Blue greyhound on couch
I just completed a book about senior dogs. Overall, I was disgusted with the book which was written by a group of veterinarians who clearly felt that pet owners were just barely capable of choosing a commercial dog food for their pets, and nothing else. Pet owners, according to these allopathic nightmares, are not even qualified to give their pets fish oil capsules. Apparently we need to schedule veterinary appointments to get “approval” for this decision. Don’t even get me started on their overall opinion of supplements or the fact they felt pet guardians were simply not qualified to make any health decisions for their charges, only veterinarians were qualified and thus we should all listen to and defer to whatever a veterinarian says. I wish I were exaggerating.

Still, this book did make clear to me that you can read a thousand dog books (which I have, and then some), read about a certain subject repeatedly, say, pain for instance (which I have also done) and understand the concept pretty well, yet completely miss it in it’s real world application with your own dog. Which I did.

Right after the 4th of July, Blue woke up one morning crying. This was not typical behavior in him and at intervals when he moved, he would cry out again. Given my past experience, I immediately assumed he had a problem with one of his legs and of course, feared the cancer lightning had struck us twice. I checked all of his legs over multiple times without response from him. I checked every inch of him for skin tears, unexplained lumps or other causes of discomfort. I checked his teeth and gums, then his ears. I must have palpated his stomach a hundred times. I could not find anything wrong and nothing I checked or touched elicited any reaction from Blue.
Blue greyhound behind coffee table
By mid-day, when his discomfort did not seem to be abating at all and he turned down his lunchtime treat (that, to my mind, made it a true emergency), I called our veterinarian and got an appointment for that same afternoon. Blue cried out every time we made a turn. But he was able to jump in and out of the car with no trouble and he ran around the backyard before we left. I was baffled.

We sat together in the waiting room. And then we sat together in the exam room waiting for the doctor to attend to us. While we were in the exam room, I was trying to get Blue to look at me. His head was hanging down and he was looking away from me. I put my hand on the side of his face and steadily began to move his head in my direction. He screamed. I re-examined his teeth and mouth, pressed on his jaw bone and no reaction from Blue.

Dr. Perkins joined us and I explained Blue’s strange behavior. I was still clinging to my concern that he had some sort of problem with one of his legs. Dr. Perkins examined his legs, his joints, and his back end with nothing out of the ordinary. Then I told her I had only caused Blue to cry out once. When I told her about waiting in the exam room, she immediately checked his neck. Sure enough, he was clearly guarding his neck. He would not look to his left, or up at the doctor, even when she tried to lure him with a treat. He would only look to the right very carefully and did not have full range of neck motion.

Blue greyhound in crate
I have read so many chapters on pain in dogs. They tell you exactly what to look for and what areas tend to be injured most frequently in various breeds. My mothers hound Fox had even suffered his own neck injury and gone through a gamut of testing and treatment. I had actually seen how a greyhound with neck pain behaves! I suppose at this point I’ll also mention that I consider myself a reasonably smart person, pretty well experienced with greyhounds at this point and even experienced in dealing with a very sick greyhound and watching what pain was like for her. ALL of this and still I missed what was so extremely obvious the very second Dr. Perkins reached for his neck.

We got medicines and care instructions. They gave him his first dose there in the office and by the time we got home, Blue was clearly more comfortable. We’re nearing the end of his medications and he’s doing much, much better. But I’ve been thinking about his injury. There was no specific incident I can point to that would have caused damage to his neck. But as I replayed events I realized that at least twice in the last year, I had placed my hand on the side of Blue’s face, steadily moved his head towards my face and he had cried out.

Not only had I not noticed he was having a problem with his neck when it became acute, but he had been dealing with some level of pain in his neck for at least a year and I failed to notice it. Each time I thought it was a sore tooth or sore gums even though examination of those parts revealed no reproducible issues. That moment of realization was one of the most humbling things I’ve ever experienced. And now telling you all about it might perhaps be another one of those humbling things.

Why am I telling you this? Perhaps to poke a little fun at myself. Partly to assuage my inner Catholic by confessing my sin. But mostly I’m sharing this as a cautionary tale. May you all profit from my folly. Ouchie!


  1. Was that book written in the last century? I'd like to think that people who actually read doggie care books are better than that. A second pair of eyes always helps in diagnosis? Glad he is feeling better.

  2. Glad Blue is doing better. This is an excellent story for me to hear. I can imagine I would never suspect a neck injury. So many other things that come to mind first.


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