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Story of the Month
July 2008


dachshundsThis is a story about my 5-year-old dachshund, Kaiser, a smooth red "tweenie" dachshund with a white blaze on his chest. Kaiser went lame in early February. We didn't know anything about IVDD prior to this unfortunate occurrence.

The Crisis

As I can see in hindsight, Kaiser began his troubles by not acting his usual self, declining to come up two steps to the kitchen. I thought he had a recurrence of an ACL strain in one knee, and gave him an anti-inflammatory he had left over from the knee problem. One evening, he began to walk wobbly. I wish I had known then what I know now. By bedtime, he was not using his hind legs at all. Still ignorant, we waited until morning to go to our local vet.

paralyzed dachshundsWe went to the vet first thing in the morning. He determined that Kaiser still had some deep pain sensation, and told us to get in the car and take him to the veterinary teaching hospital at the University of Missouri-Columbia. It was a four hour drive, and by the time we got there, they said he had no deep pain. Kaiser underwent surgery on February 8, 2008 for vertebrae T10 and T11. The vet said he had a fresh herniated disk, and one that was older and had calcified. She said his spinal cord looked very good, not melted or mushy. They kept him at the veterinary teaching hospital for two weeks. I can't say enough good things about the teaching hospital at Missouri-Columbia. They were truly wonderful and caring people there, and they called me every day with updates.

After two weeks, on February 23, we went to get Kaiser. The staff took a lot of care to make sure I knew how to express him properly, and how to do physical therapy on his legs. By the time he left, Kaiser had made a pet of himself for everyone there. All the staff had to come and say goodbye to him. They said he was a wonderful teaching aid, because of his sweet nature. The neurologist was honest and told me he thought it was probably never going to happen for Kaiser to walk again, and I understood, but still held out hope.


Home Care

We came home with Pravosin, a drug to make his bladder easy to express. I made Kaiser a bed out of a rigid plastic laundry basket (holes in the side so he could see), with a firm tempurpedic pillow tightly encased in a taped plastic bag. A towel went on top of that.

canine spinal problemsFortunately, I telecommute from home, so Kaiser was beside me all the time. Before he went down, he was always beside me in a bed while I worked. I think we have good empathetic communication. After a couple of weeks, I began to know that Kaiser was aware of his bladder and bowels. He let me know when he needed to go, and I took him to take care of it. He was really easy to care for. I kept a plastic cup of water and offered it to him at least once an hour.

He was not often out of the basket, because I wanted him to rest. And I learned that if he started to scoot away (on one hip), he could go faster than I could catch him.

In early March, on the vet's suggestion, we took him off the Pravosin. He was still easy to express, and still let me know when it was time.

Early Signs of Healing

There were some times when Kaiser was very insistent that he needed to pee, and if I didn't get him out fast enough, he would start to pee on his own. It was like he was trying to hold it until he was in the right spot, as he used to do before "the troubles". Sometimes I would get him in the right spot, and he would start to pee on his own. I usually squeezed him at the end to try and be sure he'd gotten it all out. He was really good about it. One evening, I took him out, and while expressing him, some pee went onto one of his hind feet. He looked around at it, and I believe he felt it. He was showing a great deal of reflex movement in his hind legs when I manipulated them.

downed dachsiesWe got a cart for Kaiser, since he had always loved to go for walks on our quiet street. He still loved to walk, and sniff all the scents dogs love to encounter on the way. He let me know if he was bored and wanted a run! We avoided using the cart in the house or backyard, so he would have a chance to feel his legs.

A Breakthrough!

One day, I had him out on the floor in the kitchen to eat his breakfast and have a drink. I was making a sandwich for myself. He really wanted my sandwich. He started to scoot toward me, and two or three times, he came up on his hind feet and took a couple of wobbly steps before going back on his hip. It was not just pulling himself up on his feet, it was definitely steps. Wobbly, crooked steps, but steps.

That evening, I took him into the back yard for expressing. He did the same wobble-walking on the grass.

I kept him quiet, so he wouldn't do too much at one time. But I had to think this was an indication of better things to come!

More Progress

One day in the backyard, Kaiser got up and took six crooked wobbly steps before sitting back down.

I had given him some fat free low sodium chicken broth to boost his liquid consumption. He let me know that he needed to urinate (he barks at me to tell me). He waited until we got outside, then he just let it go. I squeezed him to make sure we got it all out. But he did wait! I was so excited about these improvements.

intervertebral disk diseaseIn late April, Kaiser and I went out in the back yard a lot; we jumped a very large cottontail a couple of times. When Kaiser gets a scent, he is very animated and wants to follow. He's a very intelligent little guy, and when I say "Get your legs under you! Walk!" he does it - crooked and wonky, but the back legs were working. One night he chased scents until he was tired. I'm so glad that I had the faith in him to give him a chance. I've really learned that when you're afraid to tackle something, but do it anyway, it's usually not so hard as you think.

Early May

Small things can make us so happy. Recently when we were out in the yard, Kaiser wagged his tail. Slow, but definitely a wag. I recall that post surgery, the neurologist told us he doubted that Kaiser would regain any rear end function. Kaiser knows when he needs to have bladder and bowel functions, he walks a bit in the yard, and now the tail!

My friend, companion and coworker Kaiser is worth all the effort. I want to give hope to those who have gotten the same prognosis. Be patient and loving; it can get better, and it can be easier than you may think.

Early June

I took Kaiser to his local vet for a check up. She confirmed that he definitely has conscious movement and control in his tail and legs. He has good tone and control over his bowel and bladder as well. His urine was free of bacteria. We do need to work on building up those leg muscles still.

I knew that - this guy has been scooting and hopping and wonky-walking; he has been telling me when he needs to pee or poop; he's been just about as normal as he can be for a little guy who suffered a traumatic injury. He wags his tail now, and that really makes me happy.

Now, when we go for walks with his cart on the sidewalk, I don't put Kaiser's feet in the stirrups, and he walks with his back legs.

So, if your pup is in a bad way right now, be brave and be faithful, they can come back from this. Follow the guidelines you read on this list. Your love and patience means so much to them.

Barbara & Kaiser

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This information is presented for educational purposes and as a resource for the Dachshund community. The coordinators are not veterinarians or health care professionals. Nothing herein should be interpreted as medical advice and all should contact their pet care professionals for advice. The coordinators are not responsible for the substance and content contained herein and do not advocate any particular product, item or position contained herein.