange, one of the complications is that she’s predisposed to arthritis. Her front legs shake, pretty much all the time now. It used to be they shook only when she was tired, but now that she’s 12 years old, they shake constantly. To add to the issues, she’s not just a short legged but a long backed dog. Long backed dogs are predisposed to arthritis in their back and hips. One of her hind legs has taken to shaking recently, especially when she’s tired. She’s been on the strongest available glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for years now. Yes, the same stuff us humans take for our joints. And the vet and I have made a conscious effort to do everything possible to keep her at the lowest healthy weight possible to reduce stress on her legs, hips, and back. So she looks borderline thin, but I’m certainly not starving her, and if it means less pain for her, I’d rather have her that way than too heavy. She’s still almost 50 pounds of pretty much solid muscle.
But things have been getting worse over the past 4 or 5 months. It’s more than just her legs shaking. She fell down the stairs. Like slid down the bottom third onto the landing. There’s been days that she’s had trouble getting up and down off the couch or my bed. This is the dog that cleared a 3 foot fence as a puppy with a good foot of room. We now have a prescription for rimadyl, which is basically aspirin for dogs. And our walks are getting shorter. After one trip around the block she’s pretty much done now. No more hiking for Aussie. She still has moments where she tears around the living room like a crazy thing, chasing her tail and tossing her toys around, but they’re shorter, and fewer and farther between now. She’s still a happy and active dog, but she’s slowed down considerably. And lately I’ve noticed that one of her eyes is starting to look a bit cloudy, like she’s developing a cataract.
I am not dealing well with these new problems. It feels very sudden to me. I know there’s only so much I can do, but the idea that my dog is getting old is just not something I’m accepting gracefully. But I’m doing what I can. Besides the drugs, I’m hoping to move to a single story apartment in the next 6 months so we don’t have to deal with stairs anymore. And I have more dog beds around the house than I ever thought I would. I admit I’m becoming less strict with rules, letting her up on the bed without a blanket down, letting her get away with things I never would have when she was younger (but she’s still a very very well behaved dog!). And I’m certainly more reluctant to take her to a kennel and leave her in an unfamiliar environment with strangers. I prefer to take her with me these days, so I can keep an eye on her, or have her stay with friends. And I may be a fool because of it, but she’s my baby dog. She’s my family. And it’s breaking my heart that she’s getting old.