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Story of the Month - July 2004    



Phineas is a 7 year old miniature honey brown merle dachshund. His back problem that led to the surgery began in early March of this year. His symptoms were just pain in his back area. He never became paralyzed which we are very grateful for. But he was in intense pain. When he went out to do his business he walked with his back hunched up and it was obvious he was in pain when he would do his business. Inside he stayed in a small bed we bought for him all of the time. He self crated himself even though he wasn’t in a crate technically but he felt so miserable that he would go straight for the bed and stay there except to eat and go out. He never once cried out but made stoic, little grunting sounds which I came to recognize as his verbal pain indicator. I remember that on mornings when he wouldn’t make those noises I would get hopeful that perhaps he was getting better but that never lasted long. We would crate him at night in his small crate and we moved the crate into our bedroom so we could monitor him.

During the weeks after the onset of his pain and prior to his being referred for surgery he was seen by our local vets several times and they prescribed the usual round of medications. He was on Deramaxx, had two Adequan injections, had a steroid injection, then was given predisone, Robaxin and finally they prescribed Turbutrol. Believe it or not during this time of going back and forth to the vets he had his teeth cleaned! They decided to go ahead and do it and at the same time take regular x-rays of his back. He did great with the teeth cleaning procedure and my one consolation at that point was that because of being out for the teeth cleaning at least he would have a period of time without consciously being in pain. Pretty sad I know but we were so emotionally wiped out at that point.

The regular x-rays did not show much so it was decided to refer him the Veterinary Referral Associates in Gaithersburg MD for further examination and for a myleogram. We took him on Sunday April 18 and they admitted him. On the 20th after observing him and trying him on some high powered pain meds which he did not respond to, they did the myleogram which showed “ventral spinal cord compression at T12-13”. At that time then a “right sided hemilaminectomy was performed and a moderate amount of disc material was removed. This disc space was fenestrated.” The surgery was performed by the orthopedic surgeon and the myleogram was performed by his neurologist. Both doctors were very communicative and relieved out concerns. Once we had dropped Phineas off we did not see him until he was discharged. This was not easy for us but it was necessary due to the distance away from our home and our work schedules. But we kept in contact with the center and were relieved to know that Phineas was making steady progress and had responded well to the surgery.

We were allowed to bring him home a week later complete with staples and a five inch long incision. We kept him crated 24/7 in a large crate for two weeks and then returned to the center to have his stitches removed a bit earlier than planned. It looked as if he was developing a rejection reaction to them so we took him back for an exam. Turns out there was no problem but they took his staples out anyway since the incision was healed well. We then took him back one more time to be seen by his neurologist for his post surgery exam. At that time she discharged him and instructed us to keep him in his crate most of the time until June 10th. He was allowed to get out for short periods but his activity was to be closely monitored. Soon though, he showed signs of depression so gradually he spent more time out of his crate but to this day he prefers to sleep in the large crate we have set up for him in the living room. He has gotten attached to the little bed in the crate and requests to be in the crate. His favorite hang out is the kitchen and I know he missed that room while he was crated so he is my happy little assistant again in the kitchen. His appetite has become voracious so we are rationing his food as we do not want him to gain weight. We do not allow him to do stairs although he has gone up and down 4 stairs recently on two occasions as he knows I am not able to keep up with him due to my knee surgery I just recently had. He cannot physically jump onto furniture and even though he occasionally stands by the sofa and looks longingly up we firmly say “NO—go to the bed.” He does that and seems happy to settle into the bed instead. We also have a standard black doxie who has been very good with Phineas throughout the whole ordeal, but he does like hog the other bed that we have out on the floor at times. That’s when Phineas decides he wants to be in his crate. We are discouraging wrestling but Phineas is allowed to run and is encouraged now to be fairly active. He hasn’t taken a walk yet—we are waiting to do that until we get him a new harness. He is off all meds except two supplements—Ester C and Glyco Flex. He is back to being his happy, bouncy self and yet he also seems to prefer to be quiet. His incision is healed beautifully and his back hair is growing back nicely so his nickname “Phankenweenie” given to him when he came home initially from the surgery by our daughter no longer applies!

We are grateful to the care we received both with our local vets at Best Friends Animal Hospital, Chambersburg, PA, and to the doctors and nurses at the Veterinary Referral Associates in Gaithersburg MD. I also want to say a thank you to this group for the support and excellent information I received during this. There were days where I was worried and having this group and the information available was a blessing.
- submitted by Marty Randall

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