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Ah yes…the dreaded “IVDD” diagnosis- which throws Dachshund owners into despair.
First of all – what exactly is IVDD? Yes, I know what the letters stand for – but what is the problem EXACTLY? The answer to that seems to depend upon which book you read, what website you visit, or what vet you listen to. I’ve seen everything under the sun diagnosed as IVDD from strained nerves to ruptured discs.
There’s a reason that none of the older vet reference books and few modern ones have “IVDD” listed. It’s a catchall acronym which is being slapped onto dogs (particularly Dachshunds) who have a back/spinal problem. On par with the acronyms COPD and GERD for human problems, and which are really only descriptions of SYMPTOMS - symptoms which can be caused by different medical problems.
These catchall acronyms referring to symptoms are disgusting – they are NOT legitimate diagnoses….but often serve as such when the vet (or human doctor) really doesn’t know (or care) what’s actually causing the problem. [Very typical nowadays - for vets and especially human doctors - to treat symptoms instead of actually finding out and treating the actual problem.]
You see back problems more often in Dachshunds than in other breeds; simply because of the way they are built. They were developed as “go to ground” hunting dogs who were bred to have shorter legs in order to get into tunnels of badgers and rabbits and other burrowing animals.
The shortening of the legs makes the back appear long. Actually Dachshunds don’t have a “long back,” per se, at all – they have short legs. Shorten the legs of ANY breed and it will appear to have a “long back.” Short legs make the body less agile. If you look at the breeds that are used for agility and sports like flyball - you'll see that most of them are medium size dogs with long legs. Less agile, shorter-legged dogs create more strain on their spinal column (ie back).
Saying that “IVDD” is an “inherited condition” for Dachshunds is baloney. When an area of the body is structurally weak simply because of the way it is formed, it's going to be more prone to problems (injury or weakness); it has nothing to do with genetic heredity (ie inheriting the problem from a parent).
It’s IMPERATIVE that Dachshund owners create an environment for their Dachshunds which will ease spinal stress – done by providing steps/ramps (whether or not the dogs appear to use them), not teaching them to sit up and beg (or roll over), not taking them out jogging or forcing exercise, preventing them from going up and down stairs, making sure that they are picked up correctly, etc. etc. etc.
Spinal problems can stem from a variety of causes, and in Dachshunds they are MOST often due to either injury or repeated stress - which will eventually result in weakness (think of things like tennis elbow, etc.). Occasionally back problems appear to happen out of the blue - even when all precautions have been taken.
I won’t go into the diagnosis and prognosis of the different kinds of spinal problems – which can be caused by virus, bacteria, injury, calcification, fusion, compression, rupture, etc. BUT – whenever a vet tells you “IVDD” – do NOT let that statement stand. Find out EXACTLY what the problem is – and how the vet arrived at that diagnosis.
Spinal problems can occur in the neck, back or hindquarters - anywhere along the spinal cord. And the symptoms might differ depending upon where the problem actually is.
Just as there are different kinds of spinal problems – each kind has different levels of severity. So – besides finding out WHAT the exact problem is – you have to know the severity. Sudden and complete paralysis (with no feeling at all in the back legs) with horrendous unrelenting pain is a grave problem – and the outlook is not good. Some of those dogs have recovered from paralysis, but the number is small. (And, by the way, do NOT confuse sudden paralysis from a back problem with paralysis which is the result of a stroke.)
However, some Dachshunds who have sudden and total paralysis, and seem painfree after the first few days, can and do recover! Just be patient, give them time, keep them in a small confined area and keep up with the prednisone.
Also, be aware that two different dogs can have the SAME diagnosis and each end up with a different prognosis. Take, for instance, "calcified discs." Some dogs have them, especially older dogs, and never exhibit any problem at all. Other dogs can have them cause problems and after proper medication (without surgery) can recover completely. But some dogs can have them and be partially or fully paralyzed.
How can that happen, you might ask? A calcification on the outside of the backbone might not interfere with the spinal cord very much. However a calcification on the inside of the backbone might be pressing against the spinal cord. To further complicate things, it's not uncommon for dogs (and humans, by the way) to have places along their spine which are abnormally narrow. Normally this might not cause a problem, but if there is a problem in that area (like a calcified disc) the results could be very different than if the problem occured in another area of the spine.
All we can tell is you is to do your UTMOST to prevent back problems:
- Hold the dog properly, one hand under the chest, the other under the hindquarters, and keeping the back level, raise the dog against your body.
- Prevent the dog from using staircases
- Try to curtail jumping
- Provide steps and/or ramps to all furniture the dog gets up on
- Prevent/Correct the dog from sitting up and begging, standing on hind legs, rolling over and over, jumping for frisbee, etc.
- Do not force exercise - like jogging.
- Prevent the dog from being picked up, or tripped over by a child.
- Prevent the dog from being savaged by a larger dog.
- BE AWARE of signs of a back problem.
You HAVE to get a back problem attended to quickly, treat it properly and try to prevent any further injury.
The most common spinal problems in Dachshunds require 4 kinds of medication:
I know that using a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (like previcox, carprofen, rimadyl, novox) is quite the fad for vets. And those medications are often very effective for arthritis. But STEROIDAL anti-inflammatories should be used for spinal problems (dexamethasone and/or prednisone) – unless the dog has impaired kidney or pancreas function.
There is no question that steroidal anti-inflammatories work faster and better than non-steroidal anti-inflammatories; and when you have a spinal problem - it is IMPERATIVE that you relieve the inflammation as quickly and effectively as possible - to prevent any (or further) damage to the spinal cord.
