Lisa Luckenbach is an accomplished yoga instructor, a breast cancer survivor, public speaker and founder of the WiggleLess® award winning back brace for IVDD dogs. Her company has been a friend to Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog since I posted my first story about Sophie and life with a paraplegic dog.
Lisa had a similar story with her two Dachshunds, June and Henry, who suffered from IVDD (Intervertebral disc disease) so it was likely that our paths would cross. We each were determined to help other dogs with spinal problems, but we went about it differently. I decided to bring information and resources to pet parents and Lisa created a canine back brace that has changed the lives of countless dogs.
June and Henry’s story
Like many products on the market, Lisa created WiggleLess during a time of crisis with June and Henry. Both dogs showed the signs and symptoms of painful back problems when they were young. June was diagnosed with IVDD when she was only 2 years-old. She had been playing in her backyard when an injury occurred. The dog could barely walk so Lisa rushed her to an emergency veterinarian.
Henry’s IVDD symptoms of back pain came on gradually when he was 4 years-old. Each time Lisa nursed him back to health until the pain and inflammation in his spine returned.
Both dogs were given medication to relieve their discomfort, additional meds to relax the muscles around their spines and Lisa was told to confine her dogs to bed rest for a month so their backs could heal.
Lisa was frantic that both of her dogs were diagnosed with IVDD. She had no idea how she was supposed to keep two young dogs confined for a month and she worried what would happen if they reinjured themselves.
“When the vet told me that June’s back was like a “ticking time bomb” and suggested spinal surgery or maybe even euthanasia, I panicked,” said Lisa. “Was my sweet angel destined to a life of pain and other maladies that can accompany IVDD such as shaking, and loss of appetite and bladder control? I felt an immense sadness and frustration. Why did June have to suffer so? I took a little time to worry and commiserate, but then…I got busy.”
Lisa realized June and Henry felt better when they remained still, but she felt it was unfair to ask such young dogs to sit in a crate all day. She decided to find a way to stabilize their spine and restrict unwanted movements while their injuries healed.
She designed a bright yellow vest with boning in it to keep the spine from twisting and hired a seamstress put it together. It became the first edition of the WiggleLess dog back brace and served as an adjunct to the bed rest prescribed for June and Henry while giving the dogs some freedom to walk around a bit.
What is IVDD?
Canine Intervertebral disc disease is the most common spine problem seen by veterinarians, touching the lives of an estimated 2 percent of dogs.
The discs in a dog’s spine lie between the bony vertebrae in the spine. They act like little cushions that absorb the impact when your dog walks, runs or jumps. As dogs age the discs lose some of their resilience, but in dogs with IVDD this process starts earlier when the dogs are young and the discs degenerates faster.
Which does are more prone to IVDD?
IVDD can happen in any breed of dog, but certain breeds called “chondrodystrophic” dogs are prone to the condition because they show early signs of abnormal cartilage. These breeds include Dachshunds, Pekinese, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Basset hounds, Beagles and Poodles. Chondrodystrophic dogs can begin showing signs of abnormal changes to their spine as early as 6 – 12 months of age and are diagnosed with IVDD from ages 4 to 6 years-old.
The rest of June and Henry’s story
I am pleased to report that June and Henry lived full and happy lives with Lisa and her husband for many years. Lisa called them her “constant source of joy, love and inspiration.”
WiggleLess has become an award winning product that took the prize of “Best in Pet Products” in the 2014 Family Choice Awards. The brace comes in 8 different sizes so it can help an array of dogs.
Check with Your Veterinarian
Be sure to check with your dog’s veterinarian, orthopedic vet, neurologist or rehab specialist before starting treatment with a back brace. Each dog’s case of IVDD is unique and these professionals know the most about your pet’s individual condition.
The experts at Dodgerslist, the website for IVDD dogs, asks pet parents to be vigilant if they choose to use a back brace, especially during a disc episode. Here are their suggestions:
- The recommended way to limit movement of a dog is supplied with owner commitment to safe and effective crate rest 24/7.
- If a brace is used watch for signs of pain while getting your dog in and out of the device.
- Watch for signs of discomfort while wearing the brace.
- Be aware that braces can fit too tightly.
- Monitor your dog’s skin for pressure sores.
- Get the approval for any orthotic from your veterinary specialist.
Disclaimer: I am not being compensated for this story. I am a fan of the WiggleLess brace and this post reflects my personal experience with the product.
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