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The behavioural aftermath of IVDD and other conditions needing confinement for recovery and how to make life easier!

When your dog is suddenly put onto "strict rest" the sudden loss of freedom can be as hard as the sudden loss of movement. I explore that part of things in this blog.



I’ve done many blogs and posts on IVDD found here: IVDD (perfectlypolitedachshunds.com) but realised I’ve not done one on what behavioural changes you may see afterwards, why, and how to address them.  So, I’m rectifying that one right now.


I would like to do a separate blog where I share your personal journeys and tips for others who may be facing this journey....things you wish you had thought of. If you would like to share your journey and tips, please email me, along with some pictures and permission to share your pictures and story to perfectlypolitedachshunds@outlook.com. I have shared Kim's story and feelings about Ted's surgery and recovery below to get you started- I am a strong believer in sharing our experiences to help others in similar positions....so....the more the merrier.


In this blog I am talking about changes in behaviours afterwards, pre-existing issues may well be exacerbated or regress after IVDD, and should ideally be addressed irrespective of whether then get IVDD or not. You may need to go back to basics or back a few steps with your training.  Please seek support early on, don’t wait until an issue is unbearable, it is much harder to address.  Please go back to the trainer or behaviourist you were working with if your dog is injured as they may be able to modify your training plan to suit.  Just because they are injured it shouldn’t mean all your training comes to a stop – but you will likely have to slow it down. It is super important to ensure there is not any lingering pain or discomfort or underlying issue (like a urine infection) and thus you really need to discuss things with your vet. They may also suggest some calming medication over a short term period to aid recovery.


Whilst I am focusing on IVDD recovery in this blog, the same can apply for any dog facing a period of confinement after ‘injury’ or surgery. Please see Ted's story at the end, who had surgery for his leg but faced similar restriction and reintegration back to mobility post surgery.


IVDD


After a disc herniation, regardless of whether they have had surgery or not, or what grade, they will be faced with a period of rest.  Usually this is between 4-8 weeks depending on the severity of the injury. There is some amazing advice from the rehab vet Marianne Dorn here: Recovering dogs: advice for owners – The Rehab Vet


The dogs who are lower grades do tend to struggle more with these issues than the higher grades as they tend to just want to get back to their normal routine.  This can be very frustrating for all involved.  Those more severely affected do seem to self regulate – especially earlier on.  However once they feel better you may see them start to become more restless. 


A quick note on us humans.  It does get easier.  Initially you will probably experience all the stages of grief in one go.  Trying to absorb the information you are told, the information you read and then looking at your situation and thinking….”I can’t do this!”  You absolutely can do this.  This is not forever.  Treat it as an injury, and take one day at a time.  Try to make a routine that’s as easy for you as possible.  Write down everything you need to do  - toileting, feeding, massage/physio. You will save time where you don’t need to walk them so use that extra time to modify your routine to suit.  My routine for a grade 5 looked a little like this (that’s all slotted in between work, walking the others, studying and sleeping!)

1.  Get up

2.      Take them to the toilet (carry and sling) (Every 4 hours during the day and last thing before I go to bed)

3.      Clean them or wipe them down if necessary

4.      Change or tidy up their pen space. I have 4 of these waterproof pads on rotate to reduce washing and help keep things dry and clean with a Grade 5: https://amzn.to/45SAuDD

5.      Feed them & give medications in their pen space to create a positive association in that area.  Use a kong or licky mat rather than a bowl. If fed on kibble, soak it overight and smush into the mat - These mats are good https://amzn.to/4eyu5RO and these licky bowls are awesome: https://amzn.to/3zaOMCZ

6.      Do their physio once ready – often combined with feeding time depending on the dog and point of recovery.

7.      Ensure they had fluids (nice cap of milk to warm water, or a dash of honey works well)

8.      Let them rest

9.      Get on with my normal routine

10.  Give chews/activities randomly through the day. This is a nice selection: https://amzn.to/3VBbKL9

11.  Repeat steps 2-7 4 times a day.

 

Its that 'simple'.  Don’t over complicate it.  You can deviate from your plan, and much will surround their medications, but do create a rough outline for the early days to keep you on track. Set reminders initially. You will find your own rhythm.


