1. What CAUSED Oslo’s injury?
Well… In short– NOTHING. There was no big fall, accident, fight or trauma. This website explains it best:
As discs age and degenerate, they lose water content, and become less able to withstand compression. They become less able to withstand forces placed upon them. If too much force is placed on them, they can be squeezed and expand or rupture. This rupture usually occurs in an upward direction, and the disc extrudes into the spinal canal where the spinal cord is. Symptoms develop either because of the force of the disc material hitting the cord, or due to the disc material compressing the spinal cord.
3 years of playing, jumping into the sofa, running, playing fetch and generally being a happy dog is likely the culprit. His discs simply wore down. I took him out on Monday to play a game of fetch- we played for 10 minutes then went home. It’s likely that this innocent, non-eventful game of fetch was the ‘straw that broke the frenchies back’.
2. How much did his surgery cost?
Oslo’s surgery ended up costing about $7,500. That included the diagnostics (Cat Scan), Surgery, Days in Intensive Care, and Drugs. It was extremely expensive. We were not insured at the time, but were VERY fortunate to receive countless donations from friends, family & strangers alike to help with Oslo’s medical bills. In total, we raised almost $6,500 of his $7,500 bill. I am still blown away by the generosity of strangers!
When Jersey had his surgery (on his neck) in November of 2016, the cost was about $7,000. We had his soft palate operated on at the same time, which was another $3,500. Fortunately, we had learned our lesson about insurance by the time Jersey needed surgery, so his procedures were 90% covered.
3. What were Oslo & Jersey’s chances of a full recovery?
His Surgeon gave Oslo a 80% chance of making a full recovery. He also has a chance of a ‘partial’ recovery, and or course a small chance of no recovery at all. I am happy to report that he has made a Mostly Full recovery (with the exception of a tiny bit of weakness in his rear legs, which does not impede his ability to walk, run, or play).
Jersey was given a 90-95% chance of a full, straight forward recovery for his neck surgery. Unfortunately he was one of the 5-10% who did not have such a straight forward recovery. We were told that within a few weeks of the surgery he’d be healed and his normal self. 4 months later we were still having to medicate & keep him calm to avoid episodes of neck spasm.
4. How long did it take the dogs to recover?
8-12 weeks for Oslo’s initial recovery. The first month he was restricted SOLEY to a crate. His movement was supremely limited as to give his spine a chance to heal. After that, I was able to move him into a larger pen (but still enclosed). He had a bit more freedom, but still needed to be limited. For the inital 2-3 months following surgery, we focused on physical therapy, relearning how to walk, goto the bathroom on his own, etc.
The first month was the hardest and most intensive. The next 2 months were still quite tough, but not as scary. Once I ‘got the hang’ of his daily care, it wasn’t too bad. I would say that it took about 6 months for him to ‘get back to his normal self’ and seem like a completely normal dog.
It’s now been 2+ years since his surgery, and he is 90% recovered. He is mostly normal, but does retain some weakness in his rear legs. He walks with a little bit of a funny walk, and isn’t really able to jump like he used to. However this does not affect his quality of life. In fact, most people don’t even notice it when they meet him.
5. Should I be worried about this happening to my dog?
Unfortunately, IVDD is very, very common in many short-legged dog breeds. I do not condone ‘fear mongering’ and do not mean to frighten anyone… but no matter how ‘well bred’ your dog is (Oslo comes from champion Canadian lines!) there is a risk that he/she could suffer from spinal issues down the road. Rather than live in fear, however, I advocate EDUCATING yourselves.
-Familiarize yourself with IVDD symptoms.
– Talk to your vet about IVDD. Make sure that they are familiar with it (you’d be surprised at how many aren’t!)
– Do your best to limit activities that are jarring and potentially damaging to the spine– jumping off furniture, running down stairs, intense games of ‘tug-o-war’ etc. If you can baby that spine from Day 1, they just may never have an issue.
– GET PET INSURANCE! So that if it DOES happen to you, you won’t be bankrupted by the bills.
6. Do all dogs with IVDD require surgery?
Definitely not!! Depending on the severity of the herniation of the disc(s), and if caught early enough (before paralysis, usually), dogs can often respond quite well to what is called ‘Conservative Treatment‘.
Conservative Treatment consists of:
– Strict Crate rest for 6-8 weeks. The dog must remain crated at all times during this period. Potty breaks should be limited to as few steps as necessary to get the job done. It is imperative that the dog is kept crated so that their spine can rest and heal completely. Think of the crate rest like putting a broken leg in a cast– the cast keeps the leg immobile so that the body can repair itself.
– Medications. There is no drug that can heal a herniated disc, however certain drugs will alleviate the pain and allow the dog to rest as comfortably as possible while the spine recovers. You should talk to your vet about an Anti-inflammatory (Oslo & Jersey have both been on Metacam with great success) as well as a good pain killer (We’ve used Tramadol with no adverse side effects). If you dog is experiencing muscle spasms, you can also use a muscle relaxant.
If your dog is medicated, but still seems uncomfortable– speak openly with your veterinarian about it and work to find a solution. A dog that is properly medicated, will be able to rest and recover much faster than a dog who is suffering unnecessarily.
– The cost for conservative treatment depends on many factors, but I would put it at around the $500-$1000 range (as it mostly consists of exam/diagnostic fees, & medication costs)
Be aware that dogs treated ‘Conservatively’ are at a higher risk of having another encounter with IVDD than dogs who under go surgery. However, due to its MUCH reduced cost, and the fact that surgery is very invasive & hard on both dog & owner, I do think it’s something worth considering & chatting with your vet about.
7. Should I just put my dog to sleep?
No, no, no! First of all, dogs can & do recover very well with surgery &/or conservative treatment. I know that an IVDD diagnosis seems overwhelming and scary at first, but I can’t tell you enough how treatable this can be. With proper care & time, your dog has a very good chance of living a very happy life! Putting your beloved to sleep right away is usually not necessary. Please read this entry about life after IVDD.
Also! Even if your dog were to not recover from the surgery/conservative treatment, and had lasting paralysis in their hind legs– you should know that *that* also doesn’t need to be a death sentence. There are many paralyzed dogs living happy, wonderful lives. It definitely takes the right owner to care for a dog like this, but in the right home with the right person, these dogs can have a fabulous quality of life.
‘Bleu The French Pig’ is a particularly inspiring paralyzed Frenchie who is so full of life and never lets her paralysis stop her from doing the Frenchie 500 and living life to it’s fullest!
8. I just can’t do this. What are my options?
Nobody can deny that caring for a dog that has undergone surgery, and/or is being conservatively treated is a lot of work. It’s work, its time, and its a LOT of worrying. Let’s face it– some people are just not in a position where they can take on this sort of emotional and/or financial challenge. If that is you, please do not automatically assume that you need to put your dog to sleep. There are people out there who can & want to help!
First of all, consider relinquishing your dog to a rescue organization. Breed specific organizations are a good place to start (such as French Bulldog Rescue Network). You could also try posting an ad on an appropriate Facebook Group– perhaps there is someone in your area who is experienced with IVDD, who would be willing to adopt your dog and/or help you through this difficult time.
You would be surprised and amazed at how generous and caring strangers can be, and how far-reaching the French Bulldog Online Community is! Don’t be afraid to ask for help ❤