A reader named Sally recently reached out to me to talk about her dachshund, Penny. Sally and Penny were dealing with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), a common condition among dachshunds. But for Sally, some of the resources recommended by the veterinary community to treat this disease were not available. Despite the challenges, the duo managed to overcome major hurdles. Their tale is a fantastic reminder that sometimes you can do more with less to help your dog lead their best life.
I absolutely had to share Sally and Penny’s story. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
Sally and Penny the dachshund
Sally Bosson and Penny live in Bahrain, an island country off the coast of Saudi Arabia. In January, while Penny was playing fetch in the yard with Sally’s mother, she fell and screamed in pain. Sally rushed home to find that her dog had lost the use of her back legs.
Sally took Penny to her veterinarian, who diagnosed her with stage 5 IVDD. The dog’s hind legs and tail were limp and didn’t feel any sensations. And Penny was incontinent as well.
Unfortunately, Sally learned from her vet that there were no MRIs or surgery available in her country. But she didn’t let the lack of treatment options stop her from helping her dog.
Sally began watching YouTube videos on canine physical therapy, and continued to research other online resources, like Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog. She and Penny started their own physical therapy sessions. They began with short, five-minute daily workouts, which included massage, flexion, leg extensions, and manually ‘walking’ Penny’s legs to regain movement.
Sally later incorporated weight bearing exercises to help Penny’s muscles regain their strength. After a few weeks, she could bear weight on her legs and stand with support from her family. Slowly but surely, she began to hold more of her own weight for longer periods of time.
Just a few weeks into the regiment, Sally noticed Penny’s tail wagging. Though slight, it was the first sign of progress and healing. At the 4-6 week stage, Penny’s legs began stiffening on their own, and her bladder was getting harder to express – a sign that the muscles were starting to work on their own again.
Five months after the initial diagnosis, Penny surprised Sally by pushing herself up to a standing position on her own. By the end of June, she could manage about five steps in a row.
Now, thanks to dedication and persistence, Penny can walk around the garden and the tiled floors in the house with relative ease. She still does a ‘drunken walk,’ and falls or stumbles from time to time, but little by little she continues to show improvement every day.
Sharing hope with the community
Sally asked to share her story to “give people hope with their dachshunds” and other dogs with IVDD. It’s a great story from someone in our community, and it also reveals an important lesson that many parents of paralyzed pets should remember:
Even though not everyone has access to the latest veterinary diagnostic tools and treatments, everyone can do something for their pet.
Every week, I get emails from worried pet owners from every part of the world, asking for help and advice for their animals. Many live in rural areas, or in countries that lack veterinary services. Without these resources, many pet parents feel helpless.
But regardless of resources, there’s almost always something you can do to help your pup.
Challenge happens everywhere
Sally’s story echoes many stories I’ve heard from readers around the globe. A reader from the Philippines, for instance, recently told me she has to travel to an entirely different province to get medical care for her puppy who suddenly stopped walking.
Thanks to assets like YouTube, our growing community, and even this website, you can always learn tips to help your dog manage their obstacles.
Sally’s online research taught her some fantastic physical therapy techniques, and she experimented with them until she found an effective plan of action for Penny. Other online resources lead her to learn how to deal with and avoid complications from incontinence, and how to use normal household items, like the belt from a soft robe, to support Penny while they were teaching her how to walk again.
Penny also dealt with sores on her legs and knuckles from dragging. Sally again researched online and through her vet, looking into many solutions including a wheelchair and protective socks. She ultimately landed on a combination of bandages and medical tape to keep Penny from getting hurt.
Do more with less for IVDD dog
Sally and Penny’s story teaches us that there are always resources available. But it’s up to you to find them, and to make them work for your family. Sally persisted, and her dedication paid off for Penny. With time, dedication, and a keen eye, you too can help your pup regardless of the challenges.
Thankfully, the LFPD community is a fantastic first step for anyone dealing with a tough situation for your paralyzed pet. We have information about new methods of rehabilitation and new products to help your dog regain some or all of their mobility.
We also have a supportive community on Facebook. Every day, pet parents reach out to each other to answer questions, share stories, and provide support and inspiration.
IVDD is a common concern for pet parents
Penny’s problem with IVDD is unfortunately common, especially for her breed. The condition is often referred to as a ruptured, herniated or slipped disc, but it’s actually a disease of the spinal cord. It causes the discs to prematurely lose moisture, harden and degenerate, leading to back pain, hind end weakness and paralysis.
IVDD is classified in 5 stages that range from mild to paralysis:
- Stage 1 – Dogs have mild pain, but walks normally
- Stage 2 – Dogs have moderate to severe pain
- Stage 3 – There are signs of limb weakness and loss of muscle control
- Stage 4 – Dogs exhibit pain and paralysis of the rear or front limbs
- Stage 5 – There is complete paralysis, loss of pain sensations and urinary incontinence
Sally and Penny today
Nine months after her IVDD episode, Penny is back to her usual, barking self. Sally loves to see her run and drag in their garden and at the park.
The family continues to do plenty of enrichment activities for Penny, and still work on her physical therapy every day. She’s allowed free run of the house (while wearing her diaper), and with supervision is allowed on the bed or couch too. Sally and her family take Penny out and express her bladder every few hours.
On the whole, Sally is happy to see that Penny is once again the same pup she fell in love with.