So, make the vet use a steroidal anti-inflammatory (Prednisone OR Dexamethasone) tablets unless your dog has a medical condition which would contraindicate it’s use. And be aware of the side effects - thirst, frequent urination.
Also, it wouldn't hurt for the dog to have a whacking shot of dexamethasone right off the bat - but be SURE to get plenty of Pred or Dex pills for dosing at home.
Be aware that you HAVE to protect the digestive tract and steroidal anti-inflammatories are best given with an easy-to-digest meal (such as chicken and rice). Also be sure to keep something handy to immediately soothe an upset stomach - Dannon Vanilla yogurt, Vanilla ice cream, Maalox, Carafate - so you can dose the dog immediately if he has bouts of vomiting tummy juice, or a tense, hard tummy, or a tummy which is rumbling/growling.
AND (very important) make sure that you wean down from the steroid anti-inflammatories - never stop them abruptly.
A narcotic pain reliever is a must. Torbugesic/Torbutrol is an excellent one. It's VERY important to get a strong narcotic pain reliever into the dog immediately - and keep him on it for as long as it takes.
Torbugesic/Torbutrol vs Tramadol:
Torbugesic/Torbutrol (aka Butorphanol) is a controlled narcotic drug. It works by diminishing pain and also produces a feeling of euphoria.
Tramadol (aka tramadol hydrochloride) is a "narcotic-like" drug (emphasis on the word "like"). Currently it is not classified as a federally controlled drug - although some states have made it a controlled drug. (As of 2012 it is not a controlled drug in the state of Ohio.) Supposedly it diminishes pain. Unlike Torb - it does not produce any feeling of euphoria.
Vets will tell you (and you will read on the net) that torb (torbugesic/torbutrol) is good for moderate pain, and tramadol is good for moderate to severe pain.
That has NOT been my experience at ALL - and I've used both drugs on multiple dogs for multiple problems (injury, post-operative pain management, severe stress, etc).
In my opinion, and from my experience, Tramadol is good for nothing except extremely mild pain. But honestly, I wouldn't use it even then. If a dog is demonstrating pain - he's usually feeling a lot MORE pain than he is actually showing. And I have spoken to vet techs and they tell me quietly that it's their opinion that Tramadol does not work nearly as well, either.
Tramadol is definitely NOT as effective as torb. So why are vets pushing it? It's not a "controlled drug" - they don't have to have a valid DEA license to dispense it. (which eliminates DEA paperwork & inspections)
If your dog needs pain relief - for ANY reason - do NOT allow a vet to talk you into using Tramadol. Absolutely DEMAND torb (torbugesic/torbutrol).
This is an important medication which should be given because spinal problems often result in muscle spasms – which can aggravate a spinal problem even more.
The muscle-relaxer I like best is methocarbomal (trade name Robaxin), which is a central muscle relaxant used to treat skeletal muscle spasms. You either know or have heard how back problems often go into painful "spasms" - dogs are no different. That's why a muscle relaxer - and especially one that targets skeletal muscle spasms HAVE to be an integral part of the medication regime.Gabapentin
Gabapentin (brand name Neurontin for humans). It was originally developed as an anti-epileptic medication, but like many medications, it can have many other applications. It is ALSO used for painful neuropathy, and frequently for RLS (restless leg syndrome). It helps to calm/quiet the nervous system. It supposedly also helps with pain control and might help in lessening the necessity for large amounts of narcotic pain medication. Christine Edwards swears that it made a BIG difference in her Dachshund Peanut when she experienced a back problem. If I ever have another Dachshund with a back problem, I'm going to make sure that this medication is included in the treatment.
HOWEVER, although I’ve never heard of a dog having a bad reaction to this medication, it seems fairly common for it to cause severe reactions in humans. Such severe reactions can range from severe, uncontrollable vomiting to swelling of the face and hands, plus severe body rash. IF you use this drug for your dog, monitor him closely – especially after the first few doses. If he has a reaction, discontinue use and contact your vet. There are other medications on the market (some in the same family as Gabapentin, others in a different family of drugs) which are used for the nervous system and the vet might be able to substitute one of those. But research them carefully, how they work, and what the side effects might be.
The recovery period depends upon many things – exactly what the problem was (ie strained nerve, calcification, rupture, etc), how severe it was (total paralysis, pain when moving), how well you can keep the dog from straining his/her back during the recovery period (further strain is going to be a setback), and other things.
Diet is also going to be important – the anti-inflammatories should be given WITH a highly digestible food – to prevent them from irritating the stomach. A highly digestible diet should be given anyway, because it will be painful for a dog to strain while peeing and pooping.
Environment – you HAVE to make sure the dog is not allowed to run around, go up or down stairs/steps, or jump. The dog has to stay quiet and let the spine heal. If you confine the dog (hopefully using an x-pen instead of a create) PLEASE, please, please, remember that a steroidal anti-inflammatory is going to make the dog very thirsty and make him pee a LOT. Especially if he was given a shot of dexamethasone. Be considerate and anticipate this. Use an x-pen folded down in size to a large crate, and do put newspapers/pee pads in it (more about that in Sparky's story). If your dog is NOT used to being in a crate - it could be extremely stressful for him to have to pee on the bedding. We never crated our Beagle when she had spells with her disc problem, simply babygated her in the kitchen.
