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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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My dog has degenerative disk disease. He is a dachshund/

Customer Question

My dog has degenerative disk disease. He is a dachshund/ cocker mix. He was walking after getting caught in the doggy door, we thought he had a leg sprain. By the time we got to the vet the next morning he had no deep feeling in his toes. We were told he was already a terrible candidate for surgery, so the vet put him on predisone a muscle relaxer. At first he didn't want to urinate, so we expressed and the vet did a catheter. Now, he seems to have no control and continuously urinates. We are in the middle of a move across the country, and were ready to leave when this accident occurred. We have now spent a few days home hoping his condition will improve, and our vet has pressured us to give him time. I'd love a second opinion. Is it feasible to think he may regain bladder control without surgery?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.

Good morning - I'm Dr. Sara. I'm a licensed veterinarian who works exclusively with dogs and cats. I'm so sorry that your pup has been off his feet, and at such a terrible time for you. I'm sure that this has all been quite stressful - I'll do my best to help :)

It's unfortunate that he's not a surgical candidate but the good news is that they don't always need surgery. I've seen dogs with stubborn owners who refused to give up walk again, but it wasn't until after months to years of time to heal. I, unfortunately, have also seen dogs with stubborn owners (and I say stubborn in a good way for the dog's sake) who tried their best in nursing care and gave them plