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Canine Acupuncture, Physical Therapy, and Underwater Treadmills: Oh, My

It has been a ridiculous week in Lilly Town. Here is a quick recap of our efforts to help Lilly recover from a terrible bladder infection. It stems from her symptoms and treatment for rabies vaccine-induced brain and spinal cord inflammation. We are now 13 months into this saga.

The Infection

The urine culture revealed that Lilly is suffering a severe e coli infection in her bladder and bladder lining, which continues to off-gas into the bladder wall despite 2 full weeks of antibiotics. We started antibiotic #2 today. Lilly will take that for 2 more weeks.

We were very lucky that her bladder did NOT rupture, but she is still battling this infection with all she has.

Lilly is exhausted much of the time.

Next Wednesday (2/13), our veterinarian will repeat the urine culture and bladder x-ray to check her progress.

The infection was likely caused by a combination of 3 things:

  • Lilly’s total incontinence (both ways) since June 2012, which requires diapers
  • Numerous drugs she has now taken for 13 months that suppress her immune system, including one drug used after human organ transplants
  • 5 months of “chemo” injections / cytarabine, which is known to be tough on the bladder

New Treatments

Lilly now receives weekly acupuncture / chiropractic treatments in hopes of making her feel better in general and of treating the incontinence. She was a total fuss-pot during yesterday’s treatment, so this is the best photo I could get.

Still, kudos to Lilly for putting up with needles right in the old caboose, including a tiny current of electrical stimulation.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, acupuncture needles in border collie's back

In addition to daily physical-therapy sessions at home, Lilly gets weekly physical therapy treatments at The K-9 Body Shop. We’re hoping to help her regain her strength, balance, and stamina as well as perhaps help with the rampant, unrelenting incontinence by giving her more strength in key areas.

Today, Lilly took her first trip into the underwater treadmill tank in stride. She walked in armpit-deep water for 4 minutes at about 1 mile per hour.

Since she is SO sound sensitive / fearful, I was a little worried at the noise when the pumps first kick on, but I fed Lilly treats until the sounds stopped, and she seemed fine.

She was mostly curious at the water rushing in.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, border collie in underwater treadmill

Lilly wore her harness just so we could be sure we could easily help her if she slipped or lost her balance. Even though she is weak and wobbly, Lilly typically does doesn’t need the harness to walk anymore.

When she stands too long, though, her rear legs give out, and her bottom droops something awful. It’s kind of sad, so we’re constantly asking her to SIT or DOWN just so she isn’t struggling all the time. We are hoping that strategic exercise will help all around.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, border collie in underwater treadmill

This short underwater treadmill video (about 1 1/2 minutes) shows her very first time in the tank. She took to it pretty well, I think, with LOTS of cheering from me and the girls at The K-9 Body Shop.

Use the link if the embed doesn’t work. There still may be some techno-glitch that I haven’t had time to figure out.

Neurology News

For now, we’ll keep all of Lilly’s neurology meds as is — except for the cytarabine injections. We’ve stopped those, likely for good.

She is lethargic much of the time and wobbly, but it isn’t progressing or getting worse. So, we’re still blaming most of that on the darn infection.

Lilly did begin squatting to pee (sometimes) on her own the first few days of antibiotics, but she stopped doing that 4-5 days ago. We hope it will return with the new antibiotics and other treatments.

Other Supplements

We’ve also added probiotics and will soon add a cranberry supplement. Once we’re over the hump with this rotten infection, we may also add a couple more herbs for liver support and to help her body cope with non-stop steroids.


So, things are steady. Not really worse. Not really better. It’s hard not to worry, but I’m trying. There are several big treatment decisions in the near future, and they keep me up at night. So, I’m a little tired and overwrought, but I’m also so thankful that Lilly keeps fighting on an remains at my side.

Have a great weekend.

More posts as news warrants.


Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Jane Boursaw - February 21, 2013

That dog is amazing. She really got the hang of the treadmill fast!

Lorie Huston, DVM, CVJ - February 13, 2013

You and Lilly have been through so much, Roxanne. The video of the underwater treadmill was great. Thanks for sharing all of your experiences.

HeatherL - February 13, 2013

Lilly did so well on the treadmill. I don’t think my dog would have gone for it like that. I, too, would like an underwater treadmill. Sounds ideal for arthritis.

Alisa Bowman - February 13, 2013

It’s amazing to me how much is out there. The lady in the video sounded so caring. I’m glad Lilly has access to such good care.

Christinegl - February 12, 2013

Those are amazing pictures. It’s wonderful how many therapies there are, but I’m still so sad you and Lilly have to go through this.

Donna Hull - February 12, 2013

Lilly did remarkably well on the treadmill. And, about those acupuncture needles, they make me nervous too. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a dog. You and Lilly are trying so hard.

Alexandra - February 11, 2013

Thanks for sharing this video. I had no idea this type of rehabilitation was available for dogs. Go, Lilly!

Sheryl - February 11, 2013

Poor Lilly. She (and you!) are going through so, so much.

Jennifer Margulis - February 11, 2013

Poor dear dog. You are doing so much to help her. I can’t help feeling angry that these problems are vaccine induced. I hope you both pull through this soon.

Brette - February 11, 2013

You are doing such great stuff to help her.

Dillon Miller - February 9, 2013

I’m really glad to read that Lilly is receiving accupuncture treatments. Do you suppose Lilly would like Kefir which is a probiotic? My BC gets that on a daily basis. Really sounds like Lilly is doing so much better. Continued prayers for both of you.

    Roxanne Hawn - February 10, 2013

    You know, Dillon, we’ve talked about Kefir before with a friend who is a veterinary nutritionist / professor at one of the bit veterinary colleges, and she says Lilly would have to EAT a ridiculous amount of kefir to get a therapeutic level of probiotics. There are 2-3 probiotic supplements on the veterinary market that have some data / quality control behind them. We’re using one of those. Right now, I’m giving it at “lunchtime,” though, because the new antibiotic is dosed twice a day (breakfast / dinner).

      Dillon Miller - February 20, 2013

      I make my kefir directly from the grains. See Doms kefir site to learn about grains. I would think that kefir that one would buy from a store would not have the same effect as the stuff that is possible to make from the actual grains.

Hilary - February 9, 2013

All good stuff, considering. Love the water tank treadmill–she looks like my Frisbee did when he first started it (although he figured out how to cheat by leaning one of his back legs on the side of the treadmill). He also didn’t like the needles in acupuncture, but they did help him for what he needed at the time.

Not that this will make you feel any better, but Luna had a few e. coli UTI infections and made it through them all, before her major surgery. The right combo of antibiotics did help (although it took awhile to find the right ones).

You and Lilly are doing great! I know it seems like baby steps and some setbacks, but it’s really huge progress.

Hugs and love,

Lee Anne McAdam - February 9, 2013

Awww…hugs to two brave girls!

Jen - February 9, 2013

The video embed worked just fine. I’m glad you posted it! She did seem a bit stressed at the treadmill, but not totally freaked…maybe more bewildered? Regardless, I hope it really helps for her!

    Roxanne Hawn - February 9, 2013

    Agreed. A little stressed at first, but she didn’t tuck her ears, and I only saw one tongue flick. So, not terrible.

Jana Rade - February 8, 2013

Hugs to you and Lilly. The physical therapy can only be of benefit. One of the upsides of the underwater treadmill is to buoyancy, which takes some of the load off and instead works the muscles in different ways.

Glad she’s taking well to her new treatments. What I like about these things is that there is really no downside. That’s why I try to stick with these things as much as possible, though, clearly, sometimes situation does call for drugs, such as Jasmine being back on steroids after her latest event.

I hope you guys will finally start getting some good news and seeing some positive progress.

Cybele - February 8, 2013

Lilly is proving herself to be one courageous dog in the face of this unforeseen turn in the road life handed you both. She decided what monster she would not back down from and gets the strength from her mom and dad to continue her battle. She may not be participating in the agility trials she was aimed at but those seem trivial compared to how she’s looking to you for the right signals and how she’s giving her all to come in first place.

    Roxanne Hawn - February 9, 2013

    Exactly, Cybele ~ We’re still a team. We’re still doing amazing things … just not in the venue we expected.

Leslie - February 8, 2013

Awww, sweet Lilly. She did sooooo good in the tank.

I’m sorry she’s not really doing better. You’ve had such a long haul. But she looks good. She’s so cute and so brave on the treadmill. I hope it helps her.

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