Symptoms – always, always, always – watch your Dachshund for early signs of spinal stress. A few of the symptoms could be:
whining or yelping when moving, or being petted/picked up
walking with shoulders or back hunched
holding his head lower than usual
tail limp, or held lower than usual, or even tucked between legs
reluctance or slowness in going down or up steps
difficulty or slowness in getting into position to pee or defecate
difficulty or slowness in getting up from a laying down positionbasically ANY abnormal movement
Spinal Problems REQUIRE RAMPS (not just Doggy Steps)
Doggy Steps can help lessen stress and help prevent a back problem, but IF a dog already has (or comes down with) a back problem - YOU HAVE TO USE RAMPS. Ramps are even easier on a dog's back than steps - so if your dog has (or had) a back problem - either make or purchase ramps! [see Dachshund Ramps page]
KNOW the different kinds of back problems that can occur in all dogs (even Dachshunds).
Make sure you are doing everything you can to prevent stress on the back - handle the dog properly, make sure you provide steps/ramps, make sure you discourage jumping or using the stairs, don't force exercise like taking them jogging with you, make sure you are constantly observing your Dachshund for abnormal movement or signs of pain.
And if your Dachshund comes down with a back problem – get him/her immediately to the vet – get a proper and definitive diagnosis (not just “your dog has IVDD”) and discuss the above treatment (steroids, narcotics and muscle relaxers) with your vet. Keep your Dachshund quiet and limit movement. Recovery could be in a couple weeks, could be in a couple months – a lot depends on exactly what the problem was, how quickly it was jumped on, the use of proper medications, and providing the correct environment for spinal healing.
ANY Dachshund can come down with a back problem - PARTICULARLY if the breeder or new owner has been careless in preventing stress to the Dachshund's back and/or has not provided a proper environment (having steps/ramps available, keeping children from mishandling puppies, etc.)
But just because a breeder has not had a back problem in their dogs - that does NOT guarantee anything. And, by the same token, if a breeder has had a back problem in one of their Dachshunds, that does not necessarily mean that the descendants will have problems.
If you want an absolute guarantee that your Dachshund won't ever have a back problem - then don't get a Dachshund. No dog (or human, for that matter) can be guaranteed NOT to have a back problem.
We do not anticipate back problems; we try to prevent back problems as best we can; and if they happen, we try to deal with them compassionately and sensibly. That's about all anyone can do.
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ORAL SUPPLEMENTS - There is a product on the market called "BiovaPlex" which is 100% hydrolized eggshell membrane and contains collagen, elastin, chondroitin, glucosamine and hyaluronic acid - ALL of which are used successfully for treating chronic arthritis and bone problems (in humans and dogs). It seems to be included in a lot of pet supplements now, but one of the best I've seen is the "Liver Licks Kicks" from konaschips.com If you are worried about back problems, or suspect a back problem, it wouldn't hurt to put your dog on these.
UPDATE: I have since learned that the vertebra and discs are NOT formulated like other body joints, and might be protected by either the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) or the Blood Spinal Cord Barrier (BSCB) - which might prevent ANY oral supplements (and many oral medications) from even reaching the spinal area. Even the Merck Vet Manual claim that the compounds popularly touted as "disc supplements" MUST be injected (in order to bypass the BSCB) to be effective. Several puppy owners and myself are still researching this. And in view of this, I would now say that products like BiovaPlex MIGHT assist in overall arthritis, but it is doubtful if they can even reach the spinal discs.
I emailed several companies & organizations who claimed that various supplements could assist with Dachshund back problems - "Free and Easy", "doxierescue.com" and "Royal Canin" - asking how the oral supplements could bypass the BBB or BSCB to even REACH the spinal area. Surprise... suprise....received NO response from anyone. Which makes me think that the folks selling/touting these supplements for Dachshund back problems are not very knowledgeable.
But, you know what? When it comes to the welfare of my kids, I rarely ask "does something help?" I ask "can it hurt?" And if a product cannot hurt - why not try it?
BACK BRACES - I was thinking that since humans have back braces which seems to help them, and wondered if there was any such thing for Dachshunds - and saw this website: http://www.lilbackbracer.com/ (cut and paste, not a link). It looked intriguing, though I have no first-hand knowledge about the product, I thought it might be something to help. Of course, I'd print out the website and take it to the vet first, to make sure it couldn't HURT. But if the vet says it can't hurt, it might be worth trying.
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Dobby & Toki's Mom, Amber Harvey - who has done a LOT of research on back problems in Dachshunds sent me the below. How wonderful!!!
(above is not a link - cut and paste)
Jasper the dachshund walking again
Scientists have reversed paralysis in dogs after injecting them with cells grown from the lining of their nose.
The pets had all suffered spinal injuries which prevented them from using their back legs.
The Cambridge University team is cautiously optimistic the technique could eventually have a role in the treatment of human patients.
The study is the first to test the transplant in "real-life" injuries rather than laboratory animals.
Olfactory ensheathing cells
The only part of the body where nerve fibres continue to grow in adults is the olfactory system.
Found in the at the back of the nasal cavity, olfactory ensheathing cells (OEC) surround the receptor neurons that both enable us to smell and convey these signals to the brain.
The nerve cells need constant replacement which is promoted by the OECs.
For decades scientists have thought OECs might be useful in spinal cord repair. Initial trials using OECs in humans have suggested the procedure is safe.
In the study, funded by the Medical Research Council and published in the neurology journal Brain, the dogs had olfactory ensheathing cells from the lining of their nose removed.
These were grown and expanded for several weeks in the laboratory.
Of 34 pet dogs on the proof of concept trial, 23 had the cells transplanted into the injury site - the rest were injected with a neutral fluid.
Many of the dogs that received the transplant showed considerable improvement and were able to walk on a treadmill with the support of a harness.
None of the control group regained use of its back legs.
The research was a collaboration between the MRC's Regenerative Medicine Centre and Cambridge University's Veterinary School.
Professor Robin Franklin, a regeneration biologist at the Wellcome Trust-MRC Stem Cell Institute and report co-author, said: 'Our findings are extremely exciting because they show for the first time that transplanting these types of cell into a severely damaged spinal cord can bring about significant improvement.
"We're confident that the technique might be able to restore at least a small amount of movement in human patients with spinal cord injuries but that's a long way from saying they might be able to regain all lost function. '
Prof Franklin said the procedure might be used alongside drug treatments to promote nerve fibre regeneration and bioengineering to substitute damaged neural networks.
The researchers say the transplanted cells regenerated nerve fibres across the damaged region of the spinal cord. This enabled the dogs to regain the use of their back legs and coordinate movement with their front limbs.
The new nerve connections did not occur over the long distances required to connect the brain to the spinal cord. The MRC scientists say in humans this would be vital for spinal injury patients who had lost sexual function and bowel and bladder control.
Prof Geoffrey Raisman, chair of Neural Regeneration at University College London, who discovered olfactory ensheathing cells in 1985 said: "This is not a cure for spinal cord injury in humans - that could still be a long way off. But this is the most encouraging advance for some years and is a significant step on the road towards it."
He said the clinical benefits were still limited: "This procedure has enabled an injured dog to step with its hind legs, but the much harder range of higher functions lost in spinal cord injury - hand function, bladder function, temperature regulation, for example - are yet more complicated and still a long way away."
Jasper, a 10-year-old dachshund, is one of the dogs which took part in the trial.
His owner May Hay told me: "Before the treatment we used to have to wheel Jasper round on a trolley because his back legs were useless. Now he whizzes around the house and garden and is able to keep up with the other dogs. It's wonderful."
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Little Dazzle (mentioned below) was our first Dachshund ever, with a back problem in 30 years.
We do have a little Beagle "Bijou" with a back problem, though, and her story is told below. The other stories below are of folks who have our puppies, but also have other Dachshunds (from other breeders) who have back problems; and stories from approved applicants who will be getting a puppy in the future from us, but who currently have Dachshunds with a back problems.
I think it's important for each dog's story to be told, not just to give hope to folks whose own Dachshunds are having back problems; but each and every one of these little dogs (and their owners) deserves a medal for their stoicism and compassion.
Back problems are FAR from understood completely, and the more knowledge we can share about them, the better it will be for all Dachshunds - and their owners.
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by Jan Harris
Bijou is our beloved little rescue Beagle. She came to our family when she was a mere 5 weeks old, and she was a very, very, sick little girl. She was suffering from malnutrition, coccidia, pneumonia and had a heart defect - and she later developed epilepsy. As of this note, though, she is a healthy and happy 8-year-old girl and my love and constant companion.
When she was about 4 years old, our large lab inadvertently ran over her (Bijou was sniffing around in the large cattails surrounding our pond and Rufus didn't see her). She was knocked to the ground and when she got up - she began walking but her back legs were very wobbly.
We rushed her to the vet and the vet said there didn't appear to be any real damage from the accident, although the xray DID show a calcified disc in her back - and said the jarring from the accident could have affected it.
The vet put her on pain meds, steroids and muscle relaxers, and after a few weeks, she was back to normal - and never had another back issue until she was 8 years old.
I never saw what caused the second episode, I was right with her when she was fine, and then suddenly her body movement became stiff and she showed pain. I immediately started her on Rimadyl and Torb because I had them handy. After a couple days - she was no worse, but definitely not better - so I took her to the vet (which is what I should have done in the first place).
The vet confirmed the diagnosis and immediately put her on Prednisone and a muscle-relaxer (while continuing the torb). The vet wanted to give her an injection of Dexamethasone, which would have been fine for any other dog - but Bijou had been so abused when she was a puppy (her neck had a horrible large knot in it that took months to go away - from a puppy shot which had been given extremely painfully right into the neck) that she absolutely freaks and can go into seizures if a vet tries to give an injection; so we opted for Prednisone tablets instead.
The very next day she was slightly better, and it's been 5 days now and she seems almost back to normal. It's difficult to keep her from racing around and playing, she feels so good. I can tell from the position of her tail that there is still a little something off - her tail is not carried as high as it normally is. So of course, she will continue to be given the full course of medications; but we expect a complete recovery.
Update - Little Bijou is back 100%, racing around the house and playing with the Dachshunds in the yard like nothing happened.
My stupidity of not getting her immediately to the vet and onto proper medications, thankfully seems not to have caused her permanent injury. But it was a good lesson. You don't fool around with a spinal problem - because it can SO easily turn into a horrifying scenario of pain, paralysis and possibly death. By the same token, you (as the owner) HAVE to be knowledgeable about the problem and be able to discuss (and debate, if necessary) the proper treatment with a veterinarian.
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September 5, 2012, we experienced our very first back problem with a Dachshund. After having Dachshunds for over 30 years with never one back problem, it came out of the blue. The Dachshund, little Dazzle, had had an exemplary life. Although blind and deaf from birth, she came to us at 8 weeks of age and her story is told on her own page (Dazzle - A Special Dachshund), and was a perfectly healthy and happy little girl.
Ironically, she is the ONE Dachshund we've ever had who never jumped up onto, or down from, furniture. She had always been picked up correctly, never lived in a house with stairs, etc. It happened completely out of the blue, she was fine one minute and then in pain the next.
