On July 7, 2004, Oscar, our four year old miniature dachshund went down while we were away on vacation. My mother called to say he was dragging his back legs. His regular vet, who recognized it as a back issue, immediately did x-rays that only showed one calcification. He was place on crate rest and given IV steroids in the vet’s office while we traveled 6 hours home to get him to a vet school. We were told that to have the most success, if surgery was indicated, he needed to have it within 48 hours. He had deep pain sensation that evening.
The next morning he had lost deep pain sensation and the vet school wanted him brought in immediately as they suspected a disc rupture. They did CT scan and found a large rupture that needed surgery, but even with surgery they only gave him a 50/50 chance of walking again. Plus, they suspected mylomylasia was going to be a problem because of how quickly his condition deteriorated. He actually was in surgery within 28 hours of going down. We were told they removed large amount of disc material near the calcification and that his spinal cord looked a little soft so they were still concerned with mylomylasia. He still had no deep pain sensation or bowel/bladder control. They kept him 2 days but felt he would recover better at home. We were given an instruction sheet telling us to walk him in the loaner cart 3-4 times a day and start water therapy that day being careful not to get his staples wet. We were shown how to put him in the cart and how to express his bladder. They told us that we needed to see improvement within 3 months or we probably wouldn’t. By this time, I had found Dodgerslist, so I asked about acupuncture and supplements. I was told they wouldn’t hurt but probably wouldn’t help. He did not come home on any medications and his chances were still 50/50.
When we got him home, of course, we were overwhelmed. I thought we might never get accustomed to expressing his bladder. He laid around for about 2 more days then he wanted to be up and about. I had asked about crate rest and was told we should crate him when we weren’t home, but from the web site, I knew it was very important to recovery. He is used to being crated even to sleep at night, so we were fortunate that we didn’t have the negatives some have had with enforcing crate rest. We noticed him straightening his back legs and were told it was probably reflexes. We were instructed to watch for movement while he was in cart or doing water therapy, which we were doing faithfully several times a day along with massage and range of motion exercises. We were seeing improvement with healing from the surgery but no improvement with leg movement, deep pain, or bladder control. We had a scare about 11 days after surgery when fluid began to accumulate around incision. We took him to have staple remove and the vet also remove the fluid which he said might come back. It did that night! I started him on Ester C and vitamin E two days later, and by the next morning the fluid was gone from around his incision and over the next few days we began to see minimal movement in his back legs while in his cart. I had been looking for someone to do acupuncture, but we live in a rural area and there are no small animal vets that do acupuncture. I called a large animal vet who was willing to try it on Oscar. After his first treatment, which was 3 weeks after surgery, he took his first steps in the vet’s office. He progressed to about 30 steps after his second treatment and after his third treatment he regained some bladder control and deep pain sensation. By the 4th treatment he was walking up hill and beginning to rebuild muscle that he was loosing.
Today we have our Oscar back, even though he is not walking at 100%, he is enjoying life. He loves his daily walks in and out of his cart and tries to get in the bathtub even if it’s not meant for him. He is back to chasing squirrels and chipmunks and has learned to wait for someone to carry him up and down steps. It has been a difficult few months but all of the extra commitment has been worth every moment when we look out and see Oscar running around the back yard with his nose to the ground and his tail wagging tracking his vermin. Our family, friends and neighborhood have monitored his progress daily and have been such an encouragement to him and us. Even if his progress stops today and he never fully recovers his quality of life shows us that we made the correct decisions for him.
I would like thank the staff at Virginia Tech who took care of Oscar during his surgery but also Dr. Hull, Glade Spring, VA who recognized the need for immediate emergency care. A special thanks to Dr. Boyd, Wytheville, VA for her dedication to Oscar’s recovery and her willingness to step outside her normal discipline to aid in his recovery.
- submitted by Kim Hale