Maya is insured through Healthy Paws, and I confirmed they cover alternative treatments like laser, hydro, and chiropractic therapies. Not wanting an unknown old racing injury to be causing her discomfort and thus the source of her quivering, I made an appointment with our wonderful new vet, Dr. Morgan at the Quail Animal Hospital in Irvine for this morning.
Dr. Morgan gives wonderfully thorough exams, and I feel very lucky to have him. He's the one who discovered Dolce's loose tooth -- I had no idea! Dolce had his first ever dental a month ago in Dr. Morgan's care to have it removed, and since the tooth was likely loose from playing bitey face with his sister, Zenzi, Healthy Paws covered most of that. So when he met Maya today, he gave her a similarly in-depth exam. Her hind legs were already quivering, though she was rightfully nervous about being at the vet's. He check her hip range of motion, which was excellent. He checked the solidity of her knees, which was fabulous. Then he started pushing on the vertebrae of the back of her spine. It was like 1... 2... 3... BOOM! The fourth vertebrae, Maya screamed in pain. She'd been wonderfully stoic up until that point, so we knew we had something.
Dr. Morgan said that she should see a neurologist and have a CAT scan and MRI done if I wanted to get an absolute diagnosis and/or pursue more invasive treatments like surgery, but it seemed clear to him she has the beginning of spinal disease, IVDD. I brought up Kibeth's lumbosacral stenosis, and he said yes, it's like that, just higher up in her spine. He didn't mention a cause, but I assume it's from Maya's racing career. She raced 112 in Mexico, and won 11 of them.
I don't want to pursue surgery. It's risky, and she's already 4-years old. If she were a puppy, maybe, but I ruled this out for Kibeth long ago. My opinion hasn't changed. I don't need a definitive diagnosis, I feel that scream being the only scream was tell-tale enough. So we started laser therapy today, on-the-house first trial thanks to Dr. Morgan's generosity. She whimpered a few times when we first started. I suspect that's due to her paranoia that the last time he pressed there, it hurt A LOT, as he assured me everyone in the office has tried the laser and although it gets warm, it is certainly painful or uncomfortable in any way. By the end, she was starting to hang her head over my knee and close her eyes, so I think it was comforting. I'll see how her walks go for the rest of the day, but I expect we'll make that a regular part of her management/treatment going forward. It could be as little as once every other week; just depends on her needs.
From laser, we turn to herbs like turmeric and supplements for anti-inflammatories and joints. I started giving her JoJo's leftover liquid joint supplement, but it's expired and not agreeing with her; she has had loose stools since I started her on it a few meals ago. Thus begins our exploration into supplements to help manage the inflammation. Hydrotherapy seemed to be a no-go as it's not really joint or muscle-related, and chiropractors are hit and miss, Dr. Morgan advised. ETA: acupuncture was another option to consider. I do plan to use my rice-filled heating pad for several minutes on her back at night when we're all settled in. I'm grateful we caught this early -- my only tip off was the shaking. She has no neurological symptoms as of yet, we checked her nerve that runs across her back and hips, as well as how she corrected her back feet if they were turned under, and she's completely normal.
Maya holding a mat stay.
She only broke it twice, and self-corrected within 20 seconds.
No treats required or present.
After the vet visit, I took her to meet my husband at his work, and from there to lunch. She was perfect outside Subway. I don't know what I did to deserve this good girl, but I love her and want to keep her happy and comfortable for many years to come. If anyone has any experience with this, please feel free to comment your much-appreciated wisdom. I'd really appreciate all the input of what worked and didn't work.