Her name was “Kali” and she changed my life.
August 1, 2004, was the first day the doors opened at our newly constructed TopDog Canine Rehabilitation and Fitness facility. It was a 2400 sq. ft. facility with all the bells and whistles. I was pumped that day for sure. It was my first business and I was passionate about the progressive services we were offering to not only the local community but to my veterinary colleagues.
Expecting a flood of traffic that first day, I was humbled quickly as I patiently sat twiddling my thumbs all day. Finally, at 5:15 pm, the door slowly opened and kind-faced gentlemen walked through the door. Right on his coattails behind him was his dog, an 8-year-old German shepherd, literally dragging her hind legs struggling to make her way through the door.
Getting to know Kali
I clearly remember the uncertainty on both of their faces. I had no idea that on my very first day, my very first patient was going to be “the one” that set the course for my entire career. In hindsight…How lucky was I?!
The owner’s name was Paul and the minute he began talking, tears welled up in his eyes as he began to tell me the story of Kali and how he came to find me.
Kali’s strength and function in her hind legs had slowly been deteriorating over the last 6 months and both Paul’s veterinarian and even his family had been trying to convince him that her condition was hopeless and that it was Kali’s “time” to put her to sleep. A wheelchair was unfortunately not an option for them.
The Misdiagnosis of DM
Kali had been given a diagnosis of degenerative myelopathy by the family veterinarian. Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a fairly common neuromuscular disorder found in german shepherds, where they progressively lose function in their hind legs. It starts with slight scuffing of the hind leg nails that progresses to a full “drunken sailor” walk in the hind legs. Most of the time it is a slowly progressing disease that eventually leads to complete inability to use the hind legs and eventually incontinence.
Though there are some holistic treatments available, in general, it is accepted by the veterinary community to be an untreatable disease.
Always Be An Optimist
I was young and naive at the time, but no doubt a hopeless optimist. In my simple mind, I thought if Kali has been progressively losing strength in her hind legs and she is not in any kind of pain then…hypothetically, if I simply served as a personal physical trainer and exercised Kali aggressively…just maybe she could build muscle and regain function. Just maybe, I could help Paul and Kali beat this thing. When I explained this to Paul it made sense to him and he agreed that it was worth a shot.
We worked hard and Kali worked even harder every session, 2 times a week. As with anything in life when you work hard you expect to see results. I distinctly remember Paul coming in after 6 sessions and saying to me that it doesn’t seem to be working; Kali was still dragging herself around and she did not appear to have built any muscle mass in her hind legs.
Perseverance Often Proves Itself
We discussed his options to either keep trying or believe what others were telling him and put her to sleep. Paul chose to push on. In total dismay…on that seventh session…the door opened and guess who came walking through the door? You betcha…Kali…” The Queen” walking on all fours. No doubt it wasn’t the prettiest walk, but she was up and walking. We both cried….we couldn’t believe it.
After that session, I asked Paul if he could bring Kali up to my hospital, which was 20 minutes north for the day, and let me x-ray her head to toe to see if there was a good reason for this. (His veterinarian had not taken any radiographs previously.)
Guess what I found?
Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
Kali did not have DM at all…in fact, she had severe arthritis in both of her knees. Some of the worst I had seen, in my short career at that time. That day it all FINALLY clicked for me…I finally got it. Kali had been suffering from joint pain for a long long time and yet no one ever knew (not her family, the veterinarian, or even myself). Her early signs of joint pain were most likely just passed off as “just getting older” and the later signs of hind end weakness were misinterpreted as Degenerative Myelopathy, most likely because it is a classic German Shepherd condition.
Because of daily chronic pain, I am sure that Kali was slowly moving around less and less and sleeping more and more. We have all heard the saying “if you don’t use it…you lose it”. Well, Kali lost more and more muscle in her hind legs that eventually she had lost so much that she reached what I now call “the critical mass”, which I define as the minimal amount of muscle mass to support the skeletal structure. Muscle atrophy is generally not a fast process, instead, it is a slow and gradual process. Since the skeletal system is supported by muscle there is a critical point where you have lost so much muscle that you simply are not able to get up anymore.
Moving Forward Everything Changed for Everybody
From that point forward EVERYTHING CHANGED for both Kali and me. Kali was started on a comprehensive joint supplement and an aggressive pain management protocol until we had rebuilt substantial muscle mass back into her hind legs. Kali went on to live another 4 years of life in comfort and happiness. It was amazing.
Me, as a young veterinarian, I was sincerely humbled by my experience with Kali. I learned never to just believe another doctor’s diagnosis and to make my conclusions. I learned the massive value of utilizing proper diagnostics before making assumptions about what is going on. I became obsessed with learning the early detection signs of joint pain and sharing that with as many pet owners as I could. I went on to work with some incredibly smart and talented individuals to develop a joint health supplement that I wanted for my patients and a handful of other products to help dogs like Kali.
