The Irony is Shocking but it’s No Joke – Gretel Has a Back Problem

Gretel with her cute earThe story of my life is this: Shitty things happen to me but they happen in the best possible way. Look on the bright side, right? In this case, the shitty thing is happening to Gretel.

The irony is shocking here. I’ve been blogging for 5 years. I JUST now decided to write about Dachshund back problems and IVDD.

Gretel developed a skip in her step last month. I took her to a specialist and he couldn’t find anything wrong. Gretel was fine. That is, until Tuesday evening.

She jumped up from the couch when solicitors came to our door. I swear I heard a little yelp but I couldn’t be sure. She was clearly in pain though – trembling and totally uninterested in her favorite squeakie. She was walking a little bit hunched too.

Still, it wasn’t obvious there was a serious problem because, after about 20 minutes, she went back to normal. Almost. You know how you are so used to something that you can tell something is “off” without being sure you see any real issues? That’s how it was. I watched her for a while and waffled between knowing something is wrong and thinking it was my imagination.

Today we went to the emergency clinic. Gretel was diagnosed with IVDD.

If you don’t know much about the condition, please read my article The Truth About Dachshunds and Back Problems. I’ve had a lot of experience with it. I’ve never experienced it with one of my dogs until now though.

In a nutshell, IVDD causes vertebrae to harden, crumble, and protrude. It’s essentially makes a 4- 8  year old dog’s spine age like they are 100 in people years. This crumbling and protruding disk rubs on the surrounding soft tissue and causes nerve damage. In some cases, a dog can become partially or fully paralyzed. A few never recover – they may be in a wheelchair for life or die due to complications.

Gretel the Dachshund posing with the Interior of the North Cascades National Park in the Background

I’m devastated. Honestly, I know the risks of IVDD and have held my breath all of these years. If a dog is going to develop IVDD, they usually do it between the ages of 4 and 8. Chester is well past that window and has had no issues. However, Gretel is smack-dab in the middle of the danger zone at 6. Not that it would have precluded him from having IVDD because it’s a genetic roulette, but Chester came from a breeder. I had no idea what Gretel’s origin was since I rescued her. She could have very well come from a puppy mill, which means a higher risk of genetic issues.

Gretel being diagnosed with IVDD is especially devastating for us though because we are so active. I hadn’t made our big summer plans public yet but I had started to. We were planning to do a 72-mile hike for charity. I wanted to turn it into a hike-a-thon for the rescue that gave Gretel to me and changed my life.

I don’t want to waste time going into details here but let’s just say that this hike for a cause was the biggest thing, that I was most proud of, that I have planned ever. I have to put the breaks on our plan, at least for now. I’m crushed about that and feeling a little lost. I have to go back and explain to everyone I did get on board with our plan why we can’t do it now.

On the other hand, I am really hopeful. First, we caught her IVDD early. You can read about the 5 stages of IVDD but I can report that Gretel is experiencing stage II – moderate to severe pain in the neck or low back area. Also, I’ve seen a lot of Dachshunds fall victim to IVDD and make a full recovery. Several have gone on to lead normal, active lives. I asked the vet point blank, “I we follow the recommended treatment, and she does well, is it possible that Gretel can return to hiking?” and she said yes. Not a “well, maybe” but a “yes”.

So what is in Gretel’s future? The first plan of action is 6 weeks of pain medicine, steroids, and strict crate rest. Surgery is sometimes recommended but it’s not appropriate for her at this stage. It’s not totally out of the question if things progress but hopefully it won’t with the crate rest.

Strict crate rest means that she basically has to live in a dog crate for 6 weeks. Not the entire 6 weeks but almost. We can lay with her on the couch but we need one hand on her at all times so we can stop her before she tries to jump. She can stand while she is eating. We have to keep a leash on her if she is out of the crate so we can control and limit her movement. She can stand in the yard and go potty by herself but we have to carry her up and down the stairs and hold her by the leash in the grass. We can’t risk her trying to run after Mr. Fat Squirrel.

Strict crate rest is hard for many Dachshund owners. If a dog is not used to a crate, there will be a lot of howling. Even if they are, a dog will plead with their sad eyes. Many people don’t let their dogs rest the whole 6 weeks because they feel so bad. It is especially tough once a dog starts to feel better and gets extra restless. Because they don’t allow them sufficient time to heal, sometimes their dogs never heal fully, which leaves them at great risk for re-injury.

In our case, crate rest and limiting her movement won’t be so hard. Gretel is used to sleeping in her crate. She gives us the big, sad eyes but doesn’t make a fuss. She also likes to snuggle and sleep a lot. That means it will be easy to get her to lay on the couch for hours and she will gladly lay in her bed for hours while I work in my home office. She sleeps with us at night and doesn’t try to get out of bed until we wake up.

Suddenly, my hubby sees the value in our “stupid” pet stroller. Yes, I expect to get dirty looks from strangers but it will allow us to still “take Gretel for a walk”. She’ll get to smell the fresh air and feel the wind in her face.

So, this sucks. But I did say it happened in the “best possible way” right?. We caught it early; Gretel should recover fully after the crate rest; she’ll be fine in the crate and tolerate a lot of sleeping; and we can still “take her for a walk”.

There are even some positives in this. She’ll be so bored in the house, and we will feel so terrible, that we will get her out daily for a push in the stroller. That means Chester will get more walks. Chester will also get more Mommy time. I was taking Gretel with me everywhere I could – on trips and hikes – but I will be taking Chester instead for the next month or so. My hubby and I may actually go back to watching some movies together on the couch since that means she can be out of the crate more.

