Brownie's Bark Alert! Spinal Injuries in Dogs
Brownie’s Bark Alert!
(A special blog post ‘written’ by our dog Brownie covering a range of pet issues)
Today’s Topic: Spinal Injuries in Dogs
Within a 36 hour period, our crazy, lovable mini-dachshund Brownie went from running around the house playing and chasing his toys, to the operating table for something called IVDD. So what happened to him and what is IVDD?
IVDD (intervertebral disk disease) is unfortunately quite common in dogs with long spines, like dachshunds, corgis, bulldogs, cocker spaniels, and hounds of various kinds. IVDD is one of the most common neurological conditions in dogs and may affect up to 2% of the dog population. With nearly 90 million dogs in the US, that’s a lot of IVDD cases! IVDD is essentially a herniated disk, in which the spongy substance (intervertebral disk) that keeps your vertebrae from rubbing together, ruptures, pushing against the spinal cord and initially causing intense discomfort, rapidly followed by excruciating pain, and paralysis, in some cases. Many times this pain and inflammation can be controlled with drugs (steroids) and rest, but in other cases, surgery is required to repair the damage and allow for adequate healing.
This is precisely what happened to Brownie. He experienced the discomfort, which progressed to intense pain within about 6 hours and very shortly thereafter, he began to lose movement and sensation in his hind legs, which also (thankfully) lessened his pain. Due to the severity of his condition, he was operated on within 36 hours of onset of his symptoms, and was given a 50/50 chance of being able to more or less fully recover (i.e., regain sensation and walk again). The surgery was on August 3rd (2018) and, as of this writing, Brownie has not regained any sensation in his hind legs, but has begun walking again using something called ‘spinal walking’, which we’ll write about in a later blog post.
Prevention of IVDD
If you have one of the breeds that are susceptible to IVDD, what should you do to prevent it from happening? The biggest lesson we learned was that these dog breeds should not be allowed to jump up and down off of furniture or beds, or up and down stairs, nor should they be encouraged to pull and tug on toys, clothes, etc. too forcefully. Essentially, anything that will compress or ‘tweak’ the spine should be avoided.
Trust us, we know how hard this will be to enforce, as every dog loves to jump and pull on just about everything! The one thing we would do differently would be to train Brownie on how to use ramps to get up and down furniture and stairs, as we suspect the jumping is what led to his IVDD. As he continues to progress and regain some mobility, we do plan to train him with ramps and I suppose we’ll be testing the old adage of whether you can teach an old dog new tricks (he is quite stubborn)!
Stay tuned for more on Brownie and his recovery and if you’d like to read more of the details of IVDD, we’d recommend you visit here.
Here is a close up of Brownie's surgical site, which healed beautifully, without any complications. The incision was about 6 inches long.