Animal Swim Center

Animal Swim Center


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English Mastiff Torn Cruciate Ligament Treatment Story with Lengthy Background
By Noah Nason III ([email protected]) as of 20170106
We have owned six Mastiffs over the last 28 years. Five were rescues. I have volunteered for Mastiff Rescue for over 15 years having done hundreds of home visits, dog evaluations, and transportations.,,,,
and many others.
Two of our Mastiffs have been therapy dogs having visited nursing homes, done “Paws for Reading,” and participated in other activities over a hundred times. Mastiffs make great therapy dogs. They can’t be put in someone’s bed, but people don’t have to reach down to pet them as a Mastiff can put their head on the bed or lap. And several people can pet a Mastiff at the same time. It is a great volunteer activity and most friendly under control Mastiffs would qualify.
In January 2012, Sue (my spouse) and I drove to Norfolk to adopt Jethro Tull a 4-year old Fawn English Mastiff. Apollo Creed, a 2.5-year old brindle, was at the same foster. I immediately fell in love with the big lug. So both dogs came home.
Mastiffs make terrible teenagers. Just like human teenagers they push boundaries. Apollo was no exception. We took him to three different trainers. The third trainer showed us that, whenever Apollo demonstrated bad behavior, we should gently but with authority knock Apollo over and pin him to the ground until he submitted. This has worked wonders. Apollo started out at 235 and matured into a massive 255 pounds. He is 33 inches at the shoulders, a big dog. Jethro, at a more standard 180 pounds, became a therapy dog in 2014.
In 2015 and 2016 both dogs accompanied me on 7,200 mile RV trips to Oregon. Needless to say every stop along the way caused quite a stir as people wanted to know “Can I pet them, how much do they weight, how much they eat, etc.” Sadly in August 2016 upon our return to Northern Virginia, Jethro suddenly died of copper poisoning. Copper is a necessary micro-nutrient in dog food. Some breeds and some dogs cannot tolerate the copper and it collects in their livers. Copper kills the liver. The symptoms (lethargy, reduced appetite) are the same as you would see in an older dog. And Jethro was 8 which is considered an elderly mastiff. A liver panel will determine if there is an issue but a biopsy must be done to determine the specific cause. We buried Jethro in the back yard. Apollo became so upset he bit Sue. The next day he was fine. Apollo was always cautious around strangers and new situations. Not aggressive but not friendly. This behavior is not uncommon with mastiffs if they haven’t been well socialized when very young.
On a Sunday February 28th 2016, while on our standard 1 mile walk, Apollo tore his right rear cruciate ligament. At that time, he weighed in at a chunky 275 pounds. He was in a lot of pain and would only get up with assistance. Fortunately, we had a harness for his rear to help me lift him up. On Monday seven of us got him into the rear of my pickup truck. We took him to the vet and in the back of my truck she diagnosed Apollo’s injury. On Thursday we took him to the surgeon who said he could try to fix Apollo’s cruciate ligament injury with TPLO surgery. It would cost $5,000 with only a 60% chance of success. If Apollo broke the TPLO appliance, his leg would be permanently broken. He would then be unable to get up and walk even with assistance, consequently we would have to put him to sleep. With this bad news, Gabapentin for pain, and a requirement for Apollo to get as thin as possible, we left for home.
Within two weeks, with 3200mg/daily of Gabapentin, Apollo was able to get up and go out our dog door without assistance. But his movement was clearly painful. We reduced his food from 12 to 8 cups of food per day. Over the next six weeks Apollo lost 20 pounds with a goal weight of 240 before doctor would do surgery. The less weight the more likely surgery would be successful as the less likely the appliance would break.
Dr. Dove, our local vet at Companion Animal Clinic in Gainesville VA, recommended we take Apollo swimming to strengthen his other leg and to help him lose weight. We are very fortunate to have the Animal Swim Center in Middleburg VA in our area We had used this center in the late 1990s for a previous elderly Mastiff for Arthritis treatment and body strengthening. We started swimming Apollo six weeks after his injury. We gradually increased his swimming both in frequency and duration. At our first swim Roger, the owner, recommended we consider other surgical procedures for Apollo. So we made an appointment to see Dr. Hall Sr. in Fairfax, VA. Dr. Hall recommended cold laser treatment, more swimming, and no surgery. Dr. Hall’s thinking was that the ligament would heal on its own and surgery success, for such a large dog, was problematic. Dr. Hall also recommended Apollo start Rimadyl and a monthly Cortisone shot (3ml Depo Medrol and 3ml Dexamethasone) which he has had every month since.
We did 10 sessions of cold laser therapy. Apollo increased his swimming to 3, then 2, and now one 30 minute swim per week. He likes swimming so much he pulls me to the pool. Recently he pulls with less vigor the effects of aging we think. He swims with an extra-extra-extra-large flotation vest we could only find at We lead him around the very large pool (originally built for horses.) The blue head wrap you see around Apollo’s ears is to keep the water out. It is a float vest for people to use to run in place upright (see below.)
As for Gabapentin, we kept him on the 3200mg/day for maybe nine months then gradually reduced him to 600mg/day. He was at 600mg/day for maybe six months. As Apollo ages we have increased it to 2400mg/day.
We no longer go on one-mile walks every day like we did before his injury. With his swimming we also started walking Apollo a couple of times a week for up to a half-mile. It has been 23 months since his injury and we continue with swimming and walking.
But this isn’t the entire story. On May 29th 2016, Apollo tore his right hind-leg cruciate ligament. We have been told once one ligament goes within a year the other one often goes. We are guessing, because he was still on 3200mg/day of Gabapentin, he was able to get up on his own after two days. We put him back on cold laser therapy and we decided to try braces for both legs. We had not previously determined to try braces because the reviews were mixed, the costs are considerable, and our vets didn’t recommend. But with two bad legs we thought we would give it a try. It took six weeks to schedule and have them made, but we finally got Apollo custom fitted braces for both legs. You can see the brace at the left on Apollo doesn’t have a third piece that goes past the ankle onto the foot. The one on Burton at the right does have a third foot piece. As a consequence and because Apollo, now a thin 242 pounds, is so large, the braces kept slipping down his leg out of place when he sat down. Quite often this necessitated my intervention to reposition the two braces. The brace company was very helpful in trying to fix this issue, but Apollo was just too big for a two piece solution. Frankly, because of this, we never really gave the braces a chance and Apollo, who was swimming, getting up on his own, and had travelled with me across the USA without difficulty, didn’t need them.
We want to thank the many people in Mastiff Rescue, Mastiff Club of America, the several local vets we consulted with, and the other Mastiff owners who provided us with support and knowledge. This knowledge eventually led us to a successful treatment of the two ligament injuries. This treatment has allowed an injured Apollo to continue to live out his life and accompany me on 11,000 more miles of RV trips, many swims, and lots of walks. He still plays abet slowly and not for long. He is after all an elderly dog (8.5 years.)
A couple of last points, the 3-piece brace was made by I learned about this brace on a recent Mastiff Rescue home visit to a former Mastiff owner. She said the brace she got for her dog, Burton, was quite useful in keeping him steady on his feet. She didn’t have the slippage issue with the three piece brace that we had with the two piece brace with Apollo. Note: the two-piece brace we got wouldn’t slip on a typical 80 pound dog. The two two-piece braces cost $1,708.
The vest cost $85 with shipping. Here is a closer picture of the Neopaws life vest:
As you can see from the picture on the right, the blue ear protection is attached on the left and the right to the harness. We got the snap on attachments from Lowes. The harness goes over the life vest and provides a secure place to attach the lead rope. The harness came from here: You may need the under belly expander. We did for Apollo as he has a 53 inch chest.