Also, I am lucky to be in a position to give her the best care possible.

As far as the general care goes, I work from home so Gretel will have the best possible experience she can. She can rest in the bed in my office instead of being stuck in the crate all day; The steroids will make her thirsty and have to pee more but I can give her plenty of potty breaks; and I can take advantage of our good spring weather breaks to get her out in her stroller often.

I have doggie health insurance and a little savings so I can afford treatments for her that will give her and extra edge. I have an appointment Monday with a rehab specialist and we are going to talk about alternative treatments. I definitely want to try cold-laser therapy and might try acupuncture with her. I will also look into underwater walking on a treadmill once she is cleared to start moving around again. I might even inquire about hyperbaric oxygen treatment.

UT Vet School - Hyperbaric Chamber

Once she is cleared to start building her muscles and stamina again, I want to have a strength and stretching routine professionally planned out for her.

All of this also means that I have the opportunity to reach more people about IVDD facts, risks, and treatments by sharing our journey. I hope you will follow along.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.

111 Comments

  1. Hi there: I posted on FB too but Acupuncture has saved Bruiser’s life. He’s a new dog and I highly recommend trying this as soon as possible – your vet should clear it but Bruiser is super active and we go on hikes between Acupuncture appointments. He’s a senior so we’re realistic with how far we can go but he leads a totally normal life. I know without the Acupuncture things would be different – it’s noticeable how comfortable he is after appointments. I can recommend some holistic practitioners near you… just ping me. I’m so sorry to hear this – Brui is a mini and I’ve lived through this and I get it. It sucks and is scary… Gretel will be ok.

    1. Thanks Christine. I’m glad to know it’s been so helpful for Bruiser. My hands are tied until I see the rehab specialist on Monday (actually, I am hoping there is a cancellation this morning and I can run her up there) but I plan to jump on whatever treatments we decide on right away. I think they got the message at the vet that I am very serious about this and will do everything I can to stack the cards in her favor. The clinic we went to is owned my our neighbor who is a veterinary surgeon. Lucky place to live right? Ha, ha. Anyway, I can also talk to him for a “second opinion”. The clinic does cold laser therapy and hydrotherapy there but not acupuncture. I have some local Dachshund friends who have recommendations but I might hit you up for that info when the time comes anyway to see if any of their recommendations are on your list. Thanks.

      1. My little jackapoo skipped with her hind leg from the time she was a puppy. It seemed she did it mostly when we were going for a walk. She was such a happy little girl, and I attributed it to her happy disposition. It reminded me of a happy child skipping. I never recall seeing a child skipping when they are sad. I believe it was my angel’s expression of her happiness.❤

        1. Our vet said that sometimes dogs just do it for no apparent reason. Maybe it WAS happiness 🙂 Gretel still skips a leg sometimes even though her back is “healed”. The skipping first happened before her back injury but the vet didn’t think it was a clear sign that something was wrong. I try not to worry about it anymore.

        2. My little shih poo has also skipped with his hind leg since he was a puppy. He never does it in the house only on walks. I have always been nervous about this little skip but he also is such a happy little guy and he doesn’t seem to be in any pain. Walks, runs and jumps like crazy. Maybe I should get him checked out. Scared now.

          1. Hi Diane. You can always talk to your vet if you are concerned. For me, the question is “Is this behavior new?” If it’s a new thing, then it can signal that something is wrong. Since your pup has done it his whole life, and knowing that some dogs just do it even though there is nothing wrong, I, personally, wouldn’t be overly concerned.

  2. We had a dachshund with IVDD when I was younger. Six weeks of crate rest (we carried that thing from room to room!) and she was fine and lived happily to a ripe old age. Best of luck to Gretel

      1. Hi Jessica… My Gracie developed IVDD a yr ago… It got so bad, she was shaking violently from the pain and lost control of her back legs… Her Dr. put her on steroids, muscle relaxers and several pain meds… None of which was helping her… I took her in for an X-ray to see just how bad it was… Surgery was out because I couldn’t afford it. I was prepared to have her put down… I was sooo heartbroken! She’s my Service dog… ESA (emotional support animal) It was my turn to support her and end her pain. The Vet suggested one more thing… She maxed her out on steroids, and gave her laser treatments on her back. I bought her a back brace (designed by a vet with doxies) from lilbackbracers.com and slowly she started to recover. It took about 9 months. I’m so elated to say, that my best friend is fully recovered. Not the same as before, but she’s back to being my Gracie. I bought her step stools to get up on the couch, chairs etc… The love of a dog is priceless! ????

  3. Yep, definitely sucks, but sounds like you are developing a plan of action. So sorry you had to cancel your plans. We are all keeping our fingers crossed for Gretel.

    1. Thanks. I am going to try and just modify the plans but I know that may mean we don’t do it until next year… or never. I have enough time to allow 6 – 8 weeks before I have to make a final decision.

  4. I’m so sorry that Gretel is in pain. And for the emotional pain you’re feeling about her suffering and all the changes to your plan.

    But you are in such a great place and will provide loads of help to other people with dachshunds.

    Many people think if we just do everything right, we can stave off any problems. But not everything is in our control. And sometimes bad stuff happens even when we do everything right. I’m sorry it has happened to you and Gretel. But I know your story will help many people.

    Sending every positive wish that Gretel’s rest treatment goes well and that she makes a thorough recovery.

    1. Thanks Pamela and you are exactly right. IVDD is a genetic disease and, if your dog has it, injury can’t be prevented by “doing everything right”. I am occasionally criticized for doing difficult hikes with a Dachshund – a breed which is known for back problems – but you gotta live life you know? I’m not a live in fear person. Honestly, I think Gretel will have an easier time with this because she is in such good shape otherwise. I hope to help people see that 1) live life anyway because it’s unavoidable and 2) dogs with IVDD can go on to live a healthy, active life.

