The Bandit Who Stole my Heart: My Dog’s Journey Through Old Age

Bandit is a 12 yr old female spayed blue heeler or otherwise known as an Australian Cattle Dog. She came into my life unexpectedly and honestly at the worst time possible. At the time I was working at an emergency clinic on the weekends taking care of my terminally ill mother and she was brought in at 8 months of age because she was kicked by a horse and needed an amputation.  Her owners at the time did not think her life was worth living as a three legged dog.  I asked the owners if they would surrender her to me. My plan was to do her multiple surgeries and then adopt her out. They agreed.

I ended up falling into the category of people who foster or take in strays and end up keeping them for themselves.

Because of her being an amputee I knew I had to proactively get her on joint supplements and a high quality diet. I immediately put her on Omega 3 Fatty Acids and an oral glucosamine/chondroitin. We exercised everyday which wasn’t hard since she had just as much energy and spunk as a 4 legged herding breed.

Things were going well until about 7 years of age I noticed there would be days that she couldn’t go on our 3 mile walks anymore. She would just lay down in the middle of the Tomorrow River Trail and take a break. At that point I brought her in for an exam and upon finding no other medical condition started her on an NSAID (non steroidal anti-inflammatory) called Rimadyl on an as needed basis. I did also decrease the amount of days we would go on a longer walk for only 3-4 days a week and did shorter gentler play on the off days.

2 years later I again found myself owning a dog who wanted to go for our longer walks but just couldn’t. I again brought her in and this time found she was developing a very small amount of arthritis in her only existing front leg. I increased her NSAID to daily use and switched from an oral glucosamine/chondroitin to an injectable form called Adequan. At 9 years of age she was still full of “piss and vinegar”. We went to daily 1 1/2 mile walks and completely eliminated any rough play.

Everything was going great until December 2015. She suddenly could hardly go on our 1 1/2 mile walks. I was lucky if she made it down the road and back. I did probably what most people did and placed her on an activity restriction thinking she strained her body being too active. Dr Hankison also added in gabapentin, which is a pain medication that works on nerve and soft tissue pain.  After months of activity restriction there was still no improvement. I brought her in to Fox Valley Animal Referral Center under guidance from Dr Kris Hankison here at Oakview Veterinary Medical Center.

In May 2016 Dr Bruce at Fox Valley Animal Referral Center saw her and recommended whats called arthroscopy; making a small incision by the affected joint and using a fibre optic scope to look at the joint from inside. He found the centromedial band of the MCL was avulsed from the humerous and rolled up proximally, which in everybody else’s language means a torn rotator cuff. This was not good news for Bandit.

Bandit - Oakview Vet Gazette - Plover Stevens Point WI
Bandit after her shoulder surgery

Bandit had to wear a special vest that eliminated any chance that her leg was going to abduct, or splay out from her body. She kept this beauty on until September of 2016. It was a long hot summer for her.

Bandit - Oakview Vet Gazette - Plover Stevens Point WI
Bandit’s Therapy Vest

After 5 agonizing months for her she finally got the go ahead from Dr Bruce to take it off and leave it off. By feel he could tell there was much more stability in her shoulder than before. We still had to do activity restriction because she had been in a vest for so long but she didn’t care as long as it was off.Bandit - Oakview Vet Gazette - Plover Stevens Point WI

For a year things were going great. We were going on short 15 minute walks 1-2 times daily and we had a routine with all her pharmaceuticals and supplements. At this time she was on gabapentin, Rimadyl, probiotic for healthy immune function, Omega 3 fatty acids, and Adequan along with a high quality diet. Then in September 2017 she relapsed in her recovery. She would just stand at the end of our driveway for our walks. She didn’t even try to go. I brought her in for a recheck with Dr Bruce at Fox Valley Animal Referral Center.

We did another arthroscopic procedure and this time around found she had moderate
osteoarthritis (OA) with some cartilage loss in the medial compartment of her only existing elbow. There was a loose osteochondral fragment off the coronoid (also called a bone spur) that was causing tremendous pain when she walked.  This loose fragment was retrieved. Her shoulder where she had had a torn rotator cuff was completely healed. She again was placed on activity restriction for a 4 weeks.Bandit - Oakview Vet Gazette - Plover Stevens Point WI

After 2 months her recovery was going a lot slower because of her being an amputee. There was no way that she couldn’t use her leg. A four legged dog would just go 3 legged until it didn’t hurt anymore. Since there is no way to magically get rid of osteoarthritis I needed to find alternative ways to make her comfortable.

At the end of September, as I was researching what was going to be best for her, she developed some GI issues and spondylosis on her lumbar sacral spine. Spondylosis is a bony bridge between vertebrae. This can be quite painful for animals. The GI issues ended up being a deficiency in some of her B vitamins which I am now supplementing and I had to put her on a low fat canned diet.

After my research I switched her from Rimadyl to Galliprant which is a medication that blocks the primary mediator of canine osteoarthritis pain and inflammation. Since she now had no soft tissue pain I wanted something specifically for OA. She also started acupuncture and Chinese herbs under direct supervision of a certified veterinarian in Appleton. She goes on an as needed basis but its been around every 4-6 weeks. She gets daily gentle massages and cold laser therapy as needed. I most recently started her on Antinol, which is a source of green lipped mussel. She stopped eating her Omega 3 fatty acids when she developed her GI issues and I have not re-introduced them yet. She has a special harness that she has to wear that has a handle for me to help her in and out of the car since she tries to jump out and then collapses. She has a bench that she uses to get on and off the bed. We got on short walks multiple times a day. Some days are good and some she can’t do as much.

She still has a spunky personality and wants to go. If you didn’t know she was 12 1/2 years old you wouldn’t think it by the way she acts and looks. We spend more days hanging out and exploring our woods than long hikes and runs like before but we don’t care as long as we do it together. In the last few months she has developed some cognitive issues where she is more vocal and protective of me. So I am sure there are some other therapies/modalities in our future.





Lead Certified Veterinary Technician at |

Angel graduated from Madison Area Technical College in 2004 with a Veterinary Technology degree and received her certification same year. She joined us in 2006 and became our lead technician in 2008. Angel goes to numerous continuing education events including the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas. Her special interests include alternative modalities and nutrition. She is available for nutrition consults. Angel and her husband, Kris share their house with Jerry an 8 year old DSH and Leo who is a 7 year old Dalmatian. Angel loves spending time with her family and animals. When Angel has spare time she enjoys volunteering, traveling or reading a good book.

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