My Happy Hips and Elbows

No, this is not an endorsement of another favorite treat (although I am a huge fan of Happy Hips). This is a story about my very special hips and elbows.

A few months before my first birthday, my humans noticed that I wasn’t quite “right.” When I ran across my yard, I did a little bunny hop. Sometimes when I tried to stand up, I had a bit of a struggle. And when I sat, I tended to lean over on my hip. The picture above was taken that winter, during one of our rare South Louisiana snows.

My veterinarian at the time referred me to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. At the vet school, I received a full (and I do mean full) examination by one of the professors, a resident, an intern, and a senior student. Through their examinations and radiographs, they determined that I have dysplasia of my elbows and hips. Their report included this sentence: “While we know that Harper Lee’s hip arthritis will progress with time, we cannot predict if her clinical signs will worsen.”

This was all very hard for my humans to hear as they held a Golden Retriever puppy who had not yet celebrated her first birthday. But they were encouraged. Rather than recommending immediate surgery, the report suggested a conservative therapy: non-steroidal anti-inflamatory medication, controlled activity, and weight control. The veterinarians and future veterinarians said that I should receive regular exercise, including walks and swimming (I am still waiting for my humans to put that pool in the back yard!). They said that running, jumping, and rough playing should be avoided to prevent excess strain on my joints. I think my human daddy was a little disappointed that I would not be joining him on his marathon training runs, but my human mommy was happy that she would have a daily walking companion.

They also suggested that I should receive physical therapy through the vet school’s Companion Animal Rehabilitation Center. I started aquatherapy almost immediately. That’s me on the underwater treadmill, which allows me to build muscle and increase range of motion while decreasing stress on my joints. Our local public radio station did a story about my therapy. You can click here to listen to the story or read more. There’s even a YouTube video of me on the treadmill (don’t blink or you’ll miss it!). When I first started rehab (my human mommy always points out that it’s not like Lindsay Lohan’s rehab), I went twice a week. I improved so much that my visits were cut to once a week, and now I only go every other week.

So you can imagine that my humans were a bit alarmed (to say the least) when they noticed me favoring my right front leg earlier this week. They immediately got me in to see my “primary care veterinarian” at Jefferson Animal Hospital. (My late sister, Lexi, and I started going there shortly after my first visit to the LSU vet school, and I’m so happy we did.) My veterinarian characterized my limp as a flare-up of a chronic condition. His recommended treatment included laser therapy, which I started immediately at the clinic.

I had my second laser treatment yesterday, and I’m responding extremely well. It’s really quite enjoyable (probably more so when my human mommy isn’t there with that camera in my face). I go into a nice, quiet room with a big, fluffy dog bed. While one lady holds me (I like that) another shines a warm light (that’s the laser) all around my elbow. In about 15 minutes, I’m finished. You can click here to read more about Companion Therapy Laser.

That’s the current story of my happy hips and elbows. As I approach my fourth birthday in March, I am doing quite well. I enjoy my morning walks, and now that the weather is getting cooler here I’ll probably start working in an afternoon walk each day. To lessen the stress on my joints, I have been advised to control my weight, but that’s not a problem for me (don’t you just hate blondes who say that?). I take a daily dose of Dasuquin (a joint health supplement) with fish oil tablets (which studies have shown may increase the effects of the Dasuquin; if nothing else, it keeps my golden coat beautiful). Every other week, I do my aquatherapy at the LSU vet school, and now I know that the laser therapy at Jefferson Animal Hospital will also help to keep my joints healthy . . . hopefully for a long, long time.

This has been a long and somewhat serious post for me, but I thought it was important to share this information. I know that I am very, very fortunate to have the brillaint minds, cutting-edge resources, and caring people at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine and Jefferson Animal Hospital. Those are certianly two of my favorite places. My humans and I realize that my special joints will be a lifelong challenge, but when they see me sitting in happy hips position (like in the photo above), they feel very good about my future.

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6 Comments on “My Happy Hips and Elbows”

  1. Gaye says:

    so now the whole world knows how you maintain that sleek model figure

  2. Ogee says:

    Thank goodness for your devoted humans…and where do I sign up for that water treadmill??

  3. Thank you for this post. We are taking our 9 month old pup to NC State Vet school next week for consultation about the same issue. I’m a little more hopeful about the treatment after reading your post.

  4. Clayton Forbes says:

    Wow! What an incredible story. I’m so glad Harper Lee is doing so well.


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