      1. Last year we adopted an ancient mini dachshund who was badly neglected. One day he woke up with wobbly back legs. The back surgeon said that the little guy was too old for anesthesia and surgery. The surgeon prescribed a steroid, a muscle relaxer, a pain reliever, and rest. Our dog’s walking improved very quickly. A year later, he is moving perfectly and fully enjoying his new life. When I mentioned to the back surgeon that our younger dachshund is extremely active and I actually feel guilty about it, he said, “No, he has to be a dog and enjoy his life.” The doc also pointed out the genetic component of IVDD. This hospital also has laser treatment, water therapy, and acupuncture, for which I was all set to sign up, but when the little guy went back to normal, the doc said we had no reason to go. Still, I love having those options available. IVDD is a dachshund owner’s nightmare, but I feel braver after meeting the back specialist. He was so positive that now I feel less helpless as well as less hopeless about IVDD than I did before our little old guy woke up wobbling. There are actually many effective ways to get our dachshunds, young and old and really old, back on their feet. XO to Gretel.
        (Hey, everyone! Adopt a frosty face! Old dogs rule!)

        1. I’m glad it turned out well for your old, old guy 🙂 It is great that we have so many treatment options available these days.

  5. When we had to do crate rest, we strapped the crate to a child’s wagon and rolled it room to room with us. This gave our sweet doggie a slightly elevated view of what was going on and kept our other two dogs from bothering him. He still got sunny window time, tv time, porch time, yard time and lots of attention. It made it easier for all of us.
    I’m so sorry to hear about Gretel. All the best to you.

    1. That is a great idea. Our house is small so I’m not sure that would be practical for us but it does make me think more creatively about how and where we can place her crate when she is in it.

  6. I love how you are finding the positive in this. I know you will give Gretel EVERYTHING she needs to get her through this bump on her trail. 🙂 I’m glad you will be sharing this portion of your journey and hope your positive outlook and treatments for Gretel will help many others when faced with this type of diagnosis.

    1. Thanks Jodi. It’s devastating but not totally unexpected. I am so thankful of all these years blogging and with my Dachshund club so I could spot the danger signs and know what to do for her from the get-go. The knowledge also helps me keep a good perspective on it. I’m always a look on the bright side person for sure so I have a lot of hope.

  7. I’m so sorry to hear this–I just read your post about IVDD a few weeks ago and am also worried the bouts of disinterest, lethargy and shaking my Doxie has every few months may be IVDD. I’ve taken her to the vet and done extensive testing but they thought it may be Addisons (her bouts usually come with an intense stomach gurgle). I’ll keep my fingers crossed for both our pups and hope to see updates. I also hope maybe somehow you can salvage your big hike…depending on her health, could you take her along in a pack? Best of luck. Xo

    1. Hi Kelly. Unfortunate there is not a good, safe way to carry a Dachshund in a pack. One doesn’t exist that will support their back properly AND is functional for a hiker. I’m not giving up on hiking with her yet though. We may not be able to do our big one this year but I fully intend to get her back out on the trails if she heals up well…. which I know she might not do but I am expecting her to.

    2. or could you take the stroller? My mini, Mocha went thru this and with the meds, crate rest, acupuncture and chiropractic treatments, she fully recovered. Sounds like you have a good plan and Gretel should be fine in a few months. Hope it all goes well.

      1. On the hike? No way. This is not a stroll in the woods. It’s a very rough trail with thousands of feet of elevation gain. We can take the stroller around the block though 🙂

  8. I feel your pain. Cuba’s last day of crate rest is tomorrow. He is 12 years old! He made it the entire 8 weeks and is doing great. I went the conservative treatment because I can absolutely not afford surgery. He went from losing all use of his back legs and now he is almost back to normal. I know he will never be 100% but he is my happy little wiggle butt! I am sure Gretel will do great it just take a lot of patience!

    1. You probably know this, but surgery is not always successful anyway. I know a lot of people who were asked “surgery or conservative treatment” and they went with the latter. Their dogs recovered fully. I hope Cuba has many more great years ahead of him.

      1. On top of not being able to afford surgery I also did not want to put Cuba through the stress of surgery and not have it work at all. He is a tough little guy so I think I am stuck with him for quite a while! With meds and rest I am sure Gretel will do great. Plus she has all your love!

  9. Ive commented before about our Heidi and her back problem. We have done the same treatment Gretel is doing twice now and as long as you can keep doggie daddy from feeling bad and getting her out of the crate it is a miracle. Long sad time, but Heidi runs like normal. Exercise to strengthen muscles and life style adjustment have kept the episodes years apart. I have considered acupuncture also, anxious to see if you take Gretel and what you think. Positive thoughts for a healthy Gretel!

    1. I’l definitely be talking about the treatments we try along the way. I’m fortunate that she’s pretty strong and athletic already. However, crate rest is going to do a number on her fitness. That’s why I will have someone develop an exercise and training program for her to make her strong again. I know that, even if she recovers well from this, it might not be our last dealing with IVDD. I want to do everything I can to stack the cards in her favor while still letting her be active too. Glad that Heidi is living a happy, healthy live despite a few setbacks.

