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--Success Story--    



by Lisa Sullivan

My Goosie was diagnosed with IVDD a month shy of his fifth birthday. One evening in September 2008, I noticed he had rear leg incoordination, so I made a vet appointment and proceeded to do research about it on the internet. A member of another dachshund group told me it sounded like IVDD and suggested I join Dodger’s List. Thank goodness I did. I read all I could about the disease on the Dodger’s List site and got great support from its members. The next morning, the vet confirmed that Goosie had a mild case of IVDD. She prescribed crate rest, prednisone, and Pepcid AC.

Unfortunately, the next day, as I carefully took Goosie out of his crate, he started yelping loudly like never before. I noticed his rear legs immediately went limp. I put him on my bed, and when I tried to console him, my sweet angel turned around and bit my left ring finger, right through the nail bed. It was clear that he was in agonizing pain. It was a Sunday evening, and our vet was closed, so we rushed him to the nearest veterinary hospital (thanks to my cousin for driving—I was too upset).

At the emergency hospital, I begged them to give Goosie pain medication immediately, which they did. In a few moments, the vet who had examined Goosie came into the waiting room and explained that Goosie was completely paralyzed in his rear legs with no bladder control and no deep pain sensation. Quite hysterical by this point, I asked her what my options were, and she said I could either take him home and put him on medications, possibly forever, or I could euthanize him. I asked about surgery, and she said that because he had no deep pain sensation, surgery was not an option for him. This confused me because I had read on Dodger’s List that a paralyzed dog still has a good chance to recover from paralysis if surgery is performed within 12 hours from the loss of deep pain sensation. Since Goosie was able to walk 45 minutes before, I asked the vet for a second opinion from a surgeon. She agreed and contacted their on-call orthopedic surgeon. A few minutes later, the vet returned in a more positive mood, and said the surgeon had given Goosie better odds of walking again with surgery, up to a 50 percent chance, if they operated immediately. She also said those magic words—that the surgery would eliminate Goosie’s pain. That was what sold my husband and me. As long as Goosie could be pain free, anything he might regain on top of that would be a bonus. Euthanization was not an option in our book. A myelogram and the surgery were performed three hours later.

At midnight, the surgeon called and said the surgery had gone well, that only one disc was involved, but that he had taken out a lot of herniated disc matter. He said the rest of Goosie’s spinal cord looked pretty good. Four days later, I took my Goosie home, with his “Frankendog” stitched-up back and no bladder control, to give him all the love and care that he needed. I put him in a small, open-air playpen for six weeks of crate rest. His sister, Maple, was so very glad to see him.

The first two weeks were the hardest. The trauma of surgery and the pain medication made Goosie a bit out of it and gave him a rapid heartbeat. With the help of Dodger’s List, I learned to express his bladder correctly. However, he constantly dribbled urine between expressions due to nerve injury. He developed a rash on his abdomen, which required another trip to the vet, ointment and antibiotics. We were allowed to sling walk him on pee breaks only, and were to do passive modalities on his rear legs several times a day. We started acupuncture a week after he came home. It really relaxed him and stimulated his nerves.

The first bright light happened two and a half weeks after Goosie’s surgery, on my fortieth birthday, I took him outside in his sling, asked him to go “pee pee,” and bless his heart, he did! I held his rear legs for him while he went, as I cried with joy and thanked him for the best birthday present I had ever received.Goosie’s personality returned in full force after he got his stitches removed. I started him on water therapy at home that same day. We also tried laser therapy at home and long-distance healing. Goosie did not regain distinct deep pain sensation for several months, and his left foot regained it before his right. Goosie’s recovery was a very slow process, full of questions to my friends at Dodger’s List about reflexes, diet changes, supplements, physical therapy, water therapy, tail wagging, carts, and a million other things. He eventually wagged his tail from excitement when his Daddy came home from work one day. More tears from Mommy. The tail wagging has continued ever since. It’s not as fast as it used to be, but it’s still there. About 10 weeks after his surgery, we took Goosie to Eddie’s Wheels and had him custom fitted for his very own wheelcart.

Goosie made small gains as the months went by. He started to try to scratch himself with his rear legs and was able to lift them off the ground an inch or two. He also stood up and took a couple of wobbly steps in the snow. His vet said this was because the icy cold snow stimulated his nerves and reflexes. By spring, Goosie had got used to his wheelcart, and it gave him freedom to go almost anywhere he wished. We noticed, about six months after his surgery, that he could slightly lift his rear legs in tiny walking motions while he was in his cart.

I discovered that Goosie could “walk” quite by accident. We were outside in August of 2009, and he had managed to wriggle out of his cart. I went over and disentangled him from the cart and placed him on the ground. He then pulled himself up on all fours and took some wobbly steps on the grass! For the next eight days, I put Goosie into our pool with his life vest on and did swimming therapy with him. It greatly improved his leg strength, and I could see all four legs “swimming” in the pool as he swam after one of his favorite prey - frogs! I now let him walk outside on the grass on his own. I stay next to him and have my hand ready to catch him in case he wobbles over. He continues to improve, but still has trouble walking on slippery surfaces such as hardwood floors.

Autumn is upon us once again—it has been one year since Goosie’s surgery. He is now able to walk about 30 feet on the grass on his own without falling. It is a somewhat drunken walk at times, but he’s doing it! This boy is never going to give up, and neither will we.

As far as his quality of life, he never stopped enjoying all of the same activities as before his injury, such as trying to eat the cat, hunting for frogs, terrorizing chipmunks, and playing with his sister, Maple. He simply did them with the aid of his cart and supervision. He also enjoys new activities, especially for him—my mother got him a pet stroller last Christmas, and he loves it! When he tires from walking, I tuck him safely and snugly into his stroller where he continues to actively monitor his surroundings with his twitching nose. He even allows his sister to ride in his stroller with him.

Nerve regeneration and muscle rebuilding can take a long time in some IVDD dogs - Goosie is a classic example of that. All I ever wanted for Goosie was for him to be happy and pain free. He is both of those and more. He has a healthy new diet, lots of attention, his freedom, and his family. What more could a little guy want? I’m so glad that this little fellow is still with me, charming me with his beautiful expressions, adorable behavior, and love.

IVDD scared the daylights out of me, but I’m ready for it if it strikes again. I’m stronger now, and much more knowledgeable with great vets, friends, family, and Dodger’s List as my guide. And Goosie, the brave, handsome, polka-dotted love of my life, is doing just fine. All he needed was a chance.

Update Jan 2010!! At 16 months post-surgery, Goosie continues to gain ground. As his muscles rebuild, he is getting better at cornering and pivoting. He is now able to walk on concrete and rarely falls when walking on grass. He has even improved at walking on our slippery wood floors! He still cannot scratch himself or climb stairs -- but that’s what mommies and daddies are for! We deeply thank his surgeon, Dr. William B. Henry and his holistic vet, Dr. Mark E. Russo, both of Massachusetts, for their wonderful care of Goosie. We also thank Dodger’s List for their undying support and advice. Bless you all.

September 2009