We judge our days on these parameters:
1) Did we sleep?
2) Do we seem to be out of pain?
3) Are we walking well?
4) Did we fall in our poop?
We have scored gold stars for most days over the last 4 weeks. We've been sleeping, we have not complained of pain, we've reduced our pain meds even! And we only fell in our poop once! Oscar's back end has been getting stronger, he's been able to do more.
But then (and there is eventually a "but") last night he started wandering, getting up and down off the bed a million times, barking (this means general discomfort, not usually severe pain). I did not sleep but about 3 hours and this morning he was panting a little more than normal.
So we get in the car for our scheduled "underwater treadmill" therapy and on the way the Oscarmonster was not looking good. He was panting more -- with a few high pitched sounds -- this usually means increased inflammation in the airway. When Oscar has severe pain he starts to breathe badly. And this is the time where I have to start watching him closely to make sure his breathing does not deteriorate.
But the worst thing was he started shaking! The only time I have seen this is when they suspected he had a herniated disc and he ended up at the ER because he started to breathe badly. This shaking definitely means he is in acute pain. We were already on our way to the appointment we had scheduled. So, I took this video so that the Physical Therapist could see what I was talking about. I also called ahead to tell them what was going and to prepare them in case he got any worse on our trip. The video is not that bad, but for the super sensitive soul - you might not want to watch. It breaks my heart but was important to show what was going on.
So when we got to the vet, Oscar was no worse and he did not appear to breathing as badly as he had in the past but I was happy that the vet techs were right there when we got there to assess him and try to figure out what was going on. We determined that Oscar could not do his scheduled "underwater treadmill" and we would just put him in some warm water to relax him and then do laser therapy and massage.
By the end of that he was happy and relaxed. No more shaking in pain, no more panting. Oscar responds really well to basically "warm bath soaks" and I swear the laser therapy works instantly.
This is Oscar after his bath and laser treatment, much more relaxed:
His treatment plan changed a bit -- more rest, more meds for a few days and then a recheck with the vet and some acupuncture on Monday. My theory is we over-did it with swimming this week. He was doing so well I think I just thought he could do more than he could. It's such a delicate balance of increasing strength and not stressing out his old little joints. I feel the same way at the gym sometimes.
On Sunday (after 3 days of rest), Oscar is relaxed and does not appear in pain and very happy to cuddle in the sun.