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August 5, 2011 at 8:00 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Managing Izzy's Back Pain

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

So, my little Izzy "threw out her back" (known also as a ruptured disc), and unfortunately this is a very common issue with her mini dachshund breed.

Her ruptured disc is due to Degenerative Disc Disease. This can happen about every 12 weeks and after it does, she is usually "not feeling herself" up to 7 days. She tends to be more mellow, less barking and playing with her tennis ball, not chasing those darn squirrels and sleeping a lot.

Izzy is 5 years old and at the typical age of dogs that beginning showing symptoms of this disease - around 3 - 7 years old, however this disease is not age related. However, we adopted Izzy at 2 and noticed this issue with her back just 6 months after having her.

The disease is most likely due to genetic factors. Certain breeds, have a high incidence of disc disease including:

Izzy was diagnosed at Stage 3, out of a total of 5 stages. Stage 3 causes partial paralysis and results in the dog walking in staggering or uncoordinated movements, which she tends to do. Surgery can be an option, but not all disc ruptures can be treated with surgery. The goal of a surgery is to remove pressure from the spinal cord and can cost from $4,500 to $7,000. Unfortunately success of the surgery cannot be determined immediately, it can take weeks to find out if the surgery was a success.

My husband, Larry and I had to make a decision of how far we would go financially to assist Izzy and making sure we could meet her needs of a quality healthy life. Shortly after adopting her, prior to us even knowing if she had this disease, we discussed it and made an informed decision on what is best for us and Izzy.

We have opted to not do surgery for Izzy. If it gets to the point where she has no feeling (therefore no pain), we would have the option to purchase her a wheelchair to use. The wheelchair would allow her to get around and continue "squirrel patrol" as well as her walks and visits with people. This is a very personal decision that each pet-parent will have to consider and make when choosing a breed that can potentially have this very serious disease.

I took her to the vet and they prescribed steroids and pain medicine. She already seems to be feeling better this morning, but I have to be honest with you - the prescribed steroids and pain medicine is not our long term goal for Izzy. We are now seeking a holistic and more healthier approach to help relieve Izzy's pain.

About Degenerative Disc Disease

Let me explain more about Degenerative Disc Disease.

The spinal cord is one of the most important and sensitive organs in the body. If it is damaged, the nerve cells do not regenerate but are replaced with fibrous scar tissue.

The discs of the spine are composed of two parts. The outer covering is much like a thick shell, and when this shell degenerates, it allows the central part of the disc to escape. This is called a disc rupture or a "slipped" disc.

Since the disc is thinnest near the spinal cord, disc material that escapes through the tear usually goes upward, putting pressure on the spinal cord. Since the spinal cord is encased within its bony canal, it cannot move away from the pressure and it becomes "pinched".

Degenerative Disc Disease causes spontaneous degeneration of the outer part of the disc, resulting in disc rupture.

While disc degeneration usually occurs relatively slowly - usually over several days or weeks - it tends to occur following some kind of "traumatic" event, such as a relatively small jump or fall. Therefore the injury actually occurred due to chronic disc degeneration AND the trauma caused the ruptured disc.

When this happens, your dog may experience pain or become reluctant to move. Some dogs can go from normal walking to total paralysis in less than one hour. Taking your dog to the vet to seek appropriate care is a must.

Natural Care

Another solution is chiropractic care. Yes, I am considering this for Izzy and I need to look into it further. (I will keep you posted on this!)

Some tips on taking preventive measures are:

  • Keeping your dogs weight healthy. Izzy ranges between 9-10 lbs and never goes above that, according to our vet, this is a very healthy weight for her to be at.
  • Limiting their jumping or stair climbing. Unfortunately because we didn't get Izzy when she was a puppy, we weren't able to train her to not jump up on furniture or climb stairs, which is a great way to prevent injury to a dog's spinal cord.

Do you have any thoughts or experience with this?

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  • I'm glad you're trying to keep the steroids temporary. My dog Frisket had to be on prednisone for allergies, and it had some awful side effects and ultimately shortened his life a lot. It was so hard to watch. I've never had to use a chiropractor for either of my dogs, but I've heard really positive things about them! I really hope they're able to bring some relief to Izzy :) Are you considering any other natural care methods?

  • Yes, besides looking into Chiropractor care, I am also going to investigate it is a natural pain reliever....

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