To this day it still bothers me and makes my heart so sad that this poor dog for years had to silently suffer because she was misdiagnosed due to quick stereotyping and lack of proper diagnostics. From that point forward I made it clear to myself that a situation like this was never going to happen under my watch again.
I am forever grateful for everything that you taught me Kali and because of you, we are improving other dogs’ lives..one dog at a time.
TopDog Health is an education company focused on improving lives for both dogs and their owners. TopDog develops and manufactures products needed in the marketplace to help dogs live a better and more comfortable life. GlycanAid-HA joint supplement, a 5-Star Consumer Rated product, is TopDog’s most popular joint supplement to date. It is a product Made in the USA & Made with All USA Ingredients.
Very sad. Thanks for sharing!
Kristi, I wish so bad that I could give you specific advice for Rascal but unfortunately I can’t simply because I can’t see him or evaluate him or view his imaging. That being said…if this is only a problem related to a calcified disc there is light at the end of the tunnel. You really have to work on how you are going to eliminate the jumping. If he is allowed in bed with you…stop! If he is allowed on couches…stop or get stairs which still are not the best because most of the time when they want to get off…they still jump. After opening TopDog I quickly stopped my dogs from sleeping on the best and couches simply because there were so many back injuries that I worked on. As for walking…..you need to use your best judgement. Lets say he tolerates a five minute walk perfectly..then that is your baseline and you would increase the time slowly from there. Just give his body time to heal and try your best to protect him from himself :)
What an awesome story that has me in tears as I write. Had it not been for Kali!! I am in Florida and SO wish you were near. I have a 5 yr. old dachshund, Rascal, who is like my third child, with a calcified disc. First Dr. over-medicated (6 medications) and I thought we were going to lose him. Two others agreed with first. I knew there had to be something else we could try. Fourth Dr.now has him taking a muscle relaxer and anti- inflammatory. I don’t know who I can trust at this point. He does great as long as he is on meds. So great, in fact, that he doesn’t realize he is hurt. It is hard to keep him from jumping. If he is still the same after two more weeks of meds., is there a safe long term med. regime he can take to keep him pain free and happy? Would taking him for walks help strengthen his back? What about water therapy in the bath tub? Or should we still be trying to keep him calm with little movement? We have already spent a lot of money on him and surgery is not an option for us financially. We would die if we had to lose him and at this point so desperate for any info. you may be able to give. Thank you so much for the compassionate Dr. you are. I wish all were like you. Kristi
Deanne you are a sweet heart and your words truly mean everything to me. With winters like this last one…I often wonder why we are still here on the east coast. The Cali sun is very enticing. I have driven almost the entire California coast and being that I am a surfer I could totally see the improved quality of life…that said…..the love of being close to family trumps everything so my kids are just going to have to get used to thick wet suits :) Hope you guys are well and I am here if you ever need me for anything.
Thanks for sharing such a heart warming and personal story! We love what you do and what you stand for, you are an exceptional human being! We appreciate you, your staff, your products, and your willingness to help! Kona is recovering from her second TPLO surgery and is doing well. Her success is due to your guidance and GlycanAid HA. Sure wish we lived closer, we are in California, so how about we clone you! Thanks again for everything and being you!
Thanks Pat…No doubt I try every moment to live in a gratitude mindset and do my best to help as many people and dogs as possible. Thanks for sharing.
Bill I love the fact that you were skeptical because I am also this way as a consumer. Of course we very much appreciate and are humbled that you took a chance with us and allowed us to prove to you that the right formula with the right pure raw natural materials can go a long way.Thanks for sharing Bill and we are here for you if you ever need us in any way. Dr.J
Leslie…I am trying not to blush. I am just and ordinary person try to help as many people as I can in my own little way. I appreciate your support so so much.
Good luck with everything Deb. We are rooting for you.
Dr. J, my golden retriever Boomer benefitted from your passion for healing dogs as he recovered from TPLO surgery with the help of your supplements, recovery guide, website, answers to questions, and encouragement. Boomer passed away last summer and we just adopted a rescue golden so Butch has another brother and our home is full again. Would you believe that Sully is still in his year following TPLO surgery? You know your supplements will soon be on their way to our home and of course both furry boys get the full exercise routine! I thank God for you over and over again. Family, friends, neighbors, and Facebook friends all know about TopDog and Dr. J!!!!
Thank you for the great story and all the information you have sent me. My German shepherd is having knee surgery on April 15. We tried laser treatments and they worked great but when we tapered back he started to limp slightly and not put full weight on it. I printed off your rehab guide and took copy to my vet as you suggested. Again thank you!
