Q: We adopted our 5-year-old spayed female dachshund about nine months ago and she came to us with a clean bill of health and with no history of back problems. Five days ago, we noticed that she was dragging her rear feet some and seemed unsteady in her walk so we took her in to see our vet. They looked at her and sent us home with several medications including those for inflammation and pain. She did not improve over the weekend and actually declined to the point that she was completely dragging her hind legs around and could not walk. How does this happen? She developed diarrhea as well. I called a relative who is also a vet who, upon seeing some videos that we sent, suggested that we should immediately take our dog to an emergency facility for assessment and possible surgery, but that it was probably too late for that. We are taking her in to be seen this morning. He stated that she would likely be permanently paralyzed and that her quality of life might not be good and that we would face daily challenges to care for her. Are there any options that we might consider and is my relative right about the paralysis likely being permanent?
A: It sounds as if your dog has IVDD or intervertebral disc disease. Type 1 is acute, and Type 2 is chronic. What you have seen is due to age changes in the discs along with possible jumping or landing the wrong way. The dachshund breed is notorious for developing this problem due to their conformation and how they are designed. These clinical signs can come on very quickly and unless addressed immediately can cause irreversible changes leading to paralysis. I must ask if radiographs were taken on the initial visit when you were sent home with medications. I am sure your veterinarian did what they thought was appropriate and it sounds as if the dog was in Stage 1, 2 or 3 at the time. In IVDD, the center of the disc herniates through the outer ring placing pressure on the adjacent spinal cord leading to weakness and ataxia in the hind legs and the possible eventual inability to use them at all.
If caught early enough or if the herniation is incomplete, and the dog can still walk, conservative management might prevent a need for surgery. Timing is critical in that allowing too much time to elapse if the dog cannot walk might prevent the ability to recover function of the legs as well as urination and bowel movements. Surgery, when called for, typically needs to be done in less than 24 hours. It seems that your dog is now in Stage 4 or 5 which only differ in the ability to feel deep pain. I have to say that your relative’s judgment is probably correct as far as permanent paralysis, but an emergency consult will give you concrete answers. Should it be too late for a successful surgery, there are carts that can be used to help your dog get around and have a full life.. I wish you luck!
Dr. John de Jong owns and operates the Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic. He can be reached at 781-899-9994.
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