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Sluggish Boxer

Species: Dog
Breed: Boxer
Age: 5-8 years
My Boxer got sluggish on the 20th of March so we took him to the vets. They did blood work and xrays which all came back normal. They put him on Novo-Famotidine 20 mg, Tramadol 50 mg and Novo-Nidazol 250mg. When he is on these meds he is about 60% normal but when he goes off them he goes right back to bad. As of today he has not eaten or had a bowel movement and is still pretty sluggish. His stomach alo looks a bit puffy. He is drinking lots of water (more then normal) and urinating. When the tests came back they were all normal and they said his intestines were inflamed and pressing against his abdomen. He has been eating Medical, Royal Cannon (wet food) but again, not today. He has been on this medication for 2 rounds and they say he can't go back on them for a while. He also won't jump up on anything but normally will. Are there any suggestion you can make as to what this may be that has not been diagnosed or is there anything we can give him "over the counter" that might help his condition, assuming the diagnosis is correct? Any help will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hmmm...this sounds like a frustrating case.

The medications that you have described will cover a lot of bases. The Famotidine will help with stomach upset, the Tramadol with pain and the Metronidazole will help with intestinal upset. But it really is frustrating to not know what is going on and why he is not getting better.

While I won't be able to say for sure what is going on, I think it is interesting that he won't jump up on anything. Whenever I have a dog with vague symptoms like this and blood tests are normal I wonder about back pain. Dogs with back pain are reluctant to jump. They are usually sluggish as well.

While Tramadol will help somewhat with back pain it is not always going to give 100% pain relief.

But, what doesn't fit is that back pain shouldn't cause an increase in thirst and urination and shouldn't cause bloating.

The next possibility is if he has an intestinal obstruction. This can be very serious. Often we won't see changes in bloodwork until this condition has been going on for a while.

It's hard to say where to go from here. On one hand you could talk to your vet about trying an additional medication to help with back pain such as an NSAID like Metacam. But, if there is an intestinal or stomach problem then this could make things worse!

It sounds like Cruiser is going to need more tests. If this were my patient I would likely be recommending either an ultrasound of the abdomen or something called a barium series. A barium series is a series of xrays where we watch a dye travel through the intestines. This shows us if there is an obstruction.

I wish I could offer you an over the counter solution, but this sounds very serious. He really is likely to need more tests.

Feel free to reply if you have more questions. I will be offline for the next 20 minutes or so as it is bath time for my little girl but can reply back to you after that.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you so much for your response. Both tests you have recommended have been suggested. The ultrasound by the vet and the barrium by the breeder. You mentioned back pain. Cruiser had a lump removed from his hind leg about 4 years ago which came back as stage 2 cancer. The vet said she cut pretty deep and was hopeful she got it all but he has never been treated for the cancer since. He now has some lumps on his back but not anywhere as big as the one that was removed. If it is the cancer would that cause the loss of appetite and increased drinking and urination?
Thank you so much again!

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Well that makes things even more frustrating when we can't figure out what is going on even with these tests.

It's hard to answer the question about the lump without knowing what kind of cancer it was, but the symptoms you are describing don't really sound like they are related to a lump that was previously removed.

Cancers certainly can cause a lack of appetite. They can also cause an increase in thirst and urination but this is usually because the cancer causes an increase in Calcium which affects the kidneys. An increase in Calcium would have been noted on the bloodwork.

Do you live anywhere near a major city? If so, you could ask for a referral to an internal medicine specialist. These vets see all of the strange cases and sometimes can help to put the pieces together and get a diagnosis.

The other thing that I might be doing if this were my case is a bunch of tests on his urine. I'd be culturing the urine to see if there is a hidden infection. But now I'm sort of reaching for a diagnosis.

I wish I could give you more concrete advice! If all of these tests have already been done...again...a specialist may be able to help.

Customer reply:

Thank you so much for your information tonight. As we were waiting on your second email we fed cruiser a pain pill thinking if it was his back this would help. We wrapped it in processed cheese and he gobbled it right up. He generally does not get people food so it was a treat for him. We then thought that maybe he didn't like the eukanuba food he has been eating so we gave him some kibbles of science diet and he ate them all! You have confirmed for us some options that have already been given and some more insight into what might be the issue. You have also eased our minds a bit in regards to the cancer although we do know it doesn't mean that for sure is not the issue.
Thank you so much again. This is a great service we have used before for my sisters cat who is on metacam.
Have a good night.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Well this is good news that he is eating!

You know, I have had a few cases where I couldn't figure out why a dog or cat is not eating and then we changed the food and they ate like crazy. Even the good brands of food can get contaminated with molds sometimes. Let's hope it's something simple like this!

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.