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Back spasms

Species: Dog
Breed: Brittany
Age: 8-11 years
2 years ago, I took Rusty to an emergeny vet one evening because he seemed warm and was not eating (HIGHLY unusual). They gave him fluids and put him on antibiotics and he was OK the next day. In May, this happened again - he was very warm, lethargic and refusing to eat. He seemed to be in "pain" because his back would flinch/twitch when you touched it. Because it was after hours, I again took him to the Animal ER and they put him on fluids all night and antibiotics (for possible tic related illness) and found his platelets to be a bit low. He came home the next night and was OK. This just happened again in July but this time I didn't take him in (cost $2000 for the last 2 times)....gave him water with a bit of vanilla ice cream in it which he did lap up and put cool, wet towels on him. His back again seemed to be sensitive and would twitch when you touched it. He recovered to his old self within 2 days. This time...I finally made a connection. In all 3 cases, he had been to the groomers the previous day for bath, got shaved and nails done. I mentioned this to my vet but she had never heard of any connection between grooming and getting a fever the next day. With all your experience - have you ever heard of dogs having a bad reaction after grooming that includes fever, lethargy and lack of appetite??? I am really reluctant to bring him back to the groomers (goes about every 2 months). Thanks for any advice you can give me!

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I'm so sorry to hear that Rusty is going through these episodes!

When I started to read your question my first thought was that there may be some kind of a back issue going on. Then, when I read that the problem seems to happen after going to the groomers, this makes even more sense.

Now, I can't say for certain without examining Rusty, but there is a possibility that he is having some back spasms. He may have mild intervertebral disc disease (IVDD).

IVDD causes dogs to have back pain and that pain can cause EVERYTHING to hurt which leads to extreme lethargy. While IVDD doesn't directly cause a fever, pain can cause a slight increase in temperature.

During a visit to the groomer, most dogs are tense and also need to be restrained. While this wouldn't be harmful to most dogs, if a dog had a sensitive back it could be enough to trigger a spasm. (Now, I'm not saying that this is by any way your groomer's fault.)

The other concern would be for some type of tick borne disease, especially if the platelets are low. I'm guessing though that these have been tested for - these would be blood tests to look for ehrlichiosos, rocky mountain spotted fever and lyme disease.) But, I think these conditions would be unlikely because there really is no connection to the groomer and he wouldn't have gotten better as quickly that he did.

If this is a back issue, you can ask your vet if they can prescribe you some anti-inflammatory medication to use as necessary in case this happens again.

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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 thoughts. I will cetainly consider and mention the possibility of IVDD to his vet. His temperature in May at the ER vet was 104.5 - is that a slight increase in temperature? Also - he is fine when leaving the groomer - eats well that night and the next morning. By afternoon of the day after - he has developed the fever, lethargy and is refusing food and water. He seems to get litle scabs on his skin too. Is it possible that he is having some kind of reaction to the chemicals used?? Thanks again for your time. Much appreciated. Jan

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hmmm...that is quite a high temperature. While it is possible that this is due to pain, it does kind of sound like there is some type of infectious process going on.

I really can't make a connection with his pain symptoms and the scabs. This is a very unusual case.

I've never seen a dog that would have a reaction like this to chemicals used by a groomer.

I wish I could give you a more complete answer! I will keep this case in my mind and if I can think of a connection I will respond again!

Customer reply:

Thank you again for your time. I am baffled too and very afraid to take him to get groomed. These have been the ONLY 3 times in his life that he has ever refused food and this is the dead give-away to me that he doesn't feel well about 24 hrs. after getting groomed.I think I will let the vet do his bath and nails next time just to see what happens. If you DO think of anything else - let me know! Thanks again! Jan

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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.