As many of you know I have had a few Grade 5 dogs come to me for rehabilitation.
Its easy to make judgements on a dogs quality of life from afar, and people will always have their opinions. Which is fair enough. But, remember our opinions are only as limited as our experiences.
I often hear things cited about quality of life, and random statistics given about chances of regaining possibilities. But here's the truth, we actually don't know. Every single case is different, some dogs may not regain the feeling and movement in their legs, but many many do. There is also no time limit as to them regaining the movement. And, there is the wonderful miracle of spinal walking, where, the brain and body create a pathway around things and whilst the dogs may not have feeling, the body creates an involuntary response and creates walking mechanics......the brain is an amazing thing. But here's the crux of it, if you make a decision based on information you don't have then you will always have that "what if" in your mind. And, where's the harm in giving them and you a chance? (Obviously there are some exceptions to the rule here, such as myelomalacia and unmanageable pain.)
I am fiercey passionate about giving these dogs a chance, in the early days I'll be honest, you lose all hope. Its horrible for us, but, the dogs are resilient and cope much better with the loss of movement than we do. You struggle to know what is the right thing to do, the worry is exhausting, keeping them crated goes against every instinct in your body to just hold them. But I promise you, this bit is the hardest. Finding the right balance, expressing them if and when needed, learning massage techniques to help them stay limber, it all becomes part of your routine. You learn to celebrate those tiny tiny things, things we've always taken for granted.
There are some wonderful charities out there offering support so don't struggle alone. We are a wonderful close community, and those of us that have hand on experience with IVDD are always willing to support others.
Surgery isn't a must, conservative treatment is also a good option too, I've had success with both. As long as the pain is managed, the rest is down to you and your daxies.
Things to consider during the first few months:
Do they need expressing?
It gets easier, but can be frustrating initially. Once you have a few successes you start understanding what you are feeling for.
Are they starting to get up?
Contact sores (or drag sores) are hard to manage. I often wrap points which are likely to make contact with the floor with vet wrap. I will use a sling if they are still wobbling to support them. I also restrict movement on slabs or concrete, and also damp or cold surfaces as these seem to aggravate them. Once a sore has opened it is very delicate so management whilst it heals is key. This is probably the hardest bit for me as you try to find a balance between giving the opportunity to use their legs independently but preventing the damage. Boots/socks etc are not recommended (and I've tried them) as they impede their movement. It even affects a 'normal' dogs movement so I wouldn't recommend them either.
Are they incontinent?
Personally I use things like large pieces of vet bed, used like a rug, which gives them a better grip and which is easy to wash. I don't use nappies or belly bands as this can cause other issues with their skin and potentially encourage UTI's because of the transfer of bacteria. However, at nightime, fudge has taken to wanting to snuggle, so although he is generally dry, I pop a band on just for night times.
The strollers have really been a game changer. I have taken mine to cafes, the beach, out on the fields. I always take a blanket (or piece of vet bed) with me and then finding a nice safe spot will get them out on lead and just sit with them to watch the world go by. This can really help with giving them some calm mental stimulation and ease any frustration.
Here's a few of my warriors recently:
Chelly - Grade 5 - surgery September 2020 - predicted to never regain continence or walk. Feb 2022 - walking at 85 (ish) mobility for around 2 miles without needing the stroller. Has regained full continence.
Tootsie - Grade 5 - conservative - late 2021 - now at 80% mobility, Needed expressing 4 times a day for first 8 weeks, had a couple of UTI's. Has now regained continence.
Lola - Surgery - March 2020 - full paralysis for 16 months, doubly incontinent. Had recurrent UTI's over this period and weight gain. 2 ulcers on lower rump due to reduced circulation - now healed. Now trying to walk, regaining continence, and a good weight. Currently expressed 2 x a day.
Fudge - Conservative - episode 2018? history unknown and treatment mismanaged. On wheels, doubly incontinent. Other unrelated health issues, Now trying to stand, becoming aware of needing the toilet and trying to take himself outside. Possibly arthritic in his knees which is preventing the ability to bend them. Unlikely to regain full mobility, but is a legend on wheels.
You will often see videos of these guys on my fb page.
It isn't an easy journey, and the start of it is hard going, but once any pain is managed the rest is down to you and your daxies. They can absolutely enjoy a great life. The outcome after an episode is unknown, but more and more research supports the chances of recovery. It just takes time and patience. They are much more resilient and determined than we are. They do not wallow in thoughts of the past. They are inspirational.
Please reach out for support.
Useful websites are:
All have their own fb pages too where people share their stories and reach out for help too.