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Story of the Month - June 2004    

"Buddy"   

                     

Buddy is a Dachshund/Beagle mix. He is 8 years old. His main goal in life is FOOD - such an expert scrounger. He walks with a little 'skip' - nobody can figure out why.

Buddy had his first minor episode last September, and at the time we knew nothing about IVDD.

He was tossing his ball around one day, then a bit later, he just stood still whining and not willing to move. He was still able to walk, but very slowly.

The vet took x-rays and told us it looked like a ruptured disc in his neck - he put him on Prednisone. . we still didn't know about IVDD - the vet didn't elaborate about it on that visit. (I wish he had, we would have started taking more precautions then!)

After a few days Buddy improved a lot. It took him only a couple weeks to get right back to normal. We thought it was all over, but as it turned out, it was NOT over.

Three months later, on New Years Eve, our family went out for a few hours. We came back to a happy, healthy dog, racing around with joy to have us back home. All was well, but not for long. That morning at 5am Buddy suddenly started screeching. No reason we could think of, he hadn't screamed last time so we didn't connect it right away.

Again, he was unwilling to move. His back was hunched in the middle this time. We rested him and watched him for a couple days, no change - so back to the Vet for more x-rays. He saw a calcified disc in his neck, probably from the September episode.

The vet went over the options - cage rest/meds - surgery - euthanasia. He said most people don't opt for surgery, and it is not available in our Province. He recommended the rest/meds to start. We didn't consider surgery an option - Buddy wasn't a young dog, there were risks involved, it meant shipping him to another Province, and the expense of that, plus the MRI, tests and surgery was more than we thought we could handle.
Knowing that the only other alternative was Euthanasia, we stuck with the rest/medication for 2 months. Buddy was on Prednisone and Robaxin - we kept him quiet and confined - carrying him outside to do his business. He walked unsteadily at this point, and had some knuckling on one side which concerned us.

This time around, Buddy did not recover quickly. There would seem to be improvements, he would be more perky and walk better outside, less knuckling, the screeching would stop for a day or 2, leaving us hopeful that the meds and rest would do the trick in time. Then after a few good days, he would relapse again, more trouble walking, scream a little, some neck 'twitching' - and he'd have a couple bad days.

During most of the winter, we were on an emotional rollercoaster with the good and bad days - couple days of good appetite, better walking, better movement, some hope - then another relapse and back to despair.

I read every IVDD article I could find, I kept in touch with the vet, kept track of everything on paper, his good/bad days, how well he walked, how many times he screeched, his appetite, etc.

A few times during this very long, cold, upsetting winter, we discussed giving up. We didn't want him to suffer any more, we started to lose hope. Incredibly, it almost seemed as if Buddy could hear us, as he would almost ALWAYS improve drastically right after our 'Euthanasia' talks, so we'd hold on a bit longer again.

One big concern was his rapid muscle atrophy. He'd always been a solid, well-muscled, small but HEAVY dog. Now he was like a bundle of mush when we picked him up. He'd lost a lot of weight and was very unsteady on his feet, sometimes falling over outside.

After 7 weeks, the improvements stopped. Buddy declined quickly. Typically for Buddy, he still had a good appetite! But he couldn't stand at all anymore and his right front leg stayed straight , as if he couldn't bend it - his rear legs just sank when we put him down. He never lost bladder control, but could no longer get around outside well enough to do his business.

We knew this was it, the decision now had to be made. If he hadn't kept improving on and off, we never would have waited so long, but he had never been this bad before.

Well, we couldn't do it. Suddenly, we decided that we couldn't give up on him after all this - he was too precious to us, even more so now, after such a tough time - constant care and worrying. So what was NOT an option - suddenly became our ONLY option. We'd do it somehow, now we were just angry at ourselves for not doing it sooner. We contacted our vet to get things going.

We flew Buddy to the Western Vet College in Saskatchewan for surgery. All by himself, which was really tough on us and him. Every day we waited and fretted and spoke with the Vets there. We believed things would go quickly now. Not so! There were delays, and he wasn't responding to all the tests as expected, they weren't even sure if it was only a disc or something else as well. We were going insane with worry, thinking Buddy must be suffering there, and he'd decline physically even more before surgery was done.

They did an MRI and confirmed it WAS a disc and nothing else. He had an 'Enormous' amount of disc material around his spinal chord, they said he must be a real tough little dog!!

Finally, the surgery was scheduled for the next day, exactly a week after Buddy had left home.

We waited by the phone for the 'post surgery' call. What a relief!!! It was a raving success!!! They got almost all of the material out, plus did fenestration on a few more discs in his neck. The vet was very optimistic about his recovery prospects.

Finally, after 12 days away, Buddy came home to us - extremely excited, and in amazing shape! ...This time he was screaming with JOY to see us!!!

We had thought it would take months for him to recover from his long, difficult winter and the surgery. Not so at all!! He was walking very well, quite wobbly of course, but a million times better than we'd imagined. He didn't even need cage rest, because he was walking, the vets put him on 'house rest' and supervision. Nor did he need physio - short walks and his activity within the house was his therapy. We phased out his Prednisone slowly.

Buddy has now been home for 7 weeks - he is BETTER than 100 percent!!. Full of beans, voracious appetite, acting younger and more full of zip than BEFORE the last episode. The only sign he went through anything at all - his shaved neck fur hasn't grown back much yet!

Now that we are VERY aware of IVDD, we are much more careful. He is not allowed in the car or on our beds anymore. He has two comfy beds on the floor. We now use a harness instead of a collar to help protect his neck. - We've tried to keep him off the couches, which has proved next to impossible - but we do what we can to limit his jumping, and hope this doesn't happen again.

While we went through this with Buddy, I read and re-read the stories from Dodgers List. Loved looking at all the great dog pictures, while searching for similarities to our story - I found plenty (aside from the long improve/decline cycle - that seemed a bit unique).

This website was so helpful, not only to educate about IVDD - it also gave us comfort that we were not alone in this experience - and best of all - Hope - as most of the 'surgery' stories were successes - which definitely helped us make our final decision.

We have never regretted it for a second. We are so grateful to have him back and well - we are so glad we sent him for the surgery. It was more than worth it!!

And I think Buddy would agree.
- submitted by Debbie Wickens
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

 

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