  10. My male age unknown as he was a rescue (probably around 10 to 11) developed some back issues. He would not go up the stairs, walking slow, not looking up with his head, etc. we had him on anti-inflamatories but when we tapered off he would get worse again. Then our vet asked us if we would consider accupuncture so we said it can’t hurt him and it is worth a try. He had three treatments: when the needles were put into him you could see him immediately relax and the needles didn’t bother him a bit. After the third treatment (he started to whine a bit as the needles were put in) the vet doing it said that is a sign that we should stop and see how he does. We continued the anti-inflamatories fro a few weeks gradually tapering off. It has been not quite a year and he is doing great. We watch him and don’t let him jump (but you know doxies and don’t catch him every time). I would highly recommend accupuncture as the results for us have been great. My heart goes out yo you as it is hard to Ho through thus. I am hoping for the best for Gretel!

    1. That’s awesome that acupuncture made such a difference for your pup. I have got it myself for years and can attest to it’s effectiveness in my situation. Cold laser therapy is supposed to help as much or more but I hear it’s expensive. My idea of expensive and others ideas sometimes don’t match up so it might not be that bad. I don’t find out until Monday. If the rehab vet thinks it’s ok, I would like to do both acupuncture and cold laser therapy.

  11. We are so sorry to read about Gretel. One never knows what can happen! One thing with GBGV’s is we also have long backs. We have never been allowed to jump on and off things, and I wasn’t even allowed on the stairs until I was almost a year old. Our vet said it was best to prevent any damage or injury to my long back. Most people think Mom is crazy, but she would rather be crazy than have us injure our backs jumping off a bed or out of a car. I’m not saying this in regard to anything you may or may not have done with you pups, but perhaps as general advice for anyone with dogs that have long backs. Since you are involved with so many Dachshunds, it might be good advice to pass along. We all hope she has a good and speedy recovery.

    1. Everyone has their own tolerance of risk. Many Dachshund parents are religious about “no jumping”. Unfortunately, what Gretel has, and is common in Dachshunds, is not preventable to matter what you do. IVDD is a genetic disease. Jumping can certainly trigger it but many times there is an episode with no apparent trigger at all.

      I know you weren’t making commentary about me specifically. However, I’ve heard people criticize others for letting their IVDD-prone dog jump when they don’t understand that it’s a genetic disease you can only hope to influence – not prevent – because they misunderstand about the disease. I wrote a post about IVDD to help people understand what it is and isn’t.

  12. I am sorry to hear about Gretel. It sounds like you have a good care plan with several options. I do have a small piece of advice ….I’m not sure of the weather where you are, but we often have cool or downright cold weather and when the steroid causes frequent urination it is an issue… it causes or dachshund to shiver and she’ll come in from a potty break in more pain than when she went out….a coat or sweater (even when she normally wouldn’t need it) helps tremendously…no shivering! 🙂

    1. Thanks for the tip. We’re in Seattle so the weather is frequently cool… and short haired little dogs are frequently cold 🙂

  13. Please do not give up. My Callie, who you always say looks just like Gretel, was paralyzed for 12 weeks almost. She has fully recovered, but has flair ups if I don’t give her glucosamine and chondrotin daily.
    They can lead a normal life after diagnosis if allowed.
    Dodgerslist was were I got most of my info.

    1. Oh, we won’t for sure. My plan is about the polar opposite of giving up 🙂 My favorite IVDD resource is the K9BackPack. They used to work with Dodgerlist, and have a lot of experience, but they focus on providing information AND compassionate emotional support. They’re nice folks. I am know a ton about IVDD though, and have recently written a could of blog posts on it, so the support is the only part that is useful to me. I know 99.9% of what there is to know about it and I am sure I will learn the other 0.01% with Gretel. Ha, ha. It’s because of that knowledge that I was able to spot Gretel’s problem before it got worse… so yay for her! 🙂

  14. Heartbreaking for you and Gretel. I think you are right to focus on the positive. It would have been horrible if this has showed up in the middle of that long hike! Sending healing thoughts to you and Gretel.

    1. Yes, for sure. I have to process what this is going to mean for our hikes. Honestly, the scenario where we hike for days and then she ends up partially paralyzed needing immediate medical attention has always been a risk. But now it’s a definite risk I’ll have to prepare for.

  15. Hi Jessica,
    I am sorry this is happening. We had to keep our doxie in a crate for 6 weeks after he had bladder stones removed. We only took him out to go potty. The time passed and all was good. But, we stuck to the full 6 weeks. One thing that really helped was disconnecting the door bell. He would have gone ballistic jumping around in his crate is the door bell had rung. And, we hung a large notice on the front door “Ssshhhh Baby is Sleeping”. It really helped …. visitors would barely tap. We just didn’t want him jumping around in his crate hurting himself. Good luck Gretel! Hang in there Jessica!

    1. We don’t have a doorbell but I put up a sign to not knock. Our package delivery guy has had the super annoying habit of beating on our door to “alert us” despite the dogs going nuts when he comes onto the porch. I think my hubby thought I was a b*itch for wanting to tell that guy stop it but now I am justified in his eyes 🙂

  16. I had a boy go completely down after a bad fall when he was three. He had the surgery and recovered completely. During his 3 months of crate rest after surgery I rigged up a short leash to the sofa so he couldn’t jump. While he was good about not jumping out of bed at night I wanted to be extra safe and put a short leash on him with the other end either around my wrist or ankle. It was a long slog but worth it!

    1. I’ve done that many times – mostly when I am staying with friends and family and I didn’t want Chester wandering around at night and causing trouble. Gretel never jumps out of the bed until we get up so I’m not sure I’ll need to go that far in this situation. However, I am sleeping light right now because I wake up to “catch” her every time she changes positions.

