Hello! Aunty Lisa has been to have a loooooooong discussion about me at the vets and she tells me the news wasn't great, but i'm not to worry as we have a plan! I'd rather eat my breakfast than talk about medical stuff so i'm going to let Aunty Lisa write this post herself 🙄
Lots of JC's behaviours point to pain (and we'll do some resources on this for you all in the coming months) and although his xrays were clear, we know he has improved with the pain medication he has been on, so we had to get to the bottom of what was going on.
The MRI scan was a mix of news. The good news is that there were no nasty tumours AND that we now have a much better idea of what is going on (and once you know, you can refine your plan!). The not so good news is that poor JC has problems in EVERY disc along his spine - yes, every one, head to tail.
In simple terms, it means that rather than those discs being spongy and cushion-like, they are in various stages of dehydration and this causes problems in the surrounding nerves and tissue. At the moment, there doesn't appear to be any compression on the spinal cord (good news) but Jim shows very clear signs of pain so we know it is causing him issues in other ways. This is probably a combination of discogenic pain (pain from the discs themselves) and also pain from the tissues surrounding the worst areas which have tightened so much to try to compensate (and protect those areas) that he is in an almost constant state of muscle spasm.
So what can we do? Well, there are no surgical options for JC (although this may be something he needs in the future as he is at increased risk of rupturing a disc as they degenerate), but we do have to get his pain properly under control to give him a chance at a happy, comfortable life.
Step 1 - adjustments to his medication and supplements
JC has been on pain relief since I first met him in July - it was obvious to me that pain was an issue, but at that point he couldn't cope with the investigations, so we worked to get him more comfortable. We've improved this significantly, but now can tailor this even further.
Step 2 - give this time to work and continue his current routine with additional environmental management
For now, all we can do is keep going with his reduced exercise (this is a HUGE challenge in Jim-land!) and environmental and activity management and visits home with me until we can get his pain under enough control that we can start some proper physiotherapy and exercises (he just can't tolerate this at all at the moment).
Step 3 - physiotherapy to address the soft tissue problems
We've tried, but JC can't tolerate ANY physio at the moment, of any sort. But when we've further improved his pain, this is going to be essential. I'm starting this process in teeny tiny amounts that he can cope with (using our co-operative handling skills!) and teaching him some core skills which will help with exercises when we are ready and our lovely vet physio Molly will rejoin us for some proper sessions as soon as possible.
We're not looking any further ahead than this at the moment (and think of the above as a cycle rather than discrete steps!). Jiminy Cricket is still continuing to make some progress, both physically and behaviourally, but we're not going to see further significant change until this pain issue is properly controlled.
Our hope for JC is that we can help him cope well enough to make a transition into a full time foster home environment, but first things first, he has to be able to cope with himself and how he feels inside before we add even more challenges in for him.
More to follow on the detail of the plan (and his progress) in the coming days and weeks. We have a veeeerrry long road ahead, but now we know what we're dealing with, it's a cautiously optimistic one.