In September, a four-year-old Shetland Sheepdog named Gus Gus was brought into a veterinary hospital for evaluation after suffering multiple seizures.
Gus Gus — whose normal weight range should be 20 to 25 pounds — weighed in at an incredible 54.9 pounds, morbidly obese for a dog his size. His owners claimed that he had not been able to walk for over a year. Gus Gus’s owners considered euthanizing him, but instead brought him to the hospital to begin seizure treatment.
The examination showed that, in addition to the seizures, Gus Gus had luxating, or floating, kneecaps on both legs. This was a major contributor to his immobility. He also had a terrible skin infection, as defecation would irritate his skin.
Although Gus Gus was mostly immobile, he was alert to his environment and looked like he was interested in movement and walking around. This caught the attention of a hospital technician named Candace, who began to visit with him and take him outside during her lunch breaks. With her thoughtful attention, movement and fresh air, Gus Gus began to perk up, becoming more active and interested in his surroundings.
Meanwhile, the hospital was unable to contact his previous pet parents, because they had left a fake address and phone number: Gus Gus had been abandoned! Candace stepped up to take full responsibility for his care.
A surgical specialist gave Gus Gus a thorough examination, and with Candace’s help he began physical therapy. His therapy regimen includes:
- Two 30-minute sessions per week
- Working on the underwater treadmill, which helps support his weight while he walks
- Passive range of motion exercises
- Massage therapy
- Crunches to build up his strength
Since beginning his friendship with Candace and his physical therapy regimen in October, Gus Gus has improved both physically and emotionally. His weight is down to 44.8 pounds, a whopping 18% reduction in just eight weeks! His seizures are under control, and he started to get up and walk around on his own. He enjoys spending time playing with other dogs at the dog park.
As a veterinarian, I see animals all the time that, when given the chance, are able to overcome what appear to be insurmountable odds. Gus Gus needed exercise that would be gentle on his knees, and underwater walking was the right solution. Pet medical issues bring out the best and the worst in owners. If Gus Gus had seen a veterinarian soon after he exhibited walking problems and seizures, his condition may not have been so grave. Then, when faced with a challenging medical prognosis, Gus Gus’s original pet parents decided to abandon him. The good news is that a dog that needed help found the correct pet parent who was willing to give him that chance!
Gus Gus still has a long way to go, but he is getting better every day. Once he loses some more weight, he will have some needed surgery. Candace and Gus Gus continue bonding and growing their relationship every day. Gus Gus is one very lucky Sheltie!
Dr. Mark Beerenstrauch is a practicing veterinarian in Las Vegas, Nevada and hosts a weekly pet talk radio show called “Pet Talk with Dr. B.” Dr. B enjoys working with pet parents who want to take an active role in their pet’s medical care. He also enjoys college football, hair metal and country music, along with one-eyed dogs and three-legged cats.