  17. I highly recommend acupuncture too. My little guy had 3 treatments and strict crate rest when he had his bout with IVDD. After each treatment I saw immediate and significant improvement in his mobility. After the first treatment, he went from no movement in his tail to wagging it again. The best day ever! It’s amazing how much I missed seeing his tail wag. Anyway, I went to a vet in North Seattle near SAMs Club for his treatments. They take about 45 min or so. He didn’t seem to mind the needles at all. I know Gretel will beat this thing and you guys will be hiking again in no time.

    1. What was the name of the place? That’s not far from our house. The clinic we are going do does a lot of stuff but not acupuncture.

      1. Cascade Pet Hospital. There is an initial consultation fee and then the fee for the treatment itself. Seems like the first visit with the consultation fee was around $125-150 and then each treatment after that was around $75 – $85. The people there are super nice and caring. It’s located in the strip mall I front of SAMs Club. KFC and Ivars are immediately south of it across that little side street.

  18. So sad to hear this. I understand how devastating it is. Mostly scared mamma worrying for their little one. My Heidi had 2 episodes before the age of 3, she is now going on 17 and still going strong. I wanted to relay a story that happened to one of my pet sitting clients. Her Doxie went paralyzed while I was watching her. I was distraught and took her to their vet. She was the meanest vet I had ever encountered, told me I had to make a decision to put her down or drive her for surgery that instant. I couldn’t get ahold of the clients right away. The daughter finally came. The family, having never faced this didn’t know what to do. The vet told them they waited too long and that she should put her down. OMG she was only 4 years old. Well the came home from vacation with that as their plan, but once they picked her up and looked her in the eyes they knew they couldn’t do it. They took her to another vet, put her on pred and the lil back bracer. I kid you not when I saw her 8 months later she was running through the house. I just cried. So I am glad you have hope and I wish I had known that surgery is not always the only option. Good Luck!

    1. Wow. That’s wonderful news about the L’il Back Bracer. They just sent me one for Chester’s minor issues but it looks like I’ll be using it for Gretel now.

      I don’t know of any Doxies that had to be put down because of IVDD but I do know a couple that have, unfortunately, died from complications. One dog had it affect the nerves used for breathing and they got “paralyzed”. The dog just stopped breathing. So sad. IVDD is no joke and immediate treatment is of utmost importance. Sounds like that vet didn’t have a very good bedside manner though.

      1. How did the Lil Back Bracer work out? Sorry if you already wrote about this. I’ve been scouring the Internet for information about dog braces and cans across your blog. Two of my pugs are having major spine issues and I was thinking about the lil back Bracer.

        1. Hi Jessica. Sorry to hear your pups are having back trouble. Honestly, we don’t use it. It’s nice to have just in case but I was advised by Gretel’s rehab therapist to focus on doing core strengthening and conditioning exercises to make her strong again. That being said, my friend has one and uses it on her little senior dog when they go on walks. She swears by it. It’s ads some compression so it seems to make her dog’s back feel better on her bad days.

  19. Hi Jessica…I am so sorry to hear about Gretel. We have a beagle/doxie mix that we got from a neighbor a few years ago – they were unable to keep him. Anyhow, he has unfortunately gained a lot of weight over the past few years that we’ve had him. I always say, he is fat like his momma. We used to walk quite a bit in years past, until I hurt my heel from golfing and bowling. I ended up having planter fasciitis. You may know what that is being you are active. For those that don’t know, it is an extremely painful condition where the tendon is stretched and inflamed. My reason for telling you this is because I ended up doing cold laser for treatment. It took a quite a few sessions, but let me tell you, it worked wonderfully. So about a year or so ago, my Fat Frankie hurt his back. Although he was never diagnosed with IVDD, his back legs were completely paralyzed. He spent a long weekend at a vet hospital and then came home with a catheter and as you well know – complete crate rest along with steroids and pain meds. Having a year old golden retriever at the time didn’t help much as he was always wanting to play. However, Frank willingly would go into the crate. I think just being in pain and wanting to rest helped. It did take quite a few weeks for him to recover and I thank God that he is able to walk again. He doesn’t walk perfectly – I call it walking like a drunk baby. BUT, he is able to get around and even play with our Harley. He did hurt himself again back in February, but like you I caught it early and with rest and pain meds, he bounced back again. I have also read from other doxie pages that I follow that acupuncture has helped their dogs as well. I know Gretel is in great hands with you and you will do what it takes to get her back hiking again. Good luck and please keep us posted on her recovery (and your mental recovery as well). 🙂

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Cindy. Sorry your pup has to go through life with back issues. I have back issues myself so I know it’s not fun. Sorry you have foot issues too. We often take our feet for granted but it’s SO important to have feet that work 🙂 I’ve not heard anything bad about the cold laser and acupuncture yet so I’m definitely excited to get going on it.

  20. Hi Jessica, I am sorry to hear Gretel is going through this but it will be a great to say she is a survivor on the other side. I wanted to suggest you reach out to Patti Triola about rehab options. She is a K-9 rehab specialist with a love for dachshunds and does amazing work. She is out of Chicago but I know she is always happy to send some advice or chat on the phone! Best of luck, my Dylan has had IVDD for almost five years and he is a happy, healthy (knock on wood) little boy 🙂

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I know a few experts on dog rehab too but it’s always good to have more options. I’ll keep looking until I find the perfect fit for us if I have to.

