Gretel has been a very active dog ever since I adopted her at 11 months old. Although I wasn’t overly paranoid, I knew that Dachshunds were prone to a genetic spinal condition called Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD). If a Dachshund is going to have an episode and be diagnosed with IVDD, it typically happens between the ages of 4 and 8 years old (some say between 4 and 6 is more common).
Gretel is 6 years old so I was keenly aware that she was still in “the window”. Unlike Chester whose made it to 13 with no back issues, she wasn’t out of the woods yet. I knew any day she could be struck with IVDD but I was hopeful that she wouldn’t be.
Well, at the end of March 2016, my world came crashing down. I had planned a 72-mile Hike-A-Thon fundraiser with Gretel at the end of the summer to benefit the rescue I adopted her from. I had started advertising our campaign and getting sponsors on board. On March 24, 2016 I rushed her to the emergency vet because she was showing pain and exhibiting classic IVDD symptoms. She was diagnosed with early Stage II IVDD.
That was the day my world with her changed. I was devastated. However, I wasn’t going to take her IVDD laying down. I already knew quite a bit about the disease but I immediately researched more information for treatment and rehabilitation. I was fortunate that her symptoms were mild, and that she was otherwise very healthy, but I readied myself for an uphill battle to get her back to the life she enjoyed – hiking and traveling with me.
I’m keeping a record of her veterinary and rehab visits and the associated costs here. It’s good for me to keep track of what I’ve tried, what worked, what didn’t, and what I’ve spent during this journey. I’m also keeping track to share it with others in hopes that they might find the information useful. I’ve added links to articles and information where I thought it might be helpful.
I do have health insurance for Gretel through Trupanion Pet Insurance. However, most of the “complimentary treatments” Gretel is receiving do not qualify for reimbursement from them. If we had gone the surgery route, which was NOT recommended for Gretel, most of that cost would have been covered. Complimentary treatments would have been covered if I had bought the Additional Care Package. Unfortunately, by the time I seriously looked into that, Gretel had already started skipping on her leg which Trupanion considered a “pre-existing condition” for any back issues since the cause of her skipping was not determined at the time (and, ultimately, was attributed to her back issues).
The Trupanion Additional Care Package would have covered veterinary recommended acupuncture, rehabilitative therapy, hydrotherapy, behavioral modification, chiropractic treatment, colloidal silver treatments, gold seed therapy, homeopathy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, kidney transplants, platelet rich plasma injections, polyethylene glycol medication, shock-wave therapy and stem cell therapy. If I want any of those treatments now, I will pay out of pocket for them.
I am going to submit a claim anyway to see if they will cover any of what I am doing for her and will update you here if they do. This is what I have spent so far.
Total = $1,763.14
February 10, 2016
I took Gretel to see her regular vet, the Aurora Veterinary Hospital, because she had started skipping a back leg when she ran. We were just starting our Pooch to 5k training and she started skipping a step on her right back leg. I was immediately concerned but tried not to be too paranoid. However, it wasn’t a fluke. She skipped a leg the next time we ran too. When she did it a couple of times on a regular walk, I knew it was time to call the vet.
Our veterinarian couldn’t find anything wrong with her. She checked all of the things it could be and didn’t see anything notable. I expressed that I was super worried about it because of the Hike-A-Thon we were planning and she said I could go get a second opinion at the Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle.
Cost of vet visit: $114.00
February 24, 2016
I spoke with a specialist at the Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle about my concerns. He checked Gretel over everything he thought it could be and found nothing wrong. I asked for X-rays but he didn’t think it was necessary. We discussed that Dachshunds were prone to IVDD but he didn’t see any pain signs around her spine when he palpitated it. He explained that it could just be a fluke – some dogs start skipping a step and there seems to be no cause for it – and to keep an eye on her for any changes.
After our visit, I wrote this article about what could be causing a dog to skip on a leg when they walk or run – My Dog Started Skipping When She Runs: What’s Wrong? A family medical emergency came up after our visit, plus I wanted to give her a rest, so I didn’t test her leg with running again. She seemed fine.
Cost of vet visit: $125.00
March 24, 2016
Gretel jumped off the couch when a solicitor knocked and she rushed the door. As usual, I gave her a little scoot back with my hand. I swear she let out a little peep but immediately thought maybe I imagined it. I looked at her for a few long seconds and something seemed to be off – she had “this look” on her face. I immediately got rid of the visitors and went back inside to check on her.
She was acting weird. She was trembling when she had no reason to be shaking. I then noticed she was walking with her back hunched. I called my hubby up from the man cave for a second opinion. She went into her crate and wouldn’t come out even for her most favorite ever squeakie toy. I knew something was really up then. However, after about 15 minutes, she went back to normal. Almost. Something still seemed a little off but, again, I thought maybe I was just being paranoid and imagining it.
I had to take care of some more family business the next day so she was by herself. The following morning, I kept scrutinizing her every move. Finally I said to myself, “No. I am not making this up. Something is wrong.” I called the the Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle and described what had transpired over the last couple of days. They urged me to bring her to the emergency clinic right away because they said those were classic signs of IVDD.
