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Story of the Month - April 2004    



Scooby is a 3 ½ year old smooth hair, black and tan dachshund. Scooby’s back problems started in September 2003. I woke up one morning and Scooby was not acting like his usual self. He had gone to the bathroom in the house 4 times, which was very unusual, and he wouldn’t eat. I left for school, not thinking about the fact that the night before he had been whining, wouldn’t jump up into bed, and had been shaking. At the time, I didn’t know the symptoms of IVDD.

When I got home that afternoon, Scooby seemed to be limping. We had just moved to CA, didn’t have a new vet yet, and it was almost 5pm on a Friday night, so I called the closest vet I knew of and took him there. By the time I got there, Scooby was starting to drag his back legs, and by the time we left, his rear end was totally paralyzed. The vet explained what was happening, took x-rays, gave Scooby a shot of prednisone, and sent me home with a prescription of Prednisone, the x-rays, and a phone number for the nearest ER vet. She told me that if the steroids were going to work, Scooby would be at least 50% better by the morning, but if his condition deteriorated during the night, I should take him and the x-rays to the Pet Emergency.

I took Scooby home, and for the next two hours, he didn’t move. He just laid on the floor, with a look of horrible pain and confusion in his eyes. I called the ER vet, and they told me to bring him in. The vet explained that not all dogs require surgery to recover, but in his opinion, Scooby needed surgery. However, he told me that Scooby would need to be examined by a surgeon before I would know for sure if surgery was necessary. He told me he could call the surgeon on-call, from Veterinary Surgical Associates. The surgeon agreed that even though Scooby still had deep pain sensation, his paralysis was very acute, he had no bowel or bladder control, and he was unable to wag his tail, so surgery was the best option. But, he felt it would be better to do the surgery in the morning with a full surgical staff, so Scooby was admitted that night, treated with pain meds and steroids, and had surgery the next morning.

The surgery went much longer than anticipated - approximately 3 hours. There was a lot of disc material, and the surgery was very tedious, but Scooby made it through fine. I went to visit him later that evening, and I was not at all prepared for the state he was in. He was still coming out of the anesthesia and was on a lot of pain medication. His jaw was locked shut, his tongue was hanging out of his mouth, his eyes were glazed over, and he was whimpering and moaning a lot. I don’t even think he recognized me at first. I spent about 20 minutes with him, but he seemed to be getting more and more uncomfortable, so I asked them to make him comfortable before I left and was told I could take him home as soon as he regained bladder control. That night I called to check on him before I went to bed and was told he was doing much better. He was starting to move his legs on his own, and he was able to stand on his own after being lifted up. I was so relieved.

The next morning I called to check on him, and the vet I spoke with was concerned. He said Scooby was no longer moving his legs at all and couldn’t stand. I visited Scooby later in the evening, and his condition hadn’t improved, but he seemed to be feeling much better. He was so excited to see me, and trying so hard to scoot to the door to go home with me. By now it was Sunday night, and the surgeon was due in the next morning, so we both agreed Scooby should stay until she could re-evaluate him. Monday morning I spoke with Scooby’s new surgeon. She had spoken with the surgeon who did Scooby’s surgery, and they both agreed that something was not right. She wanted to do another myelogram on him, but only if I would agree to let her operate again if she found something. She didn’t want to put Scooby under needlessly, but felt he was strong enough to make it through another operation if necessary. I had already borrowed nearly $5,000 for the first surgery, and I didn’t think there was any way I could afford a second operation. There was no way my parents were going to loan me more money. They wanted me to put him to sleep at first, which was not an option. The surgeon suggested I come visit Scooby because seeing me might motivate him to move his legs – maybe he was just depressed. He was definitely happy to see me, but couldn’t move his legs at all, and of course, once I saw him I knew I had to do whatever I could to make him better. The surgeon told me about Care Credit, so I applied, and I was approved.

The surgeon did another myelogram, but she wasn’t able to tell what was going on for sure. She said Scooby’s spinal cord was extremely swollen, even more so than before his first surgery. She told me she’d like to do “exploratory surgery” so I told her to go ahead. Sure enough, Scooby had ruptured another disc, and this time, one of his nerves was entangled in the disc material, so she told me his right leg might be a little weaker, but she still expected him to fully recover. She cleaned out all the ruptured material, and as a result of a discussion we had regarding fenestration (which I learned about on Dodger’s List) she fenestrated as far down as the spinal cord was swollen. In the end, Scooby had surgery on discs L3, L4, L5, & L6.

Scooby stayed in the hospital a few more days, but finally came home after nearly a week. He still didn’t have bladder control, but the first few days I was able to express him. Then he became too difficult to express, so I had to have him catheterized three times a day for nearly two weeks. Scooby regained bladder control about three weeks after his surgeries. In the meantime, the first week Scooby was home he was on Prednisone, which tapered off after 5 days, Tagamet for his tummy, Torbugesic, and a Fentenyl patch. He slept in a play pen during the first week and stayed in it while I was at school. He seemed to know that he needed to be in there at first, but after about a week he refused to stay in it any longer, so I had to begin confining him to my very small bathroom. When I was home, I kept him right by my side, on the couch with me, in his bed, or in a laundry basket.

His recovery was a day to day process. Each day, he seemed to get stronger and would be able to do a little more. I would play with his tail, and I could feel him using his muscles to try to wrap it around my finger. I would take him out to sniff and try to go potty with his sling, and pretty soon he was able to take a few steps on his own. Then one day I saw him scratch his ear. The day he wagged his tail was so exciting! It was pretty crooked for quite some time, but is now back to normal. Within a couple of weeks, he could roll over, jump up on my legs when I walked in the door, walk, and even run! Once he was able to move well enough to get out of the way if I were to roll over on him, I let him start sleeping in bed with me again. His recovery was really much speedier than expected, and it wasn’t long before keeping him quiet became the most difficult task. As soon as he could do more again, he wanted to walk, run, play, etc. and didn’t quite understand why we had to take such short walks or why he was still stuck in the bathroom all day. After 6-7 weeks of confinement, I got the okay to let him out, and gradually, we began increasing our walks and his level of activity.

It has been just over 13 weeks since Scooby’s surgeries, and he is 95% back to his old self. He can no longer jump up on the couches or the bed, but that’s a good thing because I don’t have to worry about him getting hurt when I’m not home. He’s beginning to use the ramps a little more, and I’m hoping with time he will learn to use them regularly. The only other difference is that he can’t quite tell when he’s done peeing, so sometimes he leaves zig-zags down the sidewalk, but it’s really kind of cute.

Taking care of Scooby was difficult at first, but once we got a routine going, it was more time consuming than anything else. The worst part was the emotional roller coaster ride, and the nearly $9,000 in debt I’ve incurred, but it was worth every minute of heartache and every penny I spent. Scooby now has a long, happy life ahead of him, and I definitely don’t regret opting for surgery – twice.

If you are contemplating whether or not you can handle this ordeal, I promise you – you can! As a first year law student in her first semester, in a new state, all alone, it was not easy, and you shouldn’t expect it to be, either, but every time I look at Scooby I know I wouldn’t take back a thing. He never gave up the fight, and even when he couldn’t walk, he was still so happy just to be with me. You’ve found the right place for all the support and information you need to help you get through this, and when you do, you will be so glad you didn’t give up, and every time you look at your precious pup, you will get all the reward you need!

Dodgerslist would like to thank Dr. Elisabeth Richardson, DVM, Diplomate ACVS and Dr. Bill Szon, DVM, DACVIM in San Rafael, CA for helping Scooby to recover.

- submitted by Jami



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