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July 9, 2019 by Haven Lake Staff

Lasering aching elbows that are caring much of a weaker dog’s body weight.

As a veterinary rehab therapist I have seen my fair share of hind end weakness in older dogs. This loss of function can be from a variety of causes. A thorough exam is a great place to start to rule out issues such as tick diseases, weakness from anemia or endocrine imbalance, and to localize any areas where pain may play a factor. Arthritic joints and orthopedic injury can lead to a pet that doesn’t want to move because of pain and discomfort.

Do We Really Know the Cause of the Weakness?

The hind end weakness that I am referring to is the generalized geriatric hind end weakness that we often see in senior aged dogs. Several of my patients go through a progressive decline in function that is not arthritic in nature but rather a neuromuscular degeneration. We can be quick to call this neurological decline Degenerative Myelopathy (which is a truly terrible disease similar to ALS in people) and set ourselves on a negative course of doom and gloom for the patient. In my rehab career I have seen many dogs with hind end weakness but only a few of them actually had true DM (diagnosed by DNA testing and/or MRI screening). The DM dog’s journey of decline to complete dependency was fairly quick (months) and very heartbreaking because their bodies gave out well before their spirit did. So let’s just agree that dogs can have many other neurological things happening to their body (age related muscle loss, spondylosis, lumbrosacral disease, degenerative disks to name a few) besides DM to bring them to their weakness issues. Why is this distinction important? In short, TIME. Many of these non-DM related causes have a much slower rate of decline and that makes all of the difference when keeping a dog on their feet. Can we manage this hind end weakness, whatever the cause, and give these dogs a good quality of life? Sure we can!

Needs and Goals: Let’s Be Realistic

The first place to start is with setting realistic goals. In the case of age related progressive hind end weakness, we will never restore full function in our pets. Rehabilitation therapy will slow the process of weakness and decline but won’t change its course. My rehab goal is to improve quality of life, teach families how to manage a changing pet, and keep my patients on their feet for as long a possible. In the older patient, I usually find that once we begin rehab therapy we are maintaining where they are now in function and may be able to get back some activities such as being able to climb stairs again or getting on the bed without help. If they are currently able to just walk around the block before tiring out, rehab therapy will not get them back to that three mile walk that they used to do a few years ago. Rehab therapy will realistically keep the weakening dog walking that block for as long as possible with the least amount of help and secondary issues. They can still play ball or tussle with their canine buddies, but with some modification to avoid over fatigue and injury.

I like to have my owners identify some things that their dog used to enjoy doing but are not able to do any more. These lost activities can be markers for improvement if they return or goals to achieve with therapy. It is also important to find out what actions an owner needs their pet to be able to do (like get in and out of the car, up and down entry stairs) in order for the owners to feel comfortable taking care of their pet at home. There is a delicate balance between the level of care that a person is able to give and the level of care that a disabled pet actually needs.

Managing Hind End Weakness: The Plan

  1. Manage any source of pain. While the neurological decline leading to weakness may not be a painful process, there is often secondary pain in some of the joints and muscles because of how a pet is moving or compensating. If they use their front legs to push themselves to their feet or to carry most of their weight, maybe the elbows and surrounding muscles are sore. Often times the muscles of the spine are affected by changes in posture, falling over because of instability, or slipping on some surfaces. Oral medication such as NSAIDs and supplements as well as laser therapy and/or acupuncture are great resources for pain control. Massage or a warm compress on aching muscles can bring relief and comfort as well. Let’s not forget home care devices such as the Assisi Loop for portable pain control.
  2. KEEP THEM LEAN!! These dogs are having a hard time lifting their body mass and staying on their feet. Carrying excess weight will make the loss of strength and mobility even worse and eventually shorten the amount of time that they have with you.
  3. Consistent home exercise. Shorter walks twice daily are a great way to keep a dog moving and grooving. Mix it up with changing terrain by walking on grass, pavement, sand, and other surfaces to increase the feedback your pet gets from their feet to their brain. Challenge stability by adding in wide circles or figure 8s to a walk. Encourage pets to step over things like tree branches to lift their feet. Walking on a low unstable surface such as an air mattress can help to strengthen core muscles and promote body awareness for stability. Avoid the long hikes or play activity that may cause over fatigue that takes days to recover from.
  4. Acupuncture. I like to think that this modality is great for helping what does work to work a little better. Acupuncture will help to strengthen the nerve-muscle connection and is our go-to therapy when there are incontinence issues along with the hind end weakness. With acupuncture there is an increased circulation to problematic areas, nerve and muscle stimulation, and usually a general sense of well being for the patient.
  5. Formal Rehabilitation Therapy. Adding in aqua therapy and targeted exercises can work to strengthen muscles and build endurance for home exercises and activities. About half of my rehab session with a patient and their people is spent talking. Each session is therapy for the pet and the owner because watching a pet change can be hard. Use your rehab therapist as a valuable resource to help with solutions for home care needs. We are reassessing needs and goals all of the time and having someone to guide the way can reduce anxiety for both the owner and their pet.
  6. Environmental Changes. Slick, slippery floors are a huge problem with the hind end weakness pets. They can lose their footing and then not be able to get themselves back up without assistance. Placing throw rugs over slippery surfaces will help your dog to navigate at home without falling. Block off stairs if the pet can not go up and down them without some issue such as slipping or falling. Ramps to get in the house or car have their place but you need to find the right size and fit that works for your situation.
  7. Mobility Aids. There are so many products out there when you look online or in stores that picking one for your needs can be a bit overwhelming. My advice is to look at the reviews, see what worked and did not work for that particular item, and think twice before purchasing anything. I have a box full of items that people bought on their own that ended up not working at all. For the larger dogs, I do have one product that I consistently recommend and that is the Help Em Up harness system. You can use it to help a dog get into the car, up the stairs, get onto their feet, and to stabilize them during other day to day activities. This harness system is not for everyone but seems to be helpful to the majority of my families that use it.