You are very welcome Wayne. That is gray news that Smokey is doing well. Thanks for sharing.
Anna, wow..no doubt it was so wonderful to meet you both. What is that acronym UVSD stand for. I would be more than happy to talk with you guys and give you my two cents if you wish. Hope everything else is well. Dr.J
Thats awesome Jacque…glad to here that he is doing well. YOu are very welcome.
Martha it had nothing to do with any joint supplements. She did not start those until after we took X-rays. She had simply strengthened and rebuilt lost muscle and that was enough to get her hind end up. Over time we worked at building more and more muscle and she did amazing.
Jeanne, I am humbled. :)
I took a only 10 years to finally tell her story.
Thanks Peg ;) Your very kind
There is always something to learn from each of them, you just have to be open to listening.
What a lovely face she has – I felt so sad for Kali who suffered BUT….look what has been accomplished in 10 years!!!! THANK YOU
Dr J..Once, you helped me with my late (age unknown –but OLD) FHO, rescue. Without your information, I would not have had any rehab ideas. My own vet at the time really knew little and without your joint supplements, there is no doubt that the old dog would have been much worse. Now, I face the future with my 10 year-old golden doodle who shows signs of arthritis as he hesitates to jump in the car or on the bed. I hear you well and I’m paying attention! It’s up to us to notice the signs, for our dogs will follow us, uncomplaining, on their last painful legs. You have restored my faith in the veterinary profession, (some of whom, I’m afraid, are less interested in animals than in profit.) Best to you, my friend!
I thank you kindly for sharing Kali’s story! It brought tears to my eyes. So insperational !
Thank you Kali from so many dogs who are now so much better because you gave confidence to a man who would go on to do so much good.
What a wonderful and moving story (brought tears to my eyes). Thank you for sharing and thank you for the work you do. All of the information on your site really saved me after Kramer’s FHO surgery. Thank you again
Dear Dr. J.
Thank you so much for sharing this heartwarming story. My Brody and I are forever grateful for your dedication to veterinary medicine. Your love of animals is evident in all that you do. Brody had ACL surgery last September 19, we followed your protocol and he has a beautifully healed leg. He’s enjoying being his wonderful 2 year old self.
All the “hands on” therapy served to strengthen an already strong bond. Words cannot express how grateful we are to have found you. Now we know that we have Kali to thank too.
God Bless You always,
I have a question:
You wrote, “… on that seventh session…the door opened and guess who came walking through the door. You betcha…Kali…”The Queen” walking on all fours.”
Was that because of the therapy sessions to re-stengthen her muscles, or was she already on the joint supplements?
You also saved my dog,by telling me to take time and use hydrotherapy which I did in my tub. Forrest had quit walking at all but after two weeks of your advice,one day he walked. now he runs and is having a great life, Mnay thanks to you. jj
Wonderful way to start a career! I’ve had my 6 yo Newfie Emma on the HA product for I think about 3 years. She had tibia leveling procedures on both legs in succession and shortly thereafter a Meniscus repair. I saw Glycanaid HA on the net and as and old pharmacist trained to be suspicious of “supplements” I thought in this case nothing ventured nothing gained. The bottom line here is the product has been spectacular! She gobbles her breakfast after her mile walk each morning just to get to her dose. My wife whose also a pharmacist and I have jokingly commented we might think about chewing up a few based on the results we have seen. You have a good program and a good product Doc and we thank you!
What a great story and what an aha moment you had. That Kali was your first dog and first success sounds like the angels were watching over both of you so Kali could live a happy end to her life and you could move forward with critical knowledge. GREAT story; thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing that story of Kali and her owner, and thank you for taking the time to find out just what was wrong with Kali, and then making the necessary changes in her life to keep her healthy and happy for the last four years of her life. My dog Smokey wishes to thank you too for providing badly needed advice concerning his torn CCL that was operated on Oct 4th, 2013. Smokey has been on Glycan aid Ha for 5 months now and is doing very well. There is no sign of limping at all and his right knee appears to be as healthy as ever. He is indeed a happy and content handsome Cockapoo. Thanks again for all the advice and for the great supplements you offer. Thanks also for all the great information available on your website. From one very thankful owner and one very handsome and happy six year old Cockapoo, thank you and God bless.
We are the folks that came to see you last July from California. Your videos totally helped rehab our Australian Shepherd Finn after FHO, I would like to try the Glycan aid for him but my husband is reluctant as he needs to be on prednisone and AZT for the rest of his life due to his recent diagnosis of UVSD he has not had any flareups since starting his meds. This poor animal. Thank you again for your videos and updates. Take care