Few things can prepare an owner for the shock of suddenly finding that your beloved dachshund cannot walk anymore. This is exactly what happened to Bentley’s mom.
Bentley ate his breakfast without incident, but moments later, his owner realised his back legs were weak and that he could not walk. Luckily, she did the only thing she could think of – she brought him straight to the vet. Our assessment showed that Bentley had most likely slipped a disc (or more correctly a popped disc). Our suspicions were confirmed when we took special X-rays, called a myelogram. Material from the disc between two vertebrae had moved into the spinal canal, which was placing a lot of pressure on the spinal cord. This results in paralysis of the back legs. Bentley needed immediate surgery to remove the disc material from around his spinal cord. This was the best chance for Bentley to regain use of his back legs.
We rushed him to surgery and Dr Morné performed a hemilaminectomy. This involves removing part of the bone of the vertebrae to remove the disc material. Surgery went well, but we knew that Bentley still had a long road of recovery lying ahead of him. After a week he started standing by himself and he is slowly but surely starting to take his first steps.
What is intervertebral disc disease?
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), otherwise known as slipped discs, is a serious condition that is often encountered in dachshunds. It can happen spontaneously, although obesity and trauma can increase the chances of and increase the severity of symptoms.
The most obvious symptoms range from loss of coordination to complete paralysis of the back legs and back pain. Dogs with IVDD are graded by means of a careful physical, musculoskeletal and neurological examination by a competent veterinarian. Grading is quite important as it aids the vet and the owner in the decision making process and has an impact on the pet’s prognosis and chances of recovery.
How is disc disease diagnosed and treated?
Special imaging techniques such as myelogram, CT or MRI are needed to confirm the diagnosis and pinpoint the exact location of the disc.
Dogs with only slight or mild disc disease may be treated with medication and rest alone. This carries a good chance of full recovery provided that the condition does not deteriorate. Dogs with more severe symptoms require surgery to stand the best chance of recovery. In some cases, there is still a good chance of a full recovery. Unfortunately, there are some instances where the trauma or pressure on the spinal cord is so much that the chance of recovery is extremely poor, even with surgery. Regrettably the only option, in these cases, is to consider euthanasia.
Frequently asked questions
How much does back surgery cost?
The simple answer is, quite a bit. This is mainly due to the imaging (special X-rays or MRI) that is required to pinpoint the lesions, as well as the surgery that can only be performed by specially trained veterinarians. The length of recovery may also have an impact on the cost. The good news is that there are quite a few medical aids that pay for back operations. So please consider taking out medical aid and ensure that back operations are not excluded
If I keep my Dachsie thin, can it still develop a disc problem?
Although we know that obesity greatly increases the chance of IVDD, it is unfortunately not the only reason. We now know that some discs can start degenerating before 1 year of age. So, keeping then fit and trim is definitely better and reduces risk, but does not prevent disc disease altogether.
How quickly should I get my dog to the vet?
Our recommendation is within 24 hours of noticing symptoms. The condition can progress very rapidly, and early intervention does increase the chances of a good recovery. You probably do not need to call a vet at 2 am, but please have it seen to as soon as possible.
If my Daschie has had one disc, is there a chance that he might have another one at a later stage?
Dachsies are predisposed to disc disease. There are 7 lumbar discs, 3 (out of 13) thoracic discs and 6 neck discs that are often affected. So, if one disc is affected there may be 15 other discs waiting to happen.