As most of you know Joeri is a 4 1/2 year old wirehaired dachshund that we imported from Germany. He was a very precocious puppy with a great conformation and nice temperament. He also showed a real talent for field work, especially for natural blood tracking, so for the last couple of years he has been John's number 1 tracking dog. The two are very close. Joeri did not fare as well as a producer, and we stopped using him for breeding two years ago.
On August 20 I noticed that Joeri's gait was a little different and he walked with caution. Not knowing what the reason might be, we crated him and observed. From the way he acted we thought that it might have been Lyme disease or a back problem. Two days later John took him to our regular vet. He tested positive for Lyme and was put on doxycycline, but at the same time he was put on prednisone as he showed some tenderness in his back. He was in some discomfort but not a great deal of pain. He wagged his tail, ate his food. He was put on a strict crate rest.
On Sunday, August 26, Joeri felt much better, but when I put a leash on him for his last bathroom walk, he jumped up, his body twisted a little, and he yelped. I could see that things were worse. He moved very slowly and with difficulty. By Monday morning he had deteriorated. We made a phone call to orthopedic surgeons located 50 minutes from us and got an appointment at 1 PM. This was emergency. Unfortunately John had a personal medical appointment that he could not cancel so I drove Joeri by myself to the Pattersonville clinic and I could see that he was really hurting.
He was examined, and luckily he still had some deep pain perception in his hind legs, but when I left him there he could not use them to walk any more. A CT scan revealed a herniated disc behind his last thoracic vertebra. The ruptured disc material was filling approximately 40% of the spinal canal and there was a severe degree of spinal cord compression.
The sooner a herniated disc is treated surgically the better, and odds for a full recovery decrease with delay. Joeri was operated on Monday evening, and the vet’s report said that “the herniated nucleus pulposus was carefully removed from the spinal cord and the spinal canal to decompress the spinal cord”. According to Joeri’s surgeon, around 80% of dogs recover after this kind of procedure. There are no guarantees that this is not going to happen again. As far as I know Joeri's problem was not caused by any injury, and according to his doctor Joeri’s disc would have ruptured sooner or later.
We picked Joeri up on Wednesday afternoon, and the final bill was $3954. The first couple of days were very challenging. Even though Joeri had been on pain medication and muscle relaxants, you could see that he was in pain, especially in the mornings. As far as medical issues go, I have always believed (and still do) that when a dachshund's back goes down, this is the most traumatic experience that a dog and owner can go through.
John and I have been extremely lucky over the years. When you read statistics that 1 in 5 dachshunds will experience a back problem at one point in life (some very mild that respond to crate rest), our experience has been more like 1 in 50-60. Since we joined our breeding programs 18 years ago we have not owned a dachshund with a back problem (until now), and we probably produced 4-5 that had to be treated (one was put down). But there is no doubt that the dachshund is predisposed to premature aging of spine, and Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is the number 1 health issue in the breed.
We have been selecting against disc disease in our breeding program, and have been trying to stay away from it. It is not easy as not much is known about heritability (genetic control) of the disease. However, there is hope and progress is being made. It looks like Scandinavian countries are leaders in this field, and I will write more about it in another post. Another complicating factor is that since our breeding is based on imported dogs, there is usually limited information available to start with. Joeri’s breeder responded to the bad news by writing “We are surprised to hear bad news. The feeling of surprise is intensified through our breeding experience (more than 30 years) – our own dogs showed no back problems”.
Joeri’s recovery has been going really well. He could take small steps on Wednesday evening when he got home. Now, three days later, he can come out of his crate on his own and can walk to the main entry door. He has a long way to full recovery but so far his progress is quite remarkable. One thing is certain – he is not going to track this fall. We are fortunate that Tommy will be able to assume the role of John’s main tracker.
|Joeri, 60 hours after surgery, was not feeling great. This was Thursday morning, and he was much better in the afternoon.|
|Joeri on Thursday morning.|
I am going to write more about IVDD in dachshunds in the near future. This post is dedicated just to Joeri and his surgery. We'll keep you updated on his progress. For those who’d like to read more about disc disease in dogs a good presentation of basic facts is given here. The most comprehensive website about IVDD in dachshunds is at http://www.dodgerslist.com/, where you can order a DVD for just $3.00.