The 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.
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.
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.