It’s been 1 whole year.
One whole year of recovery. One whole year of progress. One whole year of constant worry that IT will happen again.
One whole year since this post.
One year ago today was absolutely the hardest, lowest point in my life. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but when your loved one (and that is what Oslo is– a LOVED one.. regardless of his species) is hospitalized and in a life-or-death situation… and you alone are the one who has to decide between life or death… but the decision boils down heavily to MONEY… Well, it’s hard. And it’s disgusting. And I would not wish such an event or decision on anyone.
I created this blog exactly one year ago today. At that point, my French Bulldog had JUST been diagnosed with ‘IVDD‘ and a herniated disc (actually, more than one of his discs had herniated.. but I digress). He had become suddenly paralyzed in his lower legs and would require emergency surgery to repair his spine. He would then have to under-go intensive physical therapy in order to undo the nerve damage that paralysis for even just a few hours causes. The cost of the initial surgery & treatment? $7200. The fee was due immediately and we (stupidly) were uninsured.
As soon as the receptionist at Oslo’s Vet told me that number, I felt my knees buckle. I did NOT have that money. I didn’t even have that money available on a credit card. My options at that point were euthanize my loved-one.. or go ahead with the surgery and then beg every-single-person I knew for the money to pay for it.
As you can probably gather.. I opted for the ladder. Then, I rushed home and created this blog.
I knew that if I was going to ask people for help, I needed to give people ACCESS to Oslo. I needed for them to know him & love him like I did. If I was going to accept even a dollar in help from anyone, I owed them updates and progress reports. I owed them a clear, visual explanation of where their dollar went. And so, this blog was born.
Soon after Oslo came home from the hospital (heavily medicated and with a catheter in place) I realized that this blog was so much more than just a means to ‘update’ Oslo’s financial donors. It was a source of education for so many. As Oslo’s donations streamed in (we raised over $3000 in the first 24 hours alone!!), with many donations come from other French Bulldog Enthusiasts, I understood just how big the ‘Frenchie Community’ was.. And I realized that Oslo and I had an amazing opportunity. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people who were reading and listening. I needed to tell these people about Oslo’s progress, Yes. But I also needed to tell them about IVDD. I needed to WARN them in a way that we were never warned.
IVDD can affect any breed of dog, however it is most common in breeds with ‘short legs’. Corgis, Bulldogs, Dachshunds, Pekingese, etc. It can be VERY serious and very, very expensive and life threatening.. However, if caught early, it can also be treated with strict crate rest (6-8 weeks) and a few medications. The problem is that the symptoms of this disease are often so subtle that owners don’t realize what is going on until their dog is suddenly paralyzed… and often, by that point very expensive emergency surgery is the only viable option.
So what are the symptoms? Well, they vary in extremity in every dog… However, in Oslo’s case it was::
- body trembling & stiffness.
- stiff, enlarged abdomen that was sensitive to the touch.
- And after 3 days of these symptoms (his initial vet diagnosed him with ‘heat stroke’) he fell paralyzed in his rear legs.
What CAUSES IVDD?
The important thing to remember about IVDD is that nothing necessarily ’causes’ it. In certain breeds of dogs, their spinal discs calcify & harden prematurely. It’s impossible to know that this has happened without an MRI or CAT scan. Then your seemingly normal dog jumps off the sofa one day… or has a nice run on the beach with you… and as their spine bends in it’s natural way, it crushes that calcified disc and BREAKS it. The force of the break is often extreme, and chunks of broken, calcified disc are pushed (or exploded!) out into the nerves of the spine. This severs or damages the nerves… And so it goes.
What is the Solution?
Do not think that you can avoid IVDD by simply avoided any ONE activity. You cannot. The calcification of the discs happens slowly over time and it can’t be avoided. What CAN be avoided however is a situation where the disc is made to rupture. High-Risk breeds should be discouraged from jumping on/off furniture, going down stairs, rousing games of ‘tug-o-war’, and any other activity that causes sudden, jarring impact on the spine. It can be difficult if you dog is high energy but it truly is the only way to avoid an episode. Unfortunately though, even as hard as you may try to ‘be gentle on their spine’, you are still at risk.
- The best solution is EDUCATION. Know the symptoms and causes of IVDD.
- Pay attention to your dog!
- Make sure that your VET is familiar with IVDD causes & symptoms. Many vets are not. Don’t be embarrassed to ask you vet what they know about IVDD and encourage them to read up on it.
- If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms of this disease, do not wait for a diagnosis before you put them on STRICT crate rest (their spines need to be immobilized for 6-8 weeks in order to repair themselves). Worry about the diagnosis later. Starting crate-rest before your dog is paralyzed can literally save your pet’s life, and your bank-account $7000+!
- GET INSURED!!!! Or keep $10,000 in a savings account at all times. Pet insurance is expensive (Oslo & Jersey are now both insured to the tune of $200 a month!) but having that safety net there in times of emergency will be the difference between life or death. Do not put yourself in a situation where money dictate whether or not you take the appropriate measures to get your loved-one the help they need.
Following Surgery, Oslo was given a 80-90% chance of a full recovery. I am happy to announce to you all that his story is a happy one. He recovered just fine. It countless hours of physical therapy & rehab, plus endless patience and tears from me.. But he got there. While I would not wish this experience on anyone, I also want to say that some good has come out of it… We experienced the kindness & generosity of strangers first hand– In the end, Oslo raised over $6,000 towards his surgery. Most of the donations came from people who had never met Oslo but heard about his story online, or from friends.
And most importantly, this blog has come out of it. In the last year, I’ve received 5+ emails from people telling me that THIS BLOG alone helped them to recognize the early signs of IVDD in their dog. That, because of Oslo’s story, they were able to ‘catch it early’ and get their dog on crate rest– thus avoiding surgery altogether. More than any money in donations, this alone makes Oslo’s experience worth while.
Thank you all for following Oslo’s story. Even though Oslo is more-or-less ‘recovered’, I hope to continue raising awareness of this terrible disease. I will continue updating his blog with stories and photos of my Two Pigs, and will also occasionally post information about IVDD.