The vet's xrays showed some calcification of the vertebra in the center of the back - identical to the diagnosis of our Beagle Bijou (story below), and Dazzle was put on exactly the right injections and medications. However, unlike Bijou, she began deteriorating rapidly and pain medication was quickly becoming less and less effective - until it was no longer effective at all - no matter how much was given.
Day 1 – sudden excrutiating pain, tense body, tight tummy
Day 2 – wobbling badly on back legs, pain meds less and less effective
Day 3 – could not walk at all, very slight pain response to back legs, pain medications not effective at all – no matter what was given, how much, or how often.
On Day 3, September 7th, we brought her to the vet and said goodbye.
I have since heard from other Dachshund owners who knew of Dachshunds which came down with sudden and severe back problem, and so excruciating that not even morphine injections were helping.
Were the "calcium deposits" Dazzle's actual problem? If so, how were they different than Bijou's calcium deposits? We don't know.
We only know that we now have had first-hand experience with a Dachshund back problem - and I pray that we will never have another.
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This is our second experience with a back problem in Dachshunds, our third experience overall (first was with our Beagle, Bijou). Unlike poor little Dazzle, however, this episode was mild.
14 May - Heard yelp in backyard where Doxies were playing and racing around; not uncommon when our Doxies are racing around and playing in the back yard. Examined all the dogs, but none appeared hurt at all.
15 May - Sparky was trembling, her tummy was tight and her back was hunched. No other symptoms. Unsure if it was actually her tummy or her back, I gave her both Rimadyl (analgesic & anti-inflammatory), and yogurt and antacid.
15 May - evening - Sparky was a bit wobbly on her back legs.
16 May - morning - Took her to the vet who did xrays and diagnosed compressed discs (same as Bijou, same as Dazzle). Now her back legs were pretty much limp, though the vet said she still had deep pain sensation. The vet suggested a shot of dexamethasone (steroid, 2 mg), prednisone tablets (steroid, 5 mg, once per day), methocarbamol tablets (muscle relaxer, 125 mg twice a day) and torbutrol tablets (narcotic pain reliever, 2 1/2 mg, twice a day or as needed). I asked about adding gabapentin (commonly used to treat neuropathic pain), and the vet was not sure it was appropropriate; but suggested that I try the other meds first, and we could always add it in a week's time. He wanted to see her in a week.
17 May - her back legs seemed stronger.
18 May - standing by herself and taking a couple steps
22 May - excellent progress walking and even trotting.
23 May - re-visited the vet and she trotted across the floor for him. He was delighted. He suggested another shot of dex (2 mg), and to continue the pred and methocarbamol - and to decrease when and as I saw fit - but said he didn't need to see her again if she continued improving.
25 May - running when I take her outside to go potty, though I try to prevent her from doing so. Continuing with the pred once a day, cutting down the methocarbamol to once a day and she doesn't seem to need torb anymore.
28 May - continuing to improve though does not have 100% control of back legs yet.
I know that vets advocate "crating" for Doxies with a back problem, but I strongly disagree. Of course the Dachshund needs to be prevented from moving around too much - but a crate can actually aggrivate the problem. There is a better alternative.
Here is why a crate is bad:
1) If a Dachshund has never been confined to a crate- it can be an awful experience - adding to the trauma of pain and paralysis. Even worse if the dog has been confined to a crate for either punishment or sleeping by himself at night. He will not understand why he is being isolated and will be stressed.
2) If a dog is having difficulty moving around, in a small crate the simple act of turning to a more comfortable position, or to lay on the other side, can cause problems if the dog is confined in a small space and must hunch up to turn around.
3) Being on a steroid, your dog is going to drink more because steroids make a dog thirsty, and he is also going to therefore need to urinate more. A crate is too confined to contain newspapers/pee pads; and the dog might need to urinate quickly, before you even get a chance to get him out. It can be VERY distressing for a dog to HAVE to urinate on his own bed.
4) It is MUCH more difficult to properly handle a dog in a crate. IF the dog needs assistance just to stand, or to be encouraged to come out of a crate (to be taken out potty, for instance) - you will have to get down, bend over, reach into the crate's opening and haul the dog out by PULLING the dog towards you which can possibly further injure the spine.
USE AN EXERCISE PEN - such as the foldable Midwest x-pens (pictured on Waggin' Tails Amazon store).
An exercise pen, folded down into a smaller area (the size of a large crate), will limit excessive movement by the dog, BUT will also give the dog plenty of room to turn around and make himself comfortable, AND you can easily bend over the pen, and lift the dog straight up (with hands beneath chest and hindquarters, keeping the spine straight) - without any pressure put onto the spine at all.
Little Sparky has been on "x-pen rest" since the beginning, and will continue to be until we feel she is fully recovered. At first, of course, she will have limited (and chaperoned) time among the other Dachshunds. She has plenty of toys, chews, water and kibble as well as soft bedding in the x-pen, and newspapers in case she has to pee or poo quickly; although Sparky is taken out whenever she asks to be; I carry her carefully to the front yard so she can get a little sunshine and fresh air and go potty. Then back to her x-pen.
No matter WHERE you confine your Doxie, be absolutely SURE to have a non-slip surface. On the bottom of the exercise pens, outside of the bed, I placed a sheet blanket, so Sparky would have secure footing. This is most important.
An additional something I noticed. It's not enough to know WHICH medications should be given, but the DOSAGE of those medications. Just for the heck of it, I compared the medications that were prescribed for Dazzle (by another vet at the same clinic), and that vet prescribed HALF the dose of prednisone that Sparky's vet prescribed. (Sparky and Dazzle weighed the same) Dazzle was only being given 2 1/2 mg per day. Would it have made a difference to her outcome? I don't know. But I DO know that I'm going to insist on 5 mg of Pred for a Dachshund with back problems (weighing 12 - 14 lbs) - and not accept anything less.