I would like to say here how sorry I am that you are going through this.  I have been there, and I understand the emotional, physical and financial stress you are under.  You need to makes sure reach out to others and don’t struggle alone.  If you do have mental health issues, this situation could quite easily turn into a trigger for you and I would highly recommend you seek support before you start struggling. There is no shame in asking for help…..we all need it.


The common issues:


Confinement

Hopefully before your dog became unwell they were used to periods of restriction in a crate or pen away from you and any other animals they live with.  This is one of the things I strongly urge people to do as early as possible (once they are comfortable with being confined that is).  Whilst I generally don’t have crates up all the time, I do ensure all of my dogs – big or small, are used to comfortably spending time in an area away from me and the others.  I top this knowledge up a few times a year.


If they aren’t you will need to try to make things as easy as possible for them, and for you.

A pen is often easier for them to cope with than a crate….its easier on your back too!  Dedicated to Dachshunds (UK) with IVDD can loan one to you. 

1.      Initially start with 4 sides and then when they are allowed more movement increase to 6 sides.  You want a firm but soft bed, I use memory foam beds like this https://amzn.to/4bi4IAWfor the bedding area only.  I do not recommend this for the entire space as is challenging for them to balance. Children's foam play mats are useful to go under the beds and create a firm but softer floor surface which also insulates the ground if you have tile/wooden floors. These are cheap and easy to fit: https://amzn.to/3VzSWvU. You could also put a tarpaulin underneath to protect carpets. I often use these mats outside too to prevent contact sores when they are allowed a bit more freedom and to give them some fresh air.

2.      Put the pen in a room where  they are used to spending time, which lacks drafts.  Try to ensure they aren’t near trigger spots or windows if there are likely to be triggers for them (e.g. pigeons, or people passing by), same for noises.  By putting the pen in a familiar place it will help them relax more. 

3.      If they are used to following you around everywhere (note for those of you reading this just in case), you will have a harder time of things.  I would start by using crate training basics and work very hard to help them learn about being in a confined space. The strollers can really help you with this as can become a mobile crate indoors too, but the movement isn’t great for them at this stage.  Having different safe spaces set up in the rooms you tend to be with them in is a good idea, but also consider the lifting and moving of them.  If you are working from home, it may be easier to move your office than to continue moving the dog.

4.      I will add here, if your dog really struggles with confinement and is becoming frustrated and barking, or jumping at the sides, I’d speak to the specialist about whether room rest would be a safer alternative. Whilst not ideal, it is a matter of weighing up the greater evil and considering their needs and yours!

5.      I use washable pads, I usually use 2 in their bed for dogs who are incontinent.  One on top of the foam, and one underneath any blankets I put on top of that. I use them on the sofa too, under vet beds….just in case.

6.      Once they are comfortable and able to interact more freely (after surgery, or pain onset), feed their meals through activities such as licky mats or kongs rather than bowls.  Feed smaller portions more frequently. It will give them something to do.  Remember to reduce their calories down, but you can add low calorie bulk such as green veg – peas, broccoli, cucumber for example.  You will also find healthy chews help them occupy their day.  Make sure you cut down the calorie intake to allow for this.  Try to remember protein is really important for muscle development so try to avoid high carb items.

7.      We all know how much they love a sun spot, where we are lacking this, try a heat pad. Make sure you place this under a waterproof pad. With the possibility of incontinence I avoid ones with wires and prefer the microwave ones. I'd not use hotwater bottles or the gel ones for safety reasons: https://amzn.to/4eyv84c

8.      As hard as it is, they are meant to be on rest, so once they are in their pen, let them rest.  Yes, they’ll probably look miserable – I know I am when I’m stuck in bed, but the rest is important.  Sometimes, mithering and fussing over them can make them worse.

