There are some dog breeds that seem to be more predisposed to back issues that others. You have the Daschund (poster child for IVDD, right?), Basset Hounds, Corgi and any mix making a long backed/short legged dog. There are also Pugs and French Bulldogs to round out the smaller dog list with Dobermans and German Shepherds having a solid representation for the large breed dogs. Some of their spine issues stem from congenital or developmental defects, but primarily in the veterinary hospital we see dogs with type I or type II disk compression.
When a disk (the shock absorber between vertabre) changes to put pressure on the spinal chord, we usually see pain and loss of function in our pets. It can happen gradually over a few days to months or all of a sudden. The pain can be excruciating and dogs can become completely paralyzed and lose control of body functions. When this issue presents itself, it is important to seek out medical intervention as soon as possible for the best outcome.
My Dog May Have IVDD. Now What?
What are my options if I have a dog that suddenly looses the use of their legs or seems to be really stiff and can’t turn their neck? At the very least, an exam by a veterinarian would be a great place to start to localize where they think a disk lesion may be and to rule out other possibilities such as tick diseases.
The next step could be a visit to a neurology specialist to evaluate the symptoms and recommend a treatment plan that may include an MRI +/- surgery. Sometimes this option is not the best one due to the cost of the procedures or a patient’s age. If this is the case, does that mean that an owner should consider euthanasia as a treatment option? That really depends on the pain factor. If we can not effectively manage a dog’s pain and surgery is not an option, euthanasia may be the only way to humanely treat the issue. In particular, cervical lesions can be one of the most painful and difficult IVDD places to manage without surgery in some pets.
I strongly feel that if a pet’s pain can be controlled and the owners are committed to the intense home care needs of their dog, trying the conservative management strategy is definitely worth it. Time and good care can lead to partial or full recovery in some dogs. You just have to be willing to try with an unknown outcome possible. Recovery is not guaranteed but it is possible. Continue…
Carts Offer Comfort and Mobility
Through our rehabilitation facility we have had the opportunity to meet a lot of dogs with a wide variety of mobility issues and needs. Some pets are suffering from arthritic joints or sore muscles, others have an orthopedic injury that needed surgery to repair, and then there are the neurological or back dogs that are having difficulty getting around on their own. Whatever the case may be, our job is to try and get them back on their feet and moving around comfortably and as independently as possible. During a therapy session, we frequently encourage mobility through aqua therapy such as the underwater treadmill or therapy pool. But what about when the session ends and the patient has to go home? It is important to keep the exercise momentum strong and moral high with continued independence outside of rehab time and at home in real-world situations. One useful tool to help families with home mobility needs for a weak or down dog is the use of a cart or canine wheelchair.
All of the Positive Changes a Cart Can Bring to a Pet
Many of our clients are resistant to the idea of using a cart for an unstable or non-ambulatory pet. They feel that using a cart is somehow associated with giving up on their pet and any future healing or movement possibilities. Some owners expect a cart to be too expensive or not worth the investment. Thankfully, this is frequently not the case. In rehab therapy, carts can be a very useful tool to allow free movement and help avoid depression or isolation away from family. If a dog has a tendency to fall over or drags an end of the body around, it is natural for us to pen them into an area that we consider safe or easy to care for. This may leave an animal companion spending their days behind a gate or in a crate watching family fun instead of being able to participate. While intentions are good, often times such isolation will eventually lead to depression and lack of motivation to progress in healing therapy. Through the use of a cart, a mobility challenged dog can once again participate in the neighborhood family walk or the backyard play time. After a brief transition period where a pet learns how to motor around with wheels, many dogs enjoy some cart time and return to activities that they had been forced to give up. Continue…