Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Toto's Struggles with IVDD

I have not posted here in forever because so many things have been going on, but I though this was something I should share, just to help others dealing with the same issue.
About 2 months ago, my happy, active 5 year old mixed breed dog suddenly started experiencing severe pain.  I came home one evening and he was really stiff and would squeek when I pet him (Friday).  I thought he had eaten something bad and was bloated, so the next morning, when he didnt improve, I went to the vet.  She said it was a slipped disk. She gave him a shot of pain medicine and sent us home.
Toto seemed better that day, but in the evening he got worse and the next morning I took him to an emergency vet.  We spent most of the day there.  They said it could be stomach or back, and I had sort of a choice between treating "cholera or the plague," (her words).  So thinking that if he had stomach blockage, he could die, I decided to have them treat that.  I think he was given a shot of antibiotics.  He improved that day, but got worse again the next.  I think I had to go back anyway either for another shot or another check up, saw a different vet, they said it seemed to be definitely stomach, and sent me home with another shot of something.  At some point he got an xray, which showed gas in stomach and intestines, 2 calcified disks and spondylosis. 

I think tues I went back and toto had a stomach ultrasound. They found nothing.  This vet (again different vet) said it was definitely slipped disk.  At that point I demanded a blood test.  It came back positive for pancreatitis.  His levels were seriously high: 800 with anything over 400 being pancreatitis.  So they gave him a shot for that (antibiotics) and I was to come back the next day for another shot.  Toto was great the rest of the day.  I took him for a walk and he was very active and happy.  He didnt run and play, just walked normally for the first time since it started.  Thursday, on our morning walk, toto made a quick movement when he saw another dog and completely froze up.  He was in severe pain and I had to carry him home.  I went immediately to the vet and they said definitely slipped disk and gave him pain meds.  They told me to get an mri, but since they didnt have a machine, I had to go to another vet.  That afternoon I drove to the other vet.  They were convinced it was just severe pancreatitis and that an mri was unneccessary, but they checked toto anyway.  Now toto was doped up so they had to put a lot of pressure on his spine to get a response.  But since at some point he did squeek, they decided to go ahead with the mri.
His mri showed a slipped disk, but they told me to go home and wait to see if it gets worse.  The next morning, toto was paralyzed.  He still had deep pain sensation, but couldnt move his back legs.  This happened exactly one week after he first started having symptoms.  So we went back to the vet immediately and toto had emergency surgery. 
I picked him up the next morning and took him home.  He was too tense to allow me to express his bladder, so I had to take him to a vet again to empty it with a catheter.  On monday it was the same, so again to the vet for a catheter.  Monday afternoon we went back to the operating vet and they decided to keep him there to set a permanent catheter.  Wednesday the vet called me saying that toto had lost deep pain in his back legs and was getting worse.  They did another mri and then emergency surgery again on Thursday.  Apparently some disk material had been left behind and caused further damage to his spinal chord.  Now the prognosis was not as good as it had been before, because after loss of deep pain sensation, a dogs chance of recovering completely are much lower. 
A few days after the surgery toto still didn't have deep pain sensation and couldn't move anything.  However, on Tuesday when I picked him up, Toto wagged his tail for the first time.  It has been about a month now since the surgery and toto has continued to make progress.  He can move his legs and is regaining muscle.  He cant walk more than a few steps without falling over, but I think that's more of a balance issue.  He can also express his bladder and bowels on his own.  I built a little harness to hold him up in back to help him walk.  It makes walking him almost normal, except that controlling a dog from his back end is a bit tricky.  Otherwise now he's happy, healthy and pain free.
It wasn't always easy, especially when he first came home.  He couldn't control his bladder or bowels and he would just pee everywhere.  I couldn't leave him alone because he was so anxious and would bark the whole time, so I had to take him around with me in a baby carriage.  Now I can leave him alone for a few hours.  He can also walk for long enough now (with support) so that I can take him out with me to do grocery shopping, etc.
If this has happened to your dog just know that it does get easier and there are many options, even if your dog is completely paralysed.  There are support groups, dog wheelchair suppliers, etc.
Right now I'm working on a diy wheelchair, just to give him more mobility.  It is made out of aluminum tubing.
Some support groups are:

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