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PSA for all you Fur Baby Owners...

It happens, and it is always painful for those of us that love our fur babies. The moment you realize something is wrong and you are helpless to fix it and make everything go back to the way it was before. For us, it is one of our precious puppies. Okay, so she isn’t so much of a puppy anymore but she is a puppy at heart.

On Sunday, everything was the same as it always is… our little girl, an 11 year old Shih Tzu, and our Toby, a 7 year old Shorkie, went out for a walk When they came in, Katie goes insane for a little bit playing fetch. She LOVES her balls and nothing makes her happier than to play. First, a bit of fetch which is actually me throwing balls and her collecting them and placing them somewhere out of my reach. No problem though since she has an obscene amount of balls for me to throw. This game is then followed by her playing ‘keep away’ until I give up. A few hours later, she and Toby went to lay down with in our bed, but Katie only stayed for a few minutes before jumping down to come join me in the living room. This was it – the moment that changed everything. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I know now that this was ‘the moment’.

I noticed Katie just laying around being lazy – it happens, dogs have ‘those’ days too. That afternoon, our oldest took them for their walk, and when they came back, Katie did not immediately go for her balls. I picked one up and threw it, and even though she sat their and watched it with her tail wagging – she didn’t move to chase it. SOMETHING WAS WRONG! I picked her up and she didn’t seem to be in any pain. I checked for ticks, but found nothing. She was perfectly happy, even wagging her tail – but she simply didn’t want to move. Thinking this might be an upset tummy, I gave her rice and chicken for dinner, which she ate just fine. I brought her some water, and she drank plenty – but I had to bring it to her.

Bedtime came, which she is normally overjoyed about since that means a little treat, but she simply got off the couch and meandered to the bedroom. She stayed in bed all night, which is normal, and in the morning she again didn’t want to do anything but curl up on the couch. She was shaking as if she had the chills, so I covered her up before leaving for work. When Jeff came home, he took the two for a walk but Katie was not interested in walking anywhere. Jeff said her gait seemed a bit off and she just stopped walking – he had to pick her up and carry her back home! When I left work, I made a stop at the vet and talked to a technician about what might be going on. To me, it seemed like the equivalent to a human having the flu, but she had no fever. I was told to just keep making sure she was eating and going to the potty; If she wasn’t better by the weekend to bring her in. When I returned home, I was determined that this could not wait until the weekend – she wagged her tail, but didn’t want to move. I called and made an appointment for the next morning.

It didn’t take the vet but a few moments to come to a conclusion which was followed up by x-rays. What he told me didn’t make sense at first. She has something wrong with her spine? What? But I thought she was just sick!

IVDD (intervertebral disk disease). He explained that she has likely had it for years, but one sudden move or jump (that last jump off the bed on Sunday) caused one of her disks to rupture putting pressure on her spine. This causes pain (the shaking, but wasn’t constant in Katie) and affects her back legs (causing her gait to be off). The affect is neurological, in the fact that she isn’t receiving all the signals to her brain to tell her to move her back legs… this, and the pain, makes her not want to move. So, a steroid shot, some muscle relaxers, a shot for pain, and she was her old self again… but it’s not that easy, not that minor, and not a fix.

For the next 2 weeks, we have to keep supplying her with pain medication, muscle relaxers, and steroids. At the same time, keeping her confined and preventing her movement. What breaks my heart about this is that Katie doesn’t understand. She thinks she is fine, and she wants to play fetch! The look in her eyes when she realizes we aren’t going to throw a ball is painful to me.

Once her medication and confinement period comes to an end and the vet gives us the ‘okay’, then she can play again. However, it won’t be the same – she likes to jump to catch the balls, but this will never again be allowed. Also not allowed EVER again in her future is the ability to jump up and down from the couch where she lays on my lap; jumping off the bed in the mornings to beat me to the door; jumping up into the car when it’s time to go on a trip. It’s not just the jumping though… she has always issues with her eyes resulting in us having to keep the hair on her muzzle shaved, but she hates getting it done. So much so that she squirms and wiggles, but because of the IVDD, this to has to end. So, she will now have to live with constant eye irritation. We will have to watch her closely, but at the end of the day – I don’t care… I love this little girl and I would carry her everywhere if the vet told me to.

Just a bit about IVDD - I will not list out all the details of the disease, but here are a few points:

  • Affects mainly short-legged, long back dogs

  • Basset Hound

  • Beagle

  • Dachshund

  • French Bulldog

  • Lhasa Apso

  • Shih Tzu

  • Welsh Corgi, among others

The effects can range from needing medication and rest like my Katie, and if untreated can result in paralysis. Sometimes, when a disk bursts, the paralysis is immediate and irreversible. Once a dog has it, they have it forever – but there is a surgery that can be performed in more severe cases. This surgery is expensive though and not guaranteed.

Please keep an eye on your fur-babies… if something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. I could have waited until the weekend like what was first suggested, but the possibility that Katie would have moved wrong and become paralyzed is absolutely heart-wrenching and I am so glad I ignored the technician’s advice and took her in when I did.

For more information about IVDD:


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