We Are Here For You!

It can be a very difficult thing to watch a beloved furry family member age and decline in mobility, among other things. It is important to remember that this journey of age related change is inevitable, but we can make it a whole lot more comfortable for everyone. There is help out there for you and your pets. You just need to take that first step with your veterinary professional to start your journey of management and support.


Battle pet basics to get you started building your pet collection

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Though I started working on an article about how to collect battle pets much in the same vein as collecting titles and mounts. I quickly realized it was going to be a lot more complicated than that. Though you certainly can collect plenty of vanity pets by buying them, farming for drops, and getting achievements, the bulk of pet collecting in WoW needs to be done by capturing wild pets for yourself.

So if you want to amass a fine collection of WoW pets, what you need to do is get into pet battling so you can find and capture your own pets. However, it's a daunting prospect if you're starting from level 1 and want to pick up pets from Northrend or Pandaria. We've already walked you through the very basics of starter battling and some tips on advancing through the levels, but today we'll walk you through the battle pet details you'll need to go from 1 to 25 and collect as many pets as you'd like along the way.

Know your pet families
Though what type of pet you match up to what might not matter at low level fights, as you advance knowing what each family's strengths and weaknesses are is crucial. (And it can let you game the system and beat high level pets with low level pets that are of the right family. but more on that later.) Each pet falls into one of ten families: aquatic, beast, critter, dragonkin, elemental, flying, humanoid, magic, mechanical, or undead.

Each of these families has its own strengths and weakness, with good defense against one (+33%) class and good attack against one class (+50%) -- which of course means that there are also families each family is weak against. There's admittedly a lot of fiddly details, but what it comes down to is you should aim to match your pets against pet families they're strong against while avoiding matching them against pet families they're weak against. In addition to strengths and weaknesses, each pet family also has passive bonuses. Here's the basics:

  • Aquatic: Strong against elemental (attack) and undead (defense) weak against magic (attack) and flying (defense). Harmful damage over time effects are reduced by 50% on Aquatic pets.
  • Beast: Strong against critter (attack) and humanoid (defense) weak against flying (attack) and mechanical (defense). Beasts deal 25% extra damage below half health.
  • Critter: Strong against undead (attack) and elemental (defense) weak against humanoid (attack) and beast (defense). Critters are immune to stun, root, and sleep effects.
  • Dragonkin: Strong against magic (attack) and flying (defense) weak against undead (attack) and humanoid (defense). Dragons deal 50% additional damage on the next round after bringing a target's health below 50%.
  • Elemental: Strong against mechanical (attack and defense) weak against critter (attack) and aquatic (defense). Elementals ignore all negative weather effects.
  • Flying: Strong against aquatic (attack) and beast (defense) weak against dragonkin (attack) and magic (defense). Flying creatures gain 50% extra speed while above 50% health.
  • Humanoid: Strong against dragonkin (attack) and critter (defense) weak against beast (attack) and undead (defense). Humanoids recover 5% of their maximum health every time they attack.
  • Magic: Strong against flying (attack) and aquatic (defense) weak against mechanical (attack) and elemental (defense). Magic pets cannot be dealt more than 35% of their maximum health in one attack.
  • Mechanical: Strong against beast (attack) and magic (defense) weak against mechanical (attack and defense). Comes back to life once per battle, returning to 25% health.
  • Undead: Strong against humanoid (attack) and dragonkin (defense) weak against aquatic (attack) and critter (defense). Undead pets return to life immortal for one round when killed.
This is a lot to remember, so for battling novices (or even not-so-novices), we highly recommend WarcraftPets.com's cheat sheet, which is designed to be printed out. If you're still not quite getting how pet families work, check out WarcraftPets for helpful charts.