9.      If they are distressed at being locked away, look at the location.  Where are they usually happy to spend their day? Obviously they can’t go on the sofa unattended but are they used to being able to access you at all times? Unfortunately this will mean you need to start working on separation training when you are fresh out the gate as they need to rest and you need to be able to move about.  It can be useful to have a confined area near where you sleep if they are used to being under the duvet with you.  I also had a side sleeper ready if needed.  A lot of people swear by them for recovering dogs. 

10.  For those who do not have separation issues -Try very hard not to spend 24/7 with them when they are on rest. Don’t change your routine too much as this can create an over-attachment issue and make things much harder for both of you.  Whilst they will need extra monitoring, remember they are meant to be resting.  You should be able to come and go freely.  If you maintain this, it will prevent a regression later.  Obviously if they need expressing you will need to do this every 4-6 hours. But you don’t need to be attached to them. In the days after surgery they will need monitoring but not bothering! I know it seems counterintuitive but trust me, it will save you much frustration and stress later.

11.  When carrying them outside to the toilet from their pen, I find it easier to open the pen at a corner so I don’t have to step over anything. I am clumsy and the restricted space makes for a clumsy pick up.  When placing them on the floor, depending on your balance, sliding down a wall to give you balance can help a smooth landing.

12.  Try to thing of calm, less activities to do with them.  This may be massage and physio, or it may be easy food puzzles.  At this stage, keeping them mentally enriched is challenging. Remember though, you can sit and cuddle them, just do it carefully.  If you want them on the sofa of an evening – and they have the all clear from the vet, pop their lead and harness on and hold them on a short lead whilst you sit and snuggle.  Be very careful as you lift them, and do not let them jump off.  But this is a nice way to have a bit of your normal dog back.  If you are worried about their continence, this is where their mats come in.


Barking


Chelly on her first beach walk after surgery

Usually a surge in barking is related to boredom, frustration or separation related stress.  It can of course be fear especially if directed towards dogs/people when they are out and about.

1.      The separation issues I address above.  You must address this very slowly.  I have seen some people suggest bark collars or corrector sprays.  Please don’t.  I don’t like them at the best of times, for reasons explained here -https://www.perfectlypolitedachshunds.com/post/is-it-just-a-distraction, but using them when the dog is unwell and trying to communicate to you isn’t fair.  Just imagine how you’d feel if you were in hospital and the nurse shouted at you for ringing the bell.  I’d be furious!  Wouldn’t you? It is also very distressing for them as they cannot escape and are trying to communicate a need. Their lives have changed dramatically too, and if we can't find kindness and compassion at a time when they need us most we really should be reassessing things! I know its hard, genuinely, but dig deep....they need you to be the best version of yourself.  

Despite their current issue you can start working on this, but obvious health is always a priority and any residual discomfort can exacerbate issues. I’d urge you to work with a separation anxiety specialist who has experience with dogs on rest. I know its hard, and I appreciate your desperation....I've been there remember, but long term it will have an impact.

2.      Frustration.  Don’t tell me you don’t get bored and frustrated if you’re stuck in bed and can’t just get on with things.  Think back to covid.  Even if we didn’t have the lurgy, we were confined – suddenly food shopping was the highlight of the week!  Luckily we have plenty of things to occupy us, but even then many of us got stir crazy. This is a similar thing to how the dogs feel.  But remember their entire world has changed.  Not only are they locked away in a small area, they have lost their autonomy, their ability to move around, to explore, their freedom! 

a.      They will likely have some level of discomfort and they will desperately just want to get on with things.  Those pigeons need chasing off after all else they’ll take over the garden!  Trying to help them with this by limiting the exposure they have to things that do frustrate them is important, but challenging.  Not being able to pee up that tree, run with dogs, or even avoid that “friendly” person staring at the dog in a pram are all things that can set them off.