  21. Hi there 🙂 I also want to say how much I have seen acupuncture work miracles. My friend has a doxie and she always calls me when she has problems because I have 2 myself. I happened to be in her area when I got a call that Razko had jumped off the couch, yelped, and was now dragging his back legs and couldn’t use the bathroom. I got her into my vet (she is amazing – Sunday evening around 6pm no less) who did a cold lazer therapy on him and an electro-acupuncture treatment, and he left there walking! A bit wobbly, but walking! The 6 week crate rest was not even needed. My friend brought him back for 2 additional electro-acupuncture treatments and he is back to normal, other than he cannot jump on and off the couch anymore. But to me, that is great. If he can’t jump on and off the couch, he can’t hurt himself again. I have much faith that your Gretel will come out of this like the champion she is!

    1. We’ll be getting a ramp now for the couch for sure. Our mattress is on the floor and we can lift the dogs on and off the bed easily. The door is shut when we’re not in there. The couch is the danger zone though. They’re always jumping on and off that thing. Glad to know the acupuncture worked for your friend’s pup so well.

      1. My husband built ramps for the couch and bed with folding legs and side arms so they cannot jump halfway down. I can send you details if you’d like to maybe build them yourselves. 🙂

  22. I am so sorry to hear about Gretel’s diagnosis….. but fortunately , you are in a unique position to provide her with the best possible care, and at the same time educate people, so they realize how treatable it can be. I’ll be keeping her (and you) in our prayers, and I hope Gretel has a full recovery without any “bumps” in the road. God bless, and have a wonderful Easter!
    Christy

    1. Yeah, I want to show people that it’s not the end of the world…. even if you have active dogs like ours. I want people to go away with a feeling if “we got this” if it happens to their dog 🙂

  23. I can honestly say I know how hard this is. It breaks my heart every time Chuy has an episode. The good news is that IVDD is totally manageable and they can still be active. Greta is good hands. If you ever have questions, please feel free to reach out. Hugs!

    1. I know! I was thinking about Chuy the last few days. It gives me hope to see him out kayaking and stuff even though he has it.

  24. So sorry to hear this, Jessica. Our doxie Rusty went down with IVDD last February – Valentine’s Day to be exact. The neurologist told us to either do the $8k surgery (which we did not have at that time) or put him down. I was a wreck and so angry with that neurologist (needless to say, I’ll never go to him again). I flat out refused to put my sweet boy down. We found a new vet, one who integrates traditional Western medicine with holistic treatment. Rusty was put on 8 weeks strict crate rest (so hard!) and given meds. After a few weeks, he started “aquapuncture” (acupuncture, but with B-12 injections) and he did a couple sessions of electro-therapy. The progress was slow. There were a few times we thought he was wagging his tail, but it was just a reflex. After his crate rest was over, he was still unable to walk. He wasn’t in pain and was in good spirits, though. I bought him a “drag bag” and figured we’d need a wheelchair. Shortly after though, he started walking a few steps before falling over. Each day he got stronger and stronger. Sure, he walked like a drunk sailor, but he was walking! In fact, we never even opened the package the “drag bag” came in! It’s been just over a year now, and while he still has a bit of a wobble, he is walking fine, he is actually RUNNING and going for walks is his favorite thing in the world – I swear we can see the smile on his face! His tail also goes a mile-a-minute when he’s excited or happy (or wants to eat!). Sending healing vibes to sweet Gretel. I’m glad you caught it early and I believe she will be just fine.

    1. It’s sad how many people I’ve heard say their vet said “surgery or put them down”. That thinking is so old and antiquated. There are almost as many treatment options for pets as for people these days. I’m glad you didn’t give up and it worked out.

  25. Aww, so sorry to hear this happened to Gretel! I know, it’s a dachshund owner’s worst fear! I’m sure with your loving care she’ll be back to herself in no time. Maybe if she’s not up for the extreme hiking you can get her a special wearable sling or bag and still take her hiking with you! Best of luck for a speedy recovery.

  26. So sorry you’re having to go through this, but it does sound like the “best possible” terms for a crappy situation. (I can’t believe people give you dirty looks when you are out with your doggy stroller. People can be such jerks. Whenever I see someone with a dog in a stroller, it makes me smile! They love their dog – they want to get their dog out in the fresh air. WtH is wrong with that that it deserves a dirty look?! Arrrgh. People!)

    1. Yeah, it really irritates me. People who judge a dog in a stroller a) don’t give you the consideration that there might actually be something wrong with your dog or b) wouldn’t push their dog in a stroller to get them fresh air even if they did have a medical condition. Either way, those people suck 🙂

  27. I’m so sorry to hear that Gretel (and you!) are going through this! One of our dogs was just diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma this week so I know how hard it is when the fur kids aren’t feeling well! I’ happy to hear that it sounds like she could very well make a full recovery! Crate rest will be hard but worth it. Best of luck!

  28. I am so sorry to hear about Gretel. You are all in my prayers. I have a dachshund who will be 10 in May and even though she is out of the range I still worry about it. I will be following your blog very closely for updates on Gretel. I hope and pray everything turns out good.

  29. Jessica, you and Gretel are my thoughts and prayers. I am a faithful reader of your blog and one of my two wienies looks a lot like Gretel. I admire you and your work very much. Glad you will keep us all posted.

    1. Thank you very much Penny. It helps me with this to know that what we are going through might help someone.

  30. Have you read or heard anything about the Wiggle Less back brace? They are a company out of California that make back braces that are similar to putting a coat on them that helps support their backs when they are doing normal day to day activities. It might help her after she is done with the crate rest.

    1. Yes, but we have the L’il Back bracer which is a different design but the same purpose. I’ll probably use one for a while.

  31. I’m sorry to hear this, what a shock! I hope the crate rest will help since you have caught this early. But poor little thing!

  32. Hi Jessica, I am so very sorry to hear about Gretel’s trouble. I’m sending positive thoughts and prayers your way. She is in excellent hands with you and I’m going to join you in thinking a positive outcome is only six weeks away. Give her a kiss from us down here on the bayou. ☺ ♥

  33. So sorry to hear this news but glad Gretel is being treated. Good luck keeping her safe and quiet for the next 6 weeks. Sam sends healing puppy kisses she makes a fully recovery. ღ

    1. We’ve made it 3 days! This is going to be a looong one. Gretel is doing so well but she’s already getting stronger and more interested in moving around.

  34. That is so tough and I know how much you were looking forward to your trip this summer. I hope that Gretal will have a full recovery. I wish you the best with her care over the next 6 weeks and a positive outcome and follow up with your vet.

    1. Thanks. I get really anxious when I don’t have a plan to focus on. Things are in a holding pattern until I see the rehab specialist tomorrow and, even then, I don’t expect everything to get figured out. There is pretty much no chance we will be able to do the hike-a-thon this summer, or maybe ever, but I am sure I will figure out some kind of exciting adventure she CAN do 🙂

  35. I’m so sorry you and Gretel are going through this; I hope she recovers swiftly and well and that you two share many, many more miles of trail.

  36. I am sorry Jessica!! It is hard to have that stress-you love her so, and also hard to slow down too. I have been there with both CHester and Ceasar. Chester went completely paralyzed at age 2 while playing in the snow. I knew exactly what to do, he got surgery that evening in Bern Switzerland at the University Hospital. They kept him for 2 weeks and gave him underwater treadmill therapy and rehab (all for about 2500 dollars-a deal compared to here in the US). As you know, he is crazy fit, and active. You would never know, though he does still skip while walking. Ceasar made it to age 8 years, and he just ended up in too much pain and got the surgery That time was 6500 dollars in the US!!). He recovered nicely and never lost any function. I have always hiked and adventured with my doxies too, and keeping them fit as you have makes a difference. I wonder if that double dapple gene makes them a little more prone to IVDD-it was odd Chester ruptured a disc at such a young age. I wish you and Gretel the best with her recovery, and all the therapy and accupucture are a brilliant idea so she doesn’t decondition while resting! Keep us all posted

    1. Thanks Amy. You guys are definitely an inspiration to me and an example that I hope we follow. It’s great that you were able to get such quality, affordable for Chester in Switzerland. I am not totally surprised though. It’s not like it’s a third-world country or anything! Ha, ha. I am sure they are more advanced than us in some ways. I know how Europeans value their pets.

      That’s definitely my goal…. keep her as conditioned as I can wile she is resting. I will be making that very, very clear to the rehab specialist. She is an expert at rehabilitating dogs that compete in sport so I am sure she will understand and have some great ideas.

  37. The most important message I got from this post is your positive attitude. After seeing your excitement talking to brands about your big plans for you and Gretel this summer it would have been easy to fall right into a feel sorry for yourself mood. It’s great that you can offer Gretel the environment she needs to get better and that she’ll be a great patient. I don’t think I could do it, I have a hard enough time getting Dolly to rest after minor injuries. I am almost looking forward to following Gretel’s treatment, such as acupuncture and underwater, both I think are excellent options. It is a blessing that you and Gretel have each other and I can only expect the best outcome out of all of this.

    1. Thank you so much. Yes, it is a devastating change to our plans. I’m still human – there is a feeling of loss there. I’ve gotten pretty good over the years of taking a blow but embracing change and moving forward. I’m thinking already about what kind of grand adventure we can do on that she would be able to do while still recovering. I also look forward to sharing our experiences with others in hopes that they may learn something or it will help them through their own journey. Would you like some lemonade? I have lemons 🙂

  38. I’m so sorry to hear about Gretel! I’m glad she’s such a trooper and will handle the crate rest well, but I hate that you have to put the summer plans on hold! I’m so impressed with the positive attitude you have about all of this–Barley and I will be sending Gretel lots of good vibes.

    1. Well, she is getting very restless and the whining started yesterday. We have 37 days to go! Whew. This is going to be a challenge 🙂 I’m ready to take it on though.

  39. I’m so sorry to hear about Gretel! I started reading your blog recently because my parent’s dog (a beagle mix) was recently diagnosed with IVDD. I’m really intrigued that your vet said your dog would be able to resume normal activities. My parent’s vet (I go to appointments with them) said that their dog would never be able to do anything ever again. No more stairs. No more running. Ever. Their dog wasn’t any worse than you described yours. You also said she was in “stage 2”. Did they do some sort of test? Our vet didn’t do anything, just said she couldn’t think of anything else it could be and that he was basically now dog-shaped furniture. Maybe it’s time for a second opinion?

    I also want to give you a big, encouraging slap on the back in the direction of cold laser therapy. We found a stray dog hit-and-run victim with a severely broken leg a few years ago. We were told the leg MIGHT be salvageable with a surgery that started at $5,000. We made an appointment to have the leg amputated since it was so expensive and the pain and restrictive after-care for the surgery seemed less humane than chopping it off. As a last-ditch effort I made an appointment with a holistic vet a few days prior to the amputation and he suggested laser therapy. It only cost about $1,000 and that was partly because my dog needed to be sedated at each appointment due to his extreme vet fear. It was so much less restrictive that the surgery would have been, too! It’s been almost 3 years and you’d never tell he almost lost that leg!

    1. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of “old school” vets out there that think IVDD is a virtual death sentence. People have actually said that their vet told them to put their dog down when they got paralyzed! I would definitely get a second opinion on your parent’s dog. There is a lot that is known about IVDD now and that can be done. However, a lot of it IS costly.

