Rufus case study

Rufus: An investment for the future

Clinical summary: Elbow dysplasia

Despite having parents with very respectable hip and elbow scores, golden retriever Rufus began to show signs of stiffness in his front legs at a young age. Investigations by an orthopaedic specialist at the time were inconclusive and owners Alison and David Livesley had to hope that his condition would improve as he grew up.

By the time he was three, Rufus became very stiff in his front legs and showed signs of lameness. A particularly big dog, with much of his weight and strength in his chest and shoulders, Rufus’s build was thought to be placing a lot of stress on his joints and muscles.

A course of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication helped, but follow-up injections had no impact. “Our vet was loath to use the anti-inflammatory drug as a permanent treatment for such a young dog and he proposed a number of other treatment options,” says David. “Further x-rays revealed arthritis in both elbows and hips.”

Alison and David felt physiotherapy would focus on the cause of Rufus’s problem, as well as the symptoms, so their vet consulted a local orthopaedic expert and Rufus was referred to Julia.

Rufus showed some signs of improvement after the first couple of sessions, but the most notable change was after five sessions when his lameness had all but disappeared. After eight sessions he was showing signs of improved muscle definition and strength in his hindquarters.

“During a treatment session we discuss Rufus’s progress and any problems we have noticed,” says Alison. “Julia then observes Rufus walking, trotting and circling outside before returning to the treatment room to examine his joints and muscles. Rufus is more than happy to be pampered! She treats any problem areas, and demonstrates exercises we can do with Rufus, and we try to spend 10 or 20 minutes each day on these.”

Julia has also advised Alison and David on other aspects of Rufus’s care, including the importance of keeping his claws trimmed short, the right harness and lead arrangement, bedding requirements and exercise management.

“Julia has kept in close touch with our vet and we are very encouraged that there is a lot we can do not only to relieve Rufus’s present symptoms but delay and/or minimise symptoms of arthritis as he gets older,” says David. “We have learnt so much from Julia about arthritis and its impact on dogs that we feel much better able to monitor and manage Rufus’s condition.

“It’s an investment for Rufus’s future well-being as well as dealing with his current problems, and all the additional advice we have received is helping us with a longer term maintenance plan for Rufus’s condition.”

The last word goes to Rufus: while he has to be dragged to the vet, he is always happy to see Julia for his massage!