1 year.

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::

– lethargy.

– 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.

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9 thoughts on “1 year.

  1. Yesterday I got really curious as to what you were making reference, I was in rush and didn’t go back an look for previous posts. It’s really good to know he’s ok now and as you said that people has found help and the information they needed through your experience.

  2. I’m so happy to read read of Oslo’s recovery. Our three year old Stitch, hurt herself this past January. We too, were lucky enough to get her to a specialist in time (not before paralysis, though) to repair her two discs. She is not 100%, showing some weakness occassionally, but we are pleased that we are in the few blessed families that have almost complrte recovery. I pray things continue to progress with your boy…God bless!

  3. Thank you so much for bringing about awareness. So glad Oslo is doing better and it really is heartwarming to know how strangers came together to help. Much love to you and your two piggies!

  4. I found your blog via The Daily Frenchie. I have a 6-month-old Frenchie girl named Scout (scoutreport.tumblr.com) and was pretty unfamiliar with IVDD until reading your posts. I’m really glad you created this blog to educate people, and I’m glad Oslo is doing well. I’ll definitely continue to read and share your blog with other dog owners.

  5. I am so glad to have found this blog and that Oslo is doing well since his surgery. I wish I had come across it before my Frenchie, Paris, had the same experience as Oslo two years ago. It was so traumatic. I didn’t realize anything was wrong with Paris, who was 5 years old at the time, until she started weaving as she walked on one of our walks together. She then staggered and sat down and could not get up. It was horrible, then it got worse! I took her to the vet immediately (by then she was also panting very hard – in pain, I believe). The vet made arrangements right away for her surgery at the Davis Veterinary School Animal Hospital, a two hour drive away. She had to be sedated and kept on an ice pack during the drive there due to a raise in her body temperature from the heavy panting. It was scary. After her examination and MRI at the hospital, she went into surgery after being told that she should also have the surgery to shorten her elongated soft palate and enlarge the nare openings a little to make breathing easier for her (her tonge was purple when she went in for the surgeries). She came through the surgery well. The recovery took almost 9 months (she had a mild setback after the first 3 months of crating when it seemed she was fully recovered. So, it was about 3 more months of crating, then slowly, carefully, small amounts of activity were added as she recovered. She has regained her hind legs and walks well and can even sprint a little (when she sneaks it!) But she does not have full strength or control in her hind legs as she once had. She is about 95%, I’d estimate. Of course, like anyone who has experienced this with their dog, worry every day looking for the signs that this is happening again (as, potentially, it could). But she is a very happy dog and makes me very happy to have her with me every day! Talking about signs and symptoms: Paris was 4 when I got her and potty trained, of course, but occasionally, she was unable to hold it until she could point her nose at the door to let me know she had to go. BUT NO MORE ACCIDENTS SINCE THE SURGERY. I suspect that, at least in her case, the incontinence was due to, perhaps, pressure of the bad disc on her spinal cord/nerves as the disease was progressing. So, for others out there with a breed that is susceptible to this disease, if incontinence occurs in a younger dog, if everything else is ruled out, an MRI of the spine might be in order. By the way, I don’t know what IVDD stands for as you didn’t say in your blog and I don’t recall any of the vets or surgeons telling me the name of her condition. Thanks for giving me a place to share and I hope this site continues to provide information for other dog owners. Also, by the way, I’m still paying for that surgery $180/mo on a credit card with three more years to go before it is paid. The hospital donated about $1000, thankfully, but it never occurred to me to start a fund raiser like you (and a couple of others, I noticed) did. So, here’s to continued good health and happiness for our beloved Frenchies! Parissmom

  6. I’m glad to hear stories of other frenchies making a recovery after disc surgery.
    Our little 4 year old brindle Kona is currently recovering from disc surgery performed last night. Her loss of mobily was sudden and extemely painful. MRI confirmed the disc rupture.
    She had to spend the night in an oxygen tent to help her come out of anestesia. We still won’t see her for a few more days. We miss our litte frenchie dearly and hope for a full recovery. Thanks for the positive message, it does help.

    1. It will be two years in April since Paris had her surgery and she has been doing well, walking fine ever since her recovery. I hope your Frenchie has a full recovery too.

      Parissmom

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