Of course, administering a steroid everyday can be hard on a dog's digestive system. I make sure that every dog who is given prednisone is on an extremely easy-to-digest diet of chicken and rice (along with a dish of dry kibble, if the dog wants), and that the pred is given AFTER the meal of chicken and rice. Also along with the pred, the dog is given several spoonfuls of yogurt, which is also given midday and in the evening. And I have a bottle of antacid, along with vanilla ice cream if the dog's tummy appears to be upset.
I'm NOT saying that ALL Dachshunds with back problems should be treated like the above, I'm only relating my own personal experiences and feelings. I have heard from several vets that there does seem to be different "kinds" of back problems - some experience little pain and eventually (weeks or months) do very well. Others seem to experience horrific pain, and often those do not do as well.
I feel that Sparky was like Bijou (who had accidently gotten run over by Rufus), and whose vet said that the sudden jarring on the calcified discs caused a temporary problem.
I'm also wondering if "normal" dogs (or Dachshunds) were xrayed and if they would show calcified discs but experience no problem at all? That in some cases, it's just a sudden jarring of an already calcified disc (or discs) that cause a problem? Christine, owner of Peanut (whose story is below), told me that her vet said dogs can have calcified discs and never have a back problem.
So why do some with calcified discs have a back problem, and others not? Who knows? All we can do is try the best we can, be honest about everything, and learn, learn learn.
by Katrina Bailey
I got Barney from a breeder [........]. I would call it more of a puppy mill operation than a breeder. There were lots and lots of doxies, all caged outside (that gives me chills thinking about it now).
When Barney was 6, he started acting really strange, like he was very scared. He hid under the furniture, he shook, he wouldn't come to me when I called him, and he just looked really scared. I knew something was wrong with him, but didn't have any idea what it would be. I took him to our local vet, and they did x-rays. He said that it appeared to be a compressed vertebra, and he didn't know of any treatment besides surgery. He suggested that I take him to the emergency clinic in Columbus.
We left that appointment with our x-rays and headed straight to Columbus. They agreed with the diagnosis of a vertebra issue and explained that surgery may be our only option. I don't remember all of the details of the surgery except that I'd have to leave Barney there for several days, he could have permanent nerve damage, and it wasn't a guaranteed fix to the problem. I asked them if there was any other treatment we could try, and the vet suggested pain pills combined with bed rest.
I wish now that I knew more at that time how important it was to reduce all strain to Barney's neck, even after he healed. We took him home and didn't let him jump or climb any stairs. At that time, we purchased additional stairs so that there would be no jumping hazard for Barney.
He didn't have anymore problems until March 2009. He had the same symptoms of hiding under the furniture, shaking, and acting scared. Our vet was closed since it was on a Sunday, so he advised me to take Barney to the emergency clinic in Dayton.
That vet did x-rays again and came up with the same diagnosis as last time. Along with the x-rays, he also diagnosed Barney by his symptoms. He had me get up and walk to the other side of the room and call Barney. Barney came to me, but he wouldn't look up at me. The vet said that this was a symptom that it hurt Barney when he lifted his head.
After he told me that, it did occur to me that Barney held his head lower than he usually does. The vet advised that the only way to be 100% sure of what was wrong with Barney would be to take him to OSU and get a MRI done. He didn't feel that it was necessary since his symptoms were the same as his last injury. He prescribed the same care as last time - Pain meds and bed rest. He again advised against stairs.
On the way home, it occurred to me that maybe the stairs were too much on Barney, even when he wasn't having any problems. Since he didn't jump anywhere, maybe the steps were what caused his problem this time.
We took him home, did the bed rest and pain meds, and he's since gotten better again. I honestly think the steps were hurting Barney.
Since we've had the ramps installed, he uses them all the time and avoids the stairs completely. He never needed to be trained, or even encouraged, to use the ramps; he immediately used them and seems relieved that they are there.
Looking back, I wish I would have had the ramps installed a long time ago and didn't put Barney through the strain of the stairs. I also like knowing as the dogs age, the ramps should be a lot easier on them.
The ramps have two qualities that I think are important: A very gradual slope, and side-rails to protect them from falling over the side. The bedroom ramp is the tallest at 32", and it has an 18" platform that gives the dogs some security from transitioning from the bed to the slope of the ramp. They have definitely been the best investment that we could have ever made for the boys.
[Please see the page "Dachshund Ramps"]
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By Debbi Pace
Back in 2001, I was preparing to move into a new house I had just closed on. My Mom was in the kitchen getting ready to give Dominoe, my just turned 4-year-old mini Dachshund, her morning treat. I heard my Mom's panicked scream for me and I came running.
Dominoe's back legs had just given out on her, and as much as she tried to stand, was unable. Her back problem was sudden and immediate. No warning. And it might have been the result from jumping down from something., but we don't know for sure.
Mom placed a call to the vet's, while I gently cradled my baby in my arms, wrapped her in her favorite blanket, and raced her to the doctor.
Not only were they expecting me, they immediately took me to the exam room, whereby the doctor came in and kissed her on the nose and told her we would take care of her. She did a low tentative wag which he said was a good sign. He suspected immediately a ruptured disc**, but checked for paralysis too, by pinching a back toe. She did respond, which again was a good sign.