      There are physical tests the vet can do to see how far the damage has gone. One of the main tests they do is folding the back feet over and waiting for the natural reflex of the dog to right their feet again. If they are slow, or don’t do it, that means the dog has lost some nerve sensation in their back feet. Then they do some tests for the pain reflex. If it’s only a matter of not righting their feet, the IVDD is in early stages. If they don’t even respond to things that should hurt them, then they have pretty much lost all feeling in their legs. Likely, they are paralyzed at this point. That would be the most advanced stage. There are a couple of stages in between there. There are five stages in all I think with 1 being IVDD with no presenting symptoms and 5 being paralyzed.

      It’s true that a dog with IVDD will “never” be able to do certain things again. Jumping up, and especially down, should be strictly discouraged. This includes going up and down stairs. Running is also a risky activity. Again, there are vets with different perspectives on this and it depends on how comfortable, as a dog owner, you are with risk. In Gretel’s case, if we follow the strict rehab program, the current offending disk should no longer be a problem. There are about 7 disks total that are typically affected by IVDD. There is a 20% chance (I am not sure if that is total or per disk – I need to clarify) that one of the other disks can go. One attitude is to let your IVDD dog do nothing ever again. The other is to “let them be a dog” within reason. My personal take, and one that my vet agrees with, is restricting any physical activity will weaken your dog’s muscles and negatively affect their health to the point that re-injury may be more likely or they may develop other health issues. Gretel may get out on the trails again but it will be wise for me to give her more assistance when it comes to steps and ledges. Walking uphill over rough ground should not be a huge risk though.

      I’m glad that you thought out of the box and your dog got to keep his leg.

  40. Two days ago I had to take my dog to the emergency clinic because she was acting “funny” and I could not figure out why. Thinking she may have ingested or come into contact with something that may be causing her symptoms, I rushed her to the vet only to find out she was experiencing back pain. . .This information came out of left field and devastated me. I have a mixed breed (King Charles Cavalier and Poodle) and have never heard of IVDD. After being handed the paperwork and my Chloe being given Ibuprofen, we left the clinic feeling lost, scared and confused. I took Chloe to the vet the following day as she did not seem to be feeling any better. After a full physical an neurological examination, the vet felt x-rays were not warranted but suggested a blood test to rule out any other possibilities. She prescribed Chloe a pain medication, stated that she be on crate rest for 2-3 weeks, that the only way to find out if she has IVDD is through an MRI (offered an hour drive ). Your blog has been to helpful and information in helping me try to start to sort my way through all of this. I can’t express you thankful and appreciative I am. When Gretel had her injury did you get an MRI done on her?

    1. Hi Ashley. Gretel’s back “injury” was mild but, still, the vet was able to determine that, without a doubt, she had IVDD. I did not opt for an MRI because that only would have told us WHICH disks were the problem. Surgery was not recommended for her and the vet said that an MRI is really only necessary if she was going to have it so they knew where to operate. Otherwise, treatment was the same for her whether we knew exactly which disks were affected or not… so it wasn’t really worth it to spend the money. Good luck to you and Chloe.

  41. I randomly ran across this looking up my dachshunds current problems . It was very encouraging and I appreciate you paving the road for excellent resources and perspective.

  42. Hello, my dog Wilson is 5. He has a herniated disc in his lower spine. Other than a small deficit in his back leg, he is getting around ok. He has been on Prednisone for a week and pain meds. Now that I’m backing off the Prednisone and pain meds, he is once again painful. I’m very afraid that he’ll never be the same Wilson that I so awesome. I realize that I’m lucky that he is still up and around, but I’ve very concerned about his future. Thanks for reading…..

    1. Hi Steve. I’m sorry you and Wilson are going through this.

      Has he been on strict crate rest? I ask because it sounds like maybe you are letting him walk around. He should definitely be on strict crate rest for at least 5 weeks. It can be difficult but it’s essential if you want to give him a chance of full recovery. Here is an article sharing some tips for crate rest (we did it for Gretel for 10 weeks): https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/dog-crate-rest-tips/. She is back to hiking 5-7 miles at a time and has been injury free for almost 3 years… so there is definitely hope!

      To specifically address your concern, if he is being allowed to walk around I am totally not surprised that hes is experiencing pain again without the medicine. His disk hasn’t even been given a chance to heal by being still. With that being said, some dogs on crate rest need medication to control the inflammation and pain for weeks. I would talk to your vet about how he is doing.

  43. Thanks sharing your story Jessica! All the details you included were so helpful. My Eli dog just herniated her disc last week. We gave her 2 days of prednisone before we got to the vet and then the vet said there was probably no need for her to continue on the prednisone and sent us home saying just rest for a bit. We think she should definitely be on a corticosteroid longer than 2 days. 2 days is nothing. Do you remember how long Gretel was on steroids and around what dose? Our Eli looked awful when we stopped the prednisone after just those 2 days. I’ve read many dogs stay on corticosteroids for 2-3 weeks, so I was curious if you remember what you did. Thanks so much for your help! -Taryn

    1. I believe Gretel was on steroids for only a couple days. I believe she was on pain medication and anti-inflammatories for about a week. The most important part of recovery is the strict crate rest for a minimum of 5 weeks. “Rest” is not really specific enough of a direction, nor long enough for scar tissue to form to “heal” the disk, so I would clarify with your vet or just go ahead and do it knowing that is the best practice. Here is my article on crate rest: https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/dog-crate-rest-tips/ You can also find more information at Dodgerslist.com. Good luck.

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