When you're leveling your pets, you'll want to level at least one pet in every family in order to have a strong team to fight off anything you might encounter. This is especially crucial when you're trying to fight higher level pet tamers, where you'll probably need specific families at high levels in order to win.

What you need to know about pet stats
Battle pets have stats just like your character does, but fortunately they aren't nearly as complicated. Battle pets have just three stats: health, power, and speed. Health is your pet's health, power is how hard it hits (much like attack power or spell power), and speed simply determines which pet goes first each round.

Each type of pet tends to have their stats laid out in a certain way (for examples, turtles tend to have high health), but individual pets can vary. Gaining levels will come with an automatically assigned stat increase that mimics your pet's starting stats (so your turtle will always have high health). As to how much of any stat a pet gains each level, that depends on the pet's quality: just like gear, pets can be gray (poor), white (common), green (uncommon), or blue (rare). The more rare the pet, the higher their base stats -- and the more stats they'll gain per level. When you're out catching pets, you'll want to keep your eyes open for rare pets to add to your collection: the difference is notable, especially as you level up.

Each pet has 3 skill slots with the choice of 2 skills for each slot. Just like your character, your pets gain skills as they level: the first slot is unlocked at level 1, the next at 2, 4, 10, 15, and 20. When your pet reaches one of those levels, you can choose which skill you want to slot for it. Some skills will be based on your pet's family and do the same type of damage -- but other pets may have a mix of skills that come from different families. For example, the Cinder Kitten is classified as an elemental, but has some beast attacks as well (it is a kitten, after all). This can be good or bad, depending on the battle -- you might find the variety of abilities available adds versatility to your team, but it can also be frustrating when you wind up with attacks that are weak against your opponent.

Building a winning battle pet team
Your team is made up of three pets each of whom can be swapped in and out of combat any turn you'd like (though you'll lose the chance to take an action when you switch, so you don't want to be too switch-happy). But when it comes to picking the perfect combination of three pets. well, there isn't one. Your ideal team will vary depending on what you're fighting, when you always want to make use of those family strengths.

However, unless you're fighting pet tamers, you probably won't know exactly what kind of team you're going to wind up fighting, so it's important to build a team that's versatile and can handle different situations. Here are some tips:

  • Aim to have three different pet families represented in your team. That way you won't wind up fighting something your entire team is weak to.
  • Pets with healing skills are great for leveling because of their survivability.
  • Even though you can only have three pets on your team, make sure you're working on leveling a pet from every family -- there are points when you'll wish you had a mechanical or an elemental or the like. Don't regret not having them later: level them now.

How to capture new pets
Pet capturing is fairly simple: just start a pet battle and when one of the pets on the opposing team falls below 35% health, you can attempt to capture it. Your attempt won't always work, but be patient -- each time you fail, you have a 25% better chance to capture the pet next time. Unfortunately, if you hit too hard and kill a pet, it's gone for good. which is what makes the Terrible Turnip -- which has an attack that can't reduce its target lower than one 1 health -- so useful for collecting new pets. If you're having trouble collecting low level pets, find a Terrible Turnip on the auction house -- it will definitely help.

Unlike pets you might have gotten from quests or achievements, wild battle pets will start out at around the level they were when you caught them (expect high level pets to lose a couple of levels when tamed). This means catching new pets can be a great way to flesh out your collection with higher level pets in families you don't have yet.

We've slammed you with a bunch of information -- which is probably more than enough to jump into starting your own pet army. Next on WoW Rookie we'll be taking this information and applying it to how to best level your pets. Happy battling! Just because you're a newbie doesn't mean you can't bring your A-game to World of Warcraft! Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from the seven things every newbie ought to know to how to get started as a healer or as a tank.


Myasthenia Gravis Fact Sheet

Myasthenia Gravis (MG) literally means grave (gravis) muscle (my-) weakness (asthenia). It is a common cause of generalised weakness in dogs and occasionally cats.

What is Myasthenia Gravis?

Each muscle in the body is controlled by its own nerve, but this nerve does not connect directly to the muscle. At the junction between the nerve and the muscle (also known as the neuromuscular junction) there is a small gap. Signals travel along the nerve as an electrical current. When the electrical nerve impulse reaches the end of the nerve, the signal must be conveyed across the gap to the muscle.

A chemical messenger called acetylcholine bridges this gap. This messenger is released from the end of the nerve, flows across the gap and fixes itself to a specific receptor (acetylcholine receptor) on the muscle. The acetylcholine attaches to the receptor (like a key fitting into a lock) and triggers a signal, which causes the muscle to contract. In Myasthenia Gravis (MG) there is abnormal transmission of the message between the nerves and the muscles.

