The patient: Trooper, a fifteen-year-old Lab-shepherd mix
The ailments: Arthritis, hip dysplasia, Cushing's disease, cancer, neurological problems
History: Trooper, past the upper limit of his life expectancy, is the definition of high-maintenance: He has intimate relationships with six veterinary specialists at a cost of almost $1,000 per month. While Trooper's upkeep might be over-the-top, his laundry list of troubles isn't uncommon for New York dogs. "In the city, where dogs are leashed, they live much longer," says Paul H. Schwartz, Trooper's general vet. "So they develop diseases classically associated with geriatric humans."
The (many) doctors: Beverly Cappel, holistic and alternative medicine, Vet at the Barn, Chestnut Ridge, N.Y.; Jonathan Leshanski, acupuncturist, At Home Veterinary (house calls); Emily Elliot, chiropractor, Center for Veterinary Care, Upper East Side; Peter Kross, swim therapist, Biscuit and Bath, midtown; Richard Joseph, neurologist, Westside Veterinary Center, Upper West Side; Paul H. Schwartz, general medicine, Center for Veterinary Care, Upper East Side.
Diagnosis: "For twelve years, Trooper was healthy as a horse," says his owner, Barbara Mishkin, an Upper East Side businesswoman. Now, sadly, the arthritis and hip dysplasia he's been suffering for a year make his legs wobble -- or buckle completely. Recently, the brain signals that control his legs have been malfunctioning, which Trooper's neurologist says is due to a yet-to-be-determined spinal problem. Trooper also suffers from Cushing's disease, a hyperactivity of the adrenal glands that can cause ligament damage. (He was diagnosed with the disease three years ago after he uncharacteristically peed in the lobby of Mishkin's building.) "After hypothyroidism, Cushing's is the second most common hormonal abnormality in dogs," says Schwartz.
Treatment: Trooper takes a daily pill called Anapril to help control Cushing's and receives monthly fluid injections into his joints for his arthritis. The rest of his therapy is unconventional. "The idea is to try to get some responses without introducing other drugs into his system," Schwartz says. He supported the turn to alternative medicine when the dog developed a neurofibrosarcoma tumor two and a half years ago. Trooper responded better to herbal remedies than he did to radiation. Cappel, his holistic vet, keeps him on a regimen of more than a dozen daily (some twice-daily) herbal supplements that take five to fifteen minutes to administer "on a good day," says Mishkin. Trooper's swim therapist, acupuncturist, and chiropractor work on his mobility. "The doctors keep having to remind me that Trooper's the equivalent of 100 years old," says Mishkin.
Post-op: Trooper enjoys the precarious medical stability of the average senior citizen. To enhance his lifestyle, Mishkin has bought him the canine version of a wheelchair. "I think I've found the Cadillac of carts," she says.