**A ruptured disc pressing on a nerve is VERY serious indeed, and if not treated surgically (since she already couldn't walk) would have resulted in permanent paralysis. But thankfully because we reacted so quickly, and she was still able to wag her tail and feel her toe, the prognosis for complete recovery was excellent. The doctor explained to me that as the puppy matures, her back bones become more stationary and brittle, and the disc cushioning and space between vertebrae less flexible. Sometimes in just normal running and playing, if they haven't been bred well, can result in damage or rupture. The doctor never said IVDD. In fact, when I read that on your site I had to look it up!! He did tell me that if she had shown trouble prior, then yes, they would have started with steroids, confinement, etc, which usually helps if kept up for 4-6 weeks.
He also said her spine was quite compressed. More so than "normal". Which I guess is why she ruptured 2 more later on.
He told me to rush her to Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialists** and who to see there. They placed the call so PVS would be expecting me. My doc told me they were the best to take care of her.
**PVS (Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialists) is not that far from Ohio, They are off Camp Horne Rd now, right off the 279 exit. They are renowned for their excellence, especially critical difficult cases. They treat cancer, too. I was surprised by the number of older doggies coming fro NY and beyond to be treated at their clinic. Mommies and Daddies traveling 3+ hours to be seen at PVS.
I made it the 25 miles in record time. And here again Dominoe was treated with utmost care and another nose kiss, to which she responded with another tentative low wag. He told me they were going to do a myelogram, by which they do a scan to determine the site and the extent of her damage, and to pinpoint the spot.
Sure enough, she had ruptured a disc which was then pressing on a nerve, making it impossible for her to stand. Luckily we got to it in time. She was rushed into surgery and spent 2 nights in the hospital. They called me every 3 hours, even through the night, to let me know how she was. I was back the next morning to spend time with her, so she knew I hadn't abandoned her. I spent most of the day with her, and was able to take her home the following morning.
They sent her home with narcotic pain meds; if memory serves, it was a ten day supply. He had me back in the office 5 days after surgery to examine her progress, and again a month after that.
They also gave me a "sling" to hold up her belly when I took her out to do her business, and within 2 weeks, she was much better. This sling went around her middle with long handles so I could help support her. But really, I didn't need it for very long before she was supporting herself, wagging and being all kinds of happy again.
The bad news? She ruptured 2 more discs over the course of the next 4 years.
The other 2 surgeries were in different areas of her spine. And again, although the paralysis was sudden, she regained full function.
And the last surgery, when they called me with an update at night, the said she hadn't eaten at all. I rushed out there, got there at about 6 am, and they brought her to me in an exam room. She had the Elizabethan collar on, looked so pitiful! But the second she saw me, she started wagging!! She couldn't stand, but she could sit. They put her food bowl in front of her and she gobbled every bite!! I stayed with her most of that day, not even feeding myself. I was able to take her home around 7 pm that night, with her meds and stuff, since the doc saw how well she responded to my presence and love.
Her recovery time took longer because she was older. Not horribly so, but with the first episode, she was walking again within 3 days. With the last episode I was helping her with the sling for a full week. At least after that first episode I knew what to do.
Currently she has arthritis, so is moving slow. The left side back is weaker than the right, but he (Dr Miatich at HV) chose the Tramadol rather than steroids now because the steroids make her drink more and pee more, not to mention the weight gain, which we didn't want to add to! She's a bit overweight in her dotage, if u know what I mean.
She is now 15 and a half years old. And still wagging that little black tail of hers! Only now it is laced with grey. She is a beloved member of the family and reliving this story brings tears to my eyes. I so don't want to lose her .... I'm just worried and don't wish her any undue suffering just so I have her longer. But she still smiles and wags and still has her appetite.
Sep. 28, 2012. It was time for sweet Dominoe to be helped across the Rainbow Bridge this morning. Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with her family. RIP little Dominoe.
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by Christine Edwards
My experience with IVDD started 4 months ago. I got up at 4 am, did my usual routine and took Pixie and Peanut outside to go potty. Everything went fine and I took them back up to bed with my husband and went to work.
My Husband called me about 45 minutes later saying that Peanut was acting funny, trembling and grunting and holding her stomach tight.
I went home immediately and we got her into the vet by 8 am.
They sedated her and took x-rays and found she had a calcified disc in the middle of her back. She was still walking at that point so they suggested crate rest and meds. They put her on prednisone, gabapentin,tramadol and a muscle relaxer.
Over the next three weeks, Peanut continued to deteriorate until she could no longer move her back legs and had no deep pain sensation.
The vet said surgery would cost about $4000 dollars and had a 65% sucess rate. We could not afford surgery so they said to buy her a wheelchair and that she would probably lose bowel control.
We were devastated because we had done everything right. She was not fat, she exercised and had NEVER jumped down from anything her whole life.
I have many friends with cart dogs and they suggested Dodger's list. I read that dogs on conservative therapy should have 8 weeks of crate rest - Peanut had 3 weeks. We decided to continue her crate rest and meds for the full eight weeks.
Peanut hates to be out of our sight and we had never locked her in a crate. When we did finally find the door to her crate and put her in, she whined and jumped around. We didn't want to stress her so we took one of her dog beds, put a board under the pillow and made her stay in the bed.
Being the stubborn little stinker that she is, she would constantly hang one paw outside the bed and we would say "Get back in that bed, Miss Bossy Boots". I ended up getting a dog stroller which worked great because we could wheel her from room to room. The key is to keep them still - no running or jumping. It was easy for us as we have no children and our house is quiet. I also suggest disconnecting your door bell to keep your dog from getting excited and running to the door.
