Edit window, yep.
Anyway, osteo is one of the very few known issues with racers. All of the canine cancer studies that focused on greyhounds (thanks to Ohio State University among others) haven’t solved it yet, but they have found a high correlation of osteo showing up in specific bloodlines. They were able to identify the racing sires most known to “throw” dogs that later died to osteo. A champion called Dodgem by Design was the one with the highest correlation, another one was called HB Commander.
My Ajax had Commander on both sides of his pedigree. So I knew his risk was high. I know SOOO many people who have lost greyhounds to osteo, probably 9 out of 10 people I know. Whenever either of my dogs seemed to have pain in their legs, I would insist that the vet xray them. It never occurred to me (although it’s logical in hindsight) that the osteo would occur somewhere else. Like in his spine, which it did. Husband and I are both devastated by it. The vet neurologist commented that it was a sad truth that the good ones die young while the nasty biters seem to live forever. I think she was just trying to show sympathy, but there was truth there. Despite being in excruciating pain at the end, he was the most patient, sweet, and tolerant boy and never attempted to lash out like many injured animals do.
I was the only one with him during his agony and although I’ve hinted about how horrible it was to my husband, I don’t want to torture him by sharing the experience. But I do want to tell someone. If you are a vet or doctor, you may find this next part clinically interesting. (I’m strong enough to observe these things rationally, even though my tears and heartbreak.) I will describe it clinically.
For some time (a couple of years) we’d noticed that he was slightly dragging his back feet and wearing down the toenails. The vet would do that neurology test where you flip the foot over and see if the dog puts it back in the correct position before putting weight on it. He always did this correctly. (Does this work on humans as well? I doubt it because our feet don’t bend in both directions like dogs and cats feet do, but I could be wrong.) We were treating him with NSAIDs and pain killers, but the week before he died, his pain increased so the vet told us to increase his meds and schedule an xray and MRI. The xray was just supposed to be to make sure his heart and lungs were strong enough for anesthesia during the MRI. This was Thursday.
On Thursday night, I noticed a large lump on his back, between his shoulder blades. And his pain level was still noticeably high. He was a sad boy. We had the diagnostics scheduled with the neurologist on Monday morning, and dragged ourselves through the weekend. He was having trouble even stepping down one step out of the back door to go potty. I was massaging his neck and back on occasion, the only thing I could think of to help him until Monday. He had to fast after midnight on Sunday night, so his last dose of meds was at midnight. I believe missing his meds - and probabably the NSAID specifically - at 6am on Monday is what caused the sudden, catastrophic failure I’m about to describe.
He was in a ton of pain, but we were able to lift him into my car for the trip to the vet. Husband had to go to work, so I took our boy to the neurologist by myself. I called them when we got there to ask for assistance getting him out of the car. I didn’t want him to hurt himself further by jumping out. He did not want us to lift him out, but we did anyway. The vet tech assisted him into the examination room with a sling under his tummy. During that walk into the office I noticed him significantly dragging his back toes. He was also in kyphotic posture (had been that way for about a week, but now it was significantly pronounced).
All of this paragraph took place in about 5 minutes: In the exam room, waiting for the vet, he could not lay down, but was trembling, drooling and panting irregularly, and standing in kyphosis and occasionally taking a few steps. After a few steps, I noticed that his back feet were dragging so much that he actually put weight on the back of one foot momentarily before righting it. Then he lost his bowels. I quickly cleaned that up and as I did so, I noticed he’d taken a couple more steps forward and was now actually standing on the backs of both back feet, clearly in pain but unable to correct his foot position. Then he collapsed down onto his haunches, showing even more pain. I grabbed him around the chest and wrangle him down onto his side on the dog bed, and as I did so, he whined a little and got an erection - a very unfortunate physical response to extreme pain. When the vet techs came a few minutes later to take him back for the diagnostics, he was completely paralysed on the back end, and they literally had to drag him out using support slings.
At that point I texted my husband to say “come to the vet now”. Work can wait. I knew it was “time” and he needed to be there. The xrays came back showing that (I’m guessing on the vertebra number) his first thoracic vertebra spinous process had blown out into an egg-shaped swiss cheese about the size of a baseball. It had collapsed the spinal cord and was not in a location where it was operable with any reasonable odds of success. No need for MRI at that point.
As hard as it is to euthanize a beloved pet, I am angry at the universe for forcing me to endure that hell of watching him suffer agony like that, being unable to do anything other than ask him to be patient until the vet came in. (The vet’s staff was awesome and gave him a morphine shot as soon as they could.)