Here is the URL for the AquaJogger at the left we used to cover Apollo’s ears.

Gabapentin from our vet is expensive for such a large dose. But then, if you are a Mastiff owner, you have already reconciled yourself with such costs. Originally our vet didn’t carry it so we got Gaba from Walgreens where it was way more expensive. When we used our GoodSam RV club pet discount card the Gaba was 40% cheaper at Walgreens but still slightly more than at my vets. The $65 dollar cost for the club membership saved us a lot of money.
Here is a fun URL “English Mastiff Sets a Blistering Pace.”

Sorry the pictures didn't past in. You can email me if you want pictures.

The Northern Virginia Animal Swim Center is a facility specifically designed for the rehabilitation and conditioning of dogs and other animals using swimming and hydrotherapy.

The swim center is one of the largest on the Eastern seaboard specifically designed and constructed for the swimming of animals. We primarily work with dogs and horses but have also enjoyed working with a camel, alpaca and zebra to benefit from hydrotherapy. We have two pools to provide appropriate levels of activity depending on the animal and the type of hydrotherapy or conditioning that is requ

Operating as usual


We are sorry to announce that the Swim Center property has been sold, and the Animal Swim Center will no longer be in operation, effective October 1, 2018.

In selling the property, we have tried diligently to find a buyer that would continue the operation and provide the service for our canine friends. Unfortunately, we have been unsuccessful; and the new owners will not be maintaining the swimming operations.

After almost thirty years and thousands of dogs, horses and people that we have had the pleasure to know and to work with, it has been a hard decision to make to leave this behind and lose a valued service to our canine friends and the community.

My sincere thanks go to all those dedicated owners that, year after year, enjoyed a fun time with their dogs and to those that have given their dog a new lease on life that only swimming can provide.

I have deep regrets that all of this must come to an end for the Northern Virginia Animal Swim Center. Hopefully there will be new facilities that will eventually take our place.

Appointments may be made online up to and including Sunday September 30.

Refunds will be made for any unused swim sessions.

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