Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Diary Of A Dachshund Back Injury - Part 1

Our beloved Dachshund, Greta, has limited mobility due to a spinal injury she sustained in July 2007. I am recounting it here for the benefit of other Dachshund / dog guardians who either have experienced, or are experiencing, a similar calamity. In the midst of Greta's crisis last year, I often turned to online support groups and forums and found them to be tremendously helpful. It is my hope that this account will be similarly useful and encouraging to others who are faced with the same challenges.

Last summer we were on a weekend trip to Canada when we received a call from our wonderful pet-sitter, Andrew. That morning Greta was sitting in an arm chair when she twisted around, lost control of her bladder, and went limp. Sensing that something was very wrong, Andrew put Greta down on the floor where she remained immobile. Fortunately Andrew was a one-time vet school student and knew right away that something had gone terribly awry. He immediately loaded our girl into the car and called us en route to the vet clinic.

As we frantically rushed home from Canada, Greta was transported to a specialty vet hospital for further examination. We we arrived that afternoon (after "one of the most grueling drives I've ever had to undergo" as Michael put it), the veterinary surgeon was ready to share the results from the myelogram: Greta's spinal cord was being compressed by a ruptured disk in her back, resulting in paralysis. Although many Dachshunds experience disc disease, this was particularly shocking because Greta had never had any back issues before. Since the onset was so sudden and severe, the veterinary surgeon strongly suggested immediate surgery. Without hesitation, we agreed.

We got to see our girl just before the operation. She was sedated and looked so small and vulnerable - it was an image I'll never forget. With heavy hearts, we settled into the waiting room and tried to distract ourselves over the next several hours with old copies of Dog Fancy and mutual assurances that "everything was going to be okay."

To our extreme relief, the surgery was completed without any complications. The vet staff were very understanding of our concern and they let us see our little patient in the recovery suite. Apparently, Greta's temperature had dropped (a common side effect from surgery), she was bundled up in an incubator, which, strangely enough, bore an odd resemblance to a microwave. It was a both a profoundly sweet and pitiful sight. We gave her as much reassurance as we could, but then there was nothing left for us to do but head home and leave Greta at the vet hospital for observation overnight.

Greta came home the day after her surgery with a six inch row of sutures and a transdermal pain patch. She was obviously extremely disoriented and uncomfortable, and those first few days were agonizing for all of us. Both of us, however, had accepted that this was only the beginning of a long road - it would be several weeks before we would know if Greta was going to recover from the paralysis of not, and there was a strict regime of physical therapy to begin...

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