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Story of the Month - July 2003    



Donut was first treated for what appeared to be nothing more than a stiff neck in November, 2001 (his first episode). Following his third disc episode which started sometime after Christmas, Donut had emergency disc surgery at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, Massachusetts, on Jan 8, 2003. The symptoms during his third episode moved through a progressive loss of mobility over a period of 10 days.
At first Donut was still walking normally, but he stopped trotting and bouncing up and down at dinner time. He also stopped barking altogether (a sure sign something was wrong) and he started shivering a lot. Knowing he was in trouble, I took him to my local vet. Having been through two somewhat similar episodes before, Donut got a steroid shot, a 10-day supply of rimadyl, and was put on strict crate rest (a steroid shot had Donut back to normal after his second flare-up).

Five days after the steroid shot, Donut was still walking for brief bathroom breaks outside, but he tended to freeze in a standing position when placed in his crate. He also refused to eat dinner unless it was offered to him while lying down on my lap. These symptoms were severe and looking back on it, I don't know why I didn't react with more alarm when we got to this stage. I think I was still hoping another day of crate rest might be enough.

On January 5 Donut's rear legs started to get wobbly and I started to search for a neurologist.
NOTE: No one should ever wait this long to start looking for a disc disease specialist!!!

Donut was taken to Tufts on January 7 where he was scheduled for surgery the next day. A preliminary exam showed that he could still walk (with some foot dragging) and his motor responses were still very good. So those were good signs. On the other hand, a CT scan revealed two ruptured discs, one between the 4th & 5th vertebrae and one between the 12th and 13th. Dr. Jackie Mair performed surgery on January 8 and removed the extrusions from both sites. After the operation, she reported that all went well. However, she was concerned that his spinal cord would swell up as a result of the procedure. During surgery the extent of his injuries became clear - one of his ruptured discs had extremely large extrusions and had been putting a lot of pressure on his spinal cord. Given the extent of his injuries, Dr. Mair said she was surprised that Donut was walking at all.

The next morning, on January 9, the technicians at Tufts were happy to report that Donut was on his feet and moving about as well as could be expected (with the help of some hefty pain meds).

I am very grateful to all the folks at Tufts for their expertise and wonderful emergency room facilities. Donut, like most dachshunds, is a very stoic creature, who is not inclined to complain or make a big fuss when things aren't right. I suspect he was in a great deal of pain for more than a few days and I feel badly that I didn't get him the help he needed sooner. Donut waited faithfully and patiently, undoubtedly convinced that it was well within my power to make everything right again.

I know we aren't home free. Donut will always be at risk from disc disease, no matter how much crate rest he gets, and no matter how hard our whole family works to keep him from jumping onto the couch (that's the hardest one). But that's ok. We just want him to come home now so he can curl up under a blanket and feel safe again.
- submitted by Wendy


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