Gretel was diagnosed with Stage II IVDD (typically the mildest stage where it can be diagnosed). She was given tramadol for pain, prednisone for inflammation, and I was told to keep her confined to a crate for 6 weeks. The instructions I was given by the ER vet said “the failure to confine a dog with disc herniation is the most common reason for recurrence/relapse. Once the full six weeks have passed, please build Gretel’s activity up to normal levels over the course of 6 weeks.”
It seemed ironic because I had just been writing about IVDD so I wrote this article – The Irony is Shocking but it’s No Joke – Gretel Has a Back Problem. I was in shock and went into fix-it mode. I made an appointment with a rehabilitation specialist before I even left the clinic.
Cost of emergency vet visit: $149.14
March 28, 2016
The wait between Gretel’s diagnosis and the appointment where I could “come up with a plan of action” was excruciating. I could barely concentrate on anything. I ended up leaving for the appointment almost 45 minutes early because I was itching to go. I thought I would feel better driving around in the car instead of sitting on the couch watching the clock tick.
The visit with the rehabilitation specialist went well. She performed a laser treatment on Gretel and spent considerable time going over every single treatment available for her, at my request (you bet I made a list!), and answering all of my questions. I expressed to her that money was not a concern for me and getting Gretel back to the best she could be, and minimizing any muscle atrophy, was my #1 priority (next to making sure she is safe and healing).
Gretel definitely felt better after the laser treatment. She was almost immediately spunkier. She still wasn’t back to her usual self of course but it was progress. Gretel’s prognosis was “Good – she is doing well after the injury with only mild proprioception deficits (fancy term for the awareness of how your body, particularly your limbs, are oriented and how your body moves).”
I left with a set of discharge instructions. They said that I should continue laser therapy and start acupuncture immediately. They also said I could start immediately with passive range of motion and stretching exercises but, in the chaos and stress of our first rehab session, I realize that they never showed me what those were. Two weeks after diagnosis, I could start Gretel on hydrotherapy and short, controlled leash walks if she continues to improve. I was also told she could start doing exercises at that time like sit-to-stand, down-to-stand, and cavaletti rails. I was given written instructions but not shown how to do this. However, she is prohibited from running, jumping, walking on slippery floors, or going up/down stairs at all times (it says until approved by a veterinarian but from what I understand about IVDD, these should always be avoided if possible).
I was a bit confused since the ER vet had instructed me to keep her on strict crate rest for no less than 6 weeks. Dr. Eide, our rehab specialist, explained that Gretel’s case was so mild, and rehab treatments have improved so much, that it’s more beneficial to start her doing CONTROLLED exercises as soon as possible. They have found that starting rehab exercises early on helps a dog with healing in the long run. They loose less spine-supporting muscle, they start building more muscle in the right places to support their healing, and it helps them to begin to relearn, or learn for the first time, proper body mechanics (partially due to developing balanced muscles).
Cost of rehab consultation and laser treatment: $145.00
April 1, 2016
We has another laser session and the vet checked on Gretel’s progress. It was hard to tell if she was doing better but she didn’t seem to be doing worse. We agreed that was a win.
Cost of checkup and laser treatment: $75
April 4, 2016
Another laser session and checkup. Gretel seemed to be doing a bit better so we scheduled a hydrotherapy session for her to try walking on an underwater treadmill for the end of the week.
We had previously discussed acupuncture being another therapy to try as a compliment to what we were doing. I made an appoint with a holistic vet at a different clinic (the Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle doesn’t offer acupuncture) and pet acupuncturist for the following week.
Dr. Eide sent in a prescription for the Assisi Loop I want to try.
Cost of checkup and laser treatment: $75
April 6, 2016
The Assisi Loop arrived and I started Gretel on one to two 15-minute treatments a day. Up to three are recommended but it took me a bit to figure out the easiest way to get her to sit still during treatment and for me to work it into our routine.
Cost: I believe the vet said the loop we got was $300 or $400 but the Assisi Animal Health folks were kind enough to send us one free-of-charge in exchange so we could try it and let you all know what we thought about it.
April 8, 2016
Today was Gretel’s first session on the underwater treadmill. I am sure the handfulls of treats helped but she took to the contraption pretty easily. She barely noticed when the box started to fill with water. Unlike Chester who doesn’t like to get wet, she trots through cold streams on our hikes so I wasn’t super surprised here. The water they put in the box is about 80 degrees so I am sure if felt nice anyway. I kept thinking of the trick where you put someone’s hand in a bowl of warm water and wondering if she peed in there 🙂
The therapist also showed me an exercise they call “all four unstable” where she stands and I pick up one of her paws at a time. The idea is that she learns to properly shift her weight to the other three legs. She can also practice core strength by getting up on her K9FITbone™ and standing there for a few seconds.
The session was followed by laser treatment. I am not sure if it was the little bit of exercise releasing the ants in her pants or the laser treatment (she always seems way spunkier after) but these treatments are making it harder and harder to contain her energy. I guess that is a good thing but I worry she will re-injure herself.
I chose to pre-pay for a package of 12 hydrotherapy + laser sessions. The package comes with two checkups with Gretel’s rehab vet, Dr. Eide.
Cost of 12 treadmill/laser package: $1,080.00