If the muscles are unable to contract properly they become weak. Muscle weakness can affect the limbs so that animals are unable to stand or exercise normally but it can also affect other muscles in the body. The muscles of the oesophagus (the pipe carrying food from the mouth to the stomach) are often weak in dogs with MG and this means that affected animals may have problems swallowing and often bring back food after eating. In severe cases the muscles involved with breathing can also be affected.

There are two forms of MG in dogs: congenital (a disease the animal is born with) and acquired (a disease that develops during the animal’s lifetime). The most common type of MG in dogs is the acquired form. This is seen most commonly in Akitas, terrier breeds, German Shorthaired Pointers, German Shepherd dogs and Golden retrievers, Abyssinians and a close relative, Somalis. A rare congenital form has been described in Jack Russell terriers, Springer Spaniels and Smooth-haired Fox terriers.

What causes Myasthenia Gravis?

Animals with congenital MG are born with too few acetylcholine receptors. The acquired form is caused by a faulty immune-system. The main role of the immune system is to protect the body against infection or foreign invaders, and this is often done by the production of antibodies. In acquired MG, the immune system produces antibodies (called anti-acetylcholine receptor antibody or AChR antibody) which attack and destroy the acetylcholine receptor. No-one really knows why the immune system should suddenly decide to attack these receptors in some dogs. In rare cases, Myasthenia Gravis in dogs and cats can be triggered by cancer, be associated with other immune diseases affecting the nerves or muscles, or be related to an under-active thyroid gland.

Whatever the reason, when the number of receptors is reduced, acetylcholine cannot fix itself to the muscle to produce muscle contraction and muscle weakness results. A veterinary neurology specialist is required.

How would I know if my pet has Myasthenia Gravis?

A dog or cat with Myasthenia Gravis will typically present with severe weakness after only a few minutes of exercise. This weakness might affect all four legs or only affect the back legs. It is frequently preceded by a short stride stiff gait with muscle tremors. As soon as an affected animal rests they regain their strength and can be active for a brief period before exercise-induced weakness returns.

Other signs of Myasthenia Gravis in dogs and cats are related to effects on the muscles in the throat and include regurgitation of food and water, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, laboured breathing and voice change. In the most severe form, the animal can be totally floppy and unable to support its weight or hold its head up. Muscle disease (myopathy) or nerve disease (neuropathy) can mimic signs of MG and should be considered in the diagnosis.

How would my vet diagnose Myasthenia Gravis in my pet?

Sometimes the diagnosis of MG can be simple but in other animals it is not straightforward. The best test to diagnose acquired MG in dogs and cats is a blood test which looks for antibodies directed toward the acetylcholine receptor. (anti-AChR antibody titre).

Your vet may need to do other tests to re-enforce their suspicion of MG. One of these is the ‘Tensilon test’. In this test a short-acting antidote to MG (tensilon) is injected into a vein. In affected animals, there will be a dramatic increase in muscle strength immediately after injection and collapsed animals may get up and run about. However, the effects wear off after a few minutes.

Another test used to help make a diagnosis of MG is an electromyogram (EMG). An EMG machine can be used to deliver a small electrical stimulation to an individual nerve or muscle in an anaesthetised animal. Using an EMG machine, a vet can evaluate how well the muscles respond to stimulation from the nerves. The machine is used to create an electrical impulse in the nerve

Diagnosis of the rare congenital form of MG in dogs and cats is based on a special analysis of a muscle biopsy.

Other investigations may be required to look for underlying causes of the disease, particularly in older animals. Chest X-Rays can be indicated to look for cancer in the chest cavity, to evaluate possible involvement of the oesophagus and to detect pneumonia secondary to inhalation of food.

Can Myasthenia Gravis be treated?

Specific treatment of MG is based on giving a form of long-acting antidote. This improves the transfer of the signal from the nerves to the muscle. Depending on individual circumstances, it may be necessary to give drugs that will suppress the system to stop it attacking the receptors. If your dog has pneumonia your vet will want to treat that first (with antibiotics and other drugs) before suppressing the immune system.

Will my pet get better?

Prognosis is generally good for a complete recovery unless severe pneumonia, severe difficulty eating or underlying cancer is present. Treatment of MG in dogs and cats usually lasts many months and your vet will need to re-examine your pet on a regular basis to check that they are improving. Repeated blood tests to measure anti-AChR antibody levels will also be required.

Myasthenia Gravis can be a very serious disease. However, with an early diagnosis and a high level of care, your pet may make a full recovery.

If you are concerned about the health of your pet you should contact your veterinary surgeon.


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