b.      Try collecting different items (leaves, moss, soil, twigs) from walks and put in Tupperware pots to let them sniff at for their daily socialisation, or create a sniffy box of leaves, twigs, moss for them to have a good snuffle of at home. Dogs smell about 37000 smells on a walk, the smells make the walk for them, bring the smells home with you to help them.

c.      Confinement is….frustrating....for everyone!  It is another good reason why you might avoid taking them out for several weeks in a stroller alongside the need to recover physically as the reactivity is “jerky” and may cause them to jar a muscle where their movements aren’t co-ordinated. Start using the stroller in the home and garden first so they get used to it!

d.      When you do start taking them out, start slowly.  Research does show a regression in sociability after a break, (again think about end of lock down).  It is important to re-expose them slowly, and remember they will feel vulnerable.

e.       Strollers are wonderful, but maybe start with the cover zipped over so they don’t attract attention.  Take them to quiet spaces.  Do let them have a quiet potter and sniff with support (depending on veterinary advice obviously).

f.        Do take them to café’s and pubs, or areas where people will be pre-occupied and dogs on lead.  This is a nice way for you all to get out without intense exposure of free running dogs.

3.      Fear – it is reasonable to anticipate they will feel vulnerable and therefore defensive.  It is important to remember how vulnerable they may feel, and also remember (especially the higher grades) that they have lost key communication signals – tail wagging, butt wiggling, even the ability to send pee-mails.  This loss of communication abilities would have anyone fretting about how to get a message across and many will use those well equipped vocal cords to pass on a message.   It is important to consider whether there is residual pain or discomfort – even if it is not obvious.  I often keep my warriors on some pain killer or another for several months beyond the confinement period to help them with their gradual reintroduction to normal life.

4.      Hyper attachment.  The bond formed during the recovery process is like none I’ve ever seen.  Often there is one chief caregiver and this can lead to over-bonding.  It is really important to get as many people involved in their care as possible. Feeding, toileting, grooming, physio, get everyone involved.  Even having the children feed them their meals (under supervision).  It takes the pressure and stress off you and the dog. Whilst I totally accept sometimes it is easier to do it yourself, it will help you in the long run where the dog isn’t completely reliant on one person.

5.      Touch sensitivity/grumpiness.  I won’t write an essay on this – here’s a video on the topic with Fudge: https://www.facebook.com/perfectlypolitedachshunds/videos/1588643658558850. It is important to rule out underlying pain or discomfort. Nerve pain doesn't respond to anti-inflammatories or pain killers in the same way so do go back to your vet if you suspect discomfort.

I really hope this helps to shed some light on how to help them and yourselves, obviously this is generalised advice and you may need to modify it.  At the least it demonstrates you are not alone and what you are experiencing is common.  But I also help in some way it helps you find a way to work on things whilst they recover.  Try to remember most of them spend all day sleeping anyway, so if they are resting in their pen this is great. They aren’t necessarily depressed, but are just accepting the situation as it is.  Often our stress can exacerbate their behaviours.  Try to walk away if you start feeling frustrated.  Reach out to friends and family for support.  Speak to local dog sitters or day care providers (who know IVDD well) who could give you much needed respite or just go for a walk!  I know I am over simplifying, but for your situation try and find an outlet.  Even if its just a bath with a few candles lit. 


I have been there, and initially that abrupt change in routine can throw you, but if you create a routine of sorts it will help you navigate this journey.  It isn’t forever, its just whilst they recover, then you will start seeing those wonderful but tiny improvements.  You will feel ridiculous over the little things that make you beam, but those of us who have been there will celebrate with you.  We get it! 


The facebook group Dachshund IVDD UK is phenomenal, the admin team are awesome and so knowledgeable and supportive. The charity Dedicated to Dachshunds with IVDD are our light in our darkest days. We are exceptionally lucky to have such amazing support, other breeds aren't that lucky.


The stroller is great for offering some shade and security too


Here is a message from Kim with Ted who has been battling with his reactivity for a long time and finally had surgery on his leg last year. She faced many new issues whilst he recovered but thankfully he's come out of surgery better than when he went in....it was a challenge and a worrying time.



