Rocky... a cervical disc
by Ann Shallcross
I've followed Dodgerslist and participated for quite some time having had a beagle named Mae who herniated 2 discs and became paralyzed. Following surgery on 5 discs (2 herniations and 3 fenestrations) she healed and regained full use of her back legs. Unfortunately, she has injured other disc in her back since then but they have fully resolved with conservative treatment of 8 weeks of crate rest. Having a dog who has had multiple episodes, I considered myself somewhat knowledgeable when it comes to treating and recognizing injuries. I never realized how totally unprepared I would be for a cervical disc injury.
On March 10th, I heard loud screaming from one of our dogs on the porch which turned out to be our Chi-mix named Rocky. After comforting him for a bit, he seemed okay so I just figured he had a minor injury which had cleared on its own. However, a while later he screamed out again and was positioning his head and neck strangely. We immediately took him to an emergency pet facility. They did a physical exam but really were unable to diagnose anything specific. They treated as a neck injury based on our description and gave him a shot of an anti-inflammatory. They sent us home with only Tramadol, a pain reliever. This was the first problem but we did not realize it at the time, especially since he had an injection of some sort of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory.
For another week, Rocky was under-medicated but I did not realize until he started having frequent episodes of yelping and screaming. The next 2 weeks are chronicled in Dodgerslist but the bottom line was that until I got Rocky on a pain medication, a muscle relaxant and an anti-inflammatory in sufficient quantity and dosing, he was not getting any better and in fact seemed worse. I tried to also get him on a medication called Gabapentin but the emergency facility did not have any and was not familiar with it and our vet did not want to prescribe it. I was about at my wit's end but once I got the right dosages of all medications given at the right time, things turned around for us.
It took us THREE weeks to get Rocky's pain under control. This is unacceptable and while I am not happy with how things went down, I can actually understand how it happened. I have such a concern with the side effects of medications that I actually gave Rocky too little Tramadol the first week. This was clearly my fault. The vet neglected to give us an anti-inflammatory since they were not really seeing much upon physical exam and I cannot fault them for this.
Once I realized the problem a week into it all, I then put Rocky on Metecam for inflammation combined with the Tramadol, but there was no muscle relaxant. When the muscle relaxant was finally added, I then needed to change the time period in between to get it all under control and it was when this happened that things fell in place for us and things actually started to turn around for Rocky.
Treating a cervical neck disc seems to be challenging in that every time the dog moves its head it aggravates the injury. At times I felt like giving up. My husband was initially a lot better at dealing with the yelping and screaming. I was actually getting fearful each time I needed to handle Rocky but I soon just got with the program and took control knowing he was relying on me to take care of him.
I was told by my regular vet that the screaming is a normal part of the injury however while it might be initially, it should not be if medications are properly adjusted and dosed. I clearly had him under-medicated.
My suspicions of how Rocky was injured so suddenly lead me to believe this was the result of a doggie door accident between our large dog and Rocky trying to utilize the door at the same time from opposite directions. Poor Rocky probably got head-butted in a bad way. We watch him a lot more carefully now and hope he is out of the woods but as with our other dog Mae, we know the possibility exists for a repeat event. At least this time I feel I will be a better prepared to handle the situation.