Day 1 - pain and tight stomach-put on meds that same day
Day 8 - walk became wobbly, she would stop and sit every few feet
Day 15 - right leg started knuckling, she would right it but it would take about 20 seconds before she noticed it, still had deep pain sensation
Day 18 - left leg began knuckling, had to support her with a towel, tail wagging, was spastic
Day 20 - completely down, slight pain sensation then about 3 days later
couldn't feel anything in her legs and her tail stopped wagging
Deep pain sensation- pinch her toes if she looks back, she can still feel.
My vet said if you pinch her toes and she pulls her leg back that is not a
reliable test as it could just be reflexes. The vet took forceps and
pinched peanut's toes and she didn't react at all! The vet said they look
for a whimper or the dog looking back at the leg.
We had seen no sign of improvement after six weeks and were starting to look online for a cart. But at the beginning of the 7th week, I went to pick her up and I swore she had used a back leg to help her sit up!
Within a couple of days, she was standing with the help of a towel. Within a couple more weeks, she was walking and pooping without assistance.
Today, she walks with a slight wobble every now and then but we are happy with that.
We now have ramps instead of steps.
The worst part of the whole experience was the day she could no longer wag her tail. James and I cried because Peanut Wigglebutt wagged her tail CONSTANTLY. We felt so sorry for her but then realized that she never felt sorry for herself. Dogs live in the moment.
Peanut would still try to do all her favorite things and when she couldn't, she would look at her butt and then look at me as if to say "Why doesn't my butt work, Momma?" Even if she did end up paralyzed, Peanut would have been happy in a cart. If Peanut was willing to fight, I was willing to fight right along side her!
At 10 weeks, we took her into the vet for a checkup. The doctor examined her on the table, checked her reflexes and then put her on the floor. Peanut looked back at the vet and then proceeded to walk out the door, down the hall and out the front door!
BEST DAY EVER!!!!
Update - Peanut is doing well. She is almost weaned off of all her pain meds and her prednisone is now down to a half a pill every other day. I think she will always walk with a slight wobble but that is fine with me. She actually did her "balance beam" yesterday. We have these 4 inch wide wood beams around our flower beds. Peanut walked a good 4 feet without slipping off.(they are only about 2 inches off the ground).
Several months later - I just received this email: "Peanut has recovered 100%! Ever since she recovered, she seems to have more joy for life. She is more bouncy and actually initiates play more often! I have to keep her in check because she jets up and down her ramps like superdog if we don't watch her closely!"
[As a side note (from Jan) - very interesting that Bijou and Peanut had the SAME problem - a calcified disc near the center of the spine; obviously of different severity, yet Peanut's vet diagnosed IVDD (probably because she was a Dachshund) and Bijou's vet diagnosed the problem only as a calcified disc - NOT IVDD.]
Year later update!
Peanut weighed 12 lbs, and the dose for Gabapentin was 1000mg capsules, give 1/2 a capsule 2-3 times a day-I gave it 3 times a day the prednisone was 5 mg. 1/2 a pill every 12 hours for 5 days, then 1/2 a pill once a day for 5 days, then1/2 a pill every other day. Peanut wasn't walking when this first round was done so we continued the 1/2 pill twice a day for the next 6 weeks. The vet said she may have to stay on prednisone for the rest of her life. When she started walking, the vet told us we could start tapering down the dose, but if she started to show any signs of weakening, to continue the dose. Luckily, she continued to improve even after the last dose was administered! The vet told us to give her a half of an antacid before each dose of prednisone because it can cause stomach problems. It was a year ago May 23rd that Peanut went down. She hasn't had any problems so far!
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Perhaps one of the hardest jobs I have is trying to persuade people to become knowledgeable enough about medical issues in order to be able to make the best health care decisions for their beloved pets. So many seem to think that "the vet knows best," and indeed, many vets have that attitude, too. But after having to deal with numerous (and avoidable) fiascos which have been caused by veterinarians, I really put my foot down that our puppy owners be both knowlegeable about health care and willing to stand up to their vets if necessary.
The below is not just an example of WHY it's imperative to be willing and able to stand up to vets - but pertains to vets misdiagnosis of back problems.
Beware of vets who routinely jump at the diagnosis "It has to be a back problem" just because your Dachshund is exhibiting sudden pain and reluctance to move. I received this from Gracie's Mom, who also has another Dachshund named "Skipper":
Thought I'd drop you a quick note about my recent veterinary experiences with Skipper. He's fine now, thank goodness, but I took him to three veterinarians over the course of the past few weeks before finding out that the poor little guy had 16 bladder stones that needed to be removed!!! I've been worried sick that he had back problems, because that is what the first two veterinarians were telling me and, in all fairness, Skip seemed to have pain in his back. The kicker--he did not have a single xray done until the third veterinarian, even though I had asked number 2 to take one and would've been happy to pay for it. The vet didn't want to take the xray as he said he would be taking my money needlessly--that he was sure Skipper had a spinal problem.
So, I decided to go to a third practitioner who was willing to LISTEN to me!!!
Honestly, I really liked the first two veterinarians we saw and think they're probably good practitioners. But what I learned is how important it is to trust yourself and your own instincts when it comes to taking care of your pet's physical well-being.
I don't know whether this might help anyone else, but I wanted to share my experience.
Hope all is well with you!!
[Bladder stones are excrutiatingly painful - for dogs as well as humans. Because the first two vets thought they "knew best" poor Skipper suffered. Thank goodness Rhonda persevered and found a vet willing to listen, and that Skipper is okay now.]
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