The mesh cover can help to keep them calm
Soft bedding and enough room to stretch out.




Give them space to enjoy their chew

"Cutting a very long story as short as possible. Teddy needed surgery for angular limb deformity at the end of 2023, he'd just turned 4 years old. During the surgery Teddy had his leg broken in several places, re positioned using a guide and plated and screwed into position. Teddy did not have enough skin to stretch round the plates and two open incisions were made and left to allow the skin to heal with more stretch. A tendon was also cut into by accident during the procedure and this was stitched back together. Teddy was never strictly crate trained as such but he had always had access to an open create since he was 9 weeks old. Teddy often sleeps in his open crate and this is definitely his safe space. Before his operation, we were kindly loaned a pen from dedicated to dachshunds, a large crate and a further pen from a kind person on a local dog page. We set the 3 areas up in hot spots to help minimise any separation issues, one in the lounge, one in the kitchen for times of cooking and one  in the bedroom upstairs  next to our bed for night time. A couple of weeks before the surgery we set all 3 areas up and began to change a few things in prep for the op. We removed his usual crate and had only the large one, left the pen open downstairs in the lounge for him to wander in and out of, and started having him sleep in the pen in our room.

Resting in familiar areas can make a huge difference

We were lucky in that Teddy's need for surgery was planned allowing us time to make some changes for him to get used to. Teddy responded well to being in the pen at first but the second day he struggled enormously with the discomfort of his leg and he was relentless in trying to get to his leg, so much so we were in contact with the out of hours vet numerous times in the evening ready to take him back in. She advised upping his medication that evening and he settled. The following day we took him back to the specialist several times in attempts to keep him comfortable, he had his medication increased and ended up on gabapentin, Metacam, pardale and trazodone on rotation.

Creating a routine can help you early on

Before his medication was on a good rotation he displayed signs of frustration and aggression to get to his leg, he could smell the open wounds he had under his bandage, which understandably must have smelt, been sore and itchy - this was a huge struggle. Teddy couldn't get his leg wet during toilet breaks, and this also presented as challenge being October, we found the most effective way was wrapping a poop bag around his bandage and cello taping every time. We caught Teddy on his open wound one day doing this, and after this he became quite very snappy when we had to do this, we had to sit two people with him and try and give him little treats while doing this after until his bandages and dressings could come off. Teddy actually coped amazingly well during this 6 weeks, he had frequent rest breaks on our lap with his lead secured round our waist, lickimats and chews and we had a good routine in place. Teddy did begin to guard his pen and felt frustrated and anxious when our other dachshund Dotty approached or when people walked past him, particularly if he had a chew with him causing him to growl and lunge aggressively, which is something we had not experienced with Teddy before at all with food or towards Dotty. This was made worse by Dotty sneaking one of his chews out of his pen!

Teddy struggled near the end as he healed and felt better in himself, and it was difficult to keep him settled. He often tried to avoid going back in the pen after he’d been out for the toilet. Teddy had a stroller which we took him around the village in, Teddy did not like the stroller and felt frustrated in this, he was quite reactive in the stroller, and constantly tried to get out which made things challenging so we had to zip the mesh round and only let his head pop through where there were no triggers for him.


Aside from this, post op Teddy seemed so much happier, his eyes were brighter he seemed less reactive to anything, he slept less, he seemed so much more active and spritelier than before. Now, Teddy lets me clip his claws again with no issues, we had really struggled with his left leg pre op due to the pain he had been experiencing. We did have a negative change in Teddy and he struggled with the car and no longer wanting to go in the car. This is something we have never had with Teddy not even as a pup. He became extremely anxious when we approached the car with him, tried to run in the opposite direction and he would shake when placed in the crate in the boot. We have worked hard on changing his thoughts on going in the car, with arriving to nicer places such as secure fields (which he loves!) and meeting some of his doggie friends, so he has nicer experiencing when arriving rather than constant specialist appointments, physio or hydro. This has definitely improved for Ted and he is happy to go in the car again. I’m pleased to say that Teddy has displayed no aggression around food or chews since being out of the pen and restricted area.


All in all the experience was extremely challenging, I didn't sleep well, even though he did! I was constantly in a state of worry as to whether he may need more surgery. I was terrified that he would get an infection and the plates would reject, or the bones wouldn't heal correctly which put more pressure on us to keep his bandages clean and dry. I felt huge guilt for him not getting the op sooner, but also mixed with feelings and thoughts like was I doing the right thing for him? I hated I couldn't explain why he was being put in the pen but Dotty was walking freely past him. We often just sat inside his pen with him and gave him cuddles. I was very emotional in the first couple of weeks, until the bandages and dressings came off. It was one of the hardest things we had ever done. Those first 2/3 weeks he wasn't left unsupervised at all for those first few weeks. Things seemed to ease and settle once those open wounds closed and then it became just a lot easier with not needing the cone of shame, not having to keep his dressing changed and clean, and it became more focused on keeping Teddy occupied while he healed internally."

Pre and post op for ALD

Useful links shared from Dachshund's IVDD page run by Dachshund Health UK and Dedicated to Dachshunds:


My Dachshund has IVDD ... WHAT NOW?

THE IVDD HANDBOOK

The IVDD Handbook: Helping your dog through back and neck problems https://amzn.eu/d/56uBRHf

SUPPORT & ADVICE group for owners

For owners in USA

For owners in Australia

EQUIPMENT LOAN

D2d with ivdd loan equipment to recovering and disabled dachshunds

This link will explain how the loans works and what equipment D2D can provide .

Please contact us here to discuss equipment

 REFERRALS

Ivdd diagnosis

 Clinical diagnosis and grading scale

 Questions to ask your vet

Decision making

Non surgical treatment

A trial for those who can't afford surgery, paralysed within last 2 days and dogs weight under 15kg...

Myelomalacia

SLING WALKING

SLING WALKING - IMPORTANT - ALWAYS USE A HARNESS AND LEAD AT ALL TIMES DURING RECOVERY FOR CONTROL.... With and without the support sling .

WALKING - IMPORTANT- AVOID CONCRETE IF PAWS ARE DRAGGING ttps://therehabvet.com/2017/05/walking-with-your-recovering-dog/

HARNESS

HOMECARE AND NURSING - POST DIAGNOSIS SURGERY / CONSERVATIVE CARE

Choosing a recovery crate or pen

Pen set up - ONLY USE 4 PANELS FOR FIRST FEW WKS ...(Please see pic )

 Home care

Crate rest

Daily routine

Home care

Staying positive

Calm and content

Toilet Breaks

Bladder expression

Sacral nerve implant procedure

PHYSIOTHERAPY TECHNIQUES & MASSAGE

RECOVERY EXCERSISE- BELLA GRADE 5 (LICKIMATT)

 PHYSIOTHERAPY TECHNIQUES - MARNIE

 MARNIE PART 2

MARNIE PART 3

Cambridge trial....

MASSAGE - CAMBRIDGE IVDD RESEARCH GROUP

PROM - PASSIVE RANGE OF MOTION - CAMBRIDGE IVDD RESEARCH GROUP

CRATE REST IS DONE, WHAT NOW? ...take your time ....

THE IVDD HANDBOOK

The IVDD Handbook: Helping your dog through back and neck problems https://amzn.eu/d/56uBRHf

A few top tips for ivdd dogs from Marianne Dorn https://therehabvet.com/2020/09/about-marianne-dorn/

  • Avoid slick flooring for any exercises or walking attempts.

  • Don't expect too much too soon. Practice makes perfect.

  • Reward often: A kind word always goes down well, as does a little titbit of food.

  • Take breaks often. IVDD dogs fatigue really quickly.

  • Use a harness and lead to slow your dog down.

  • It's best to learn to stand before you try to walk.

  • It's best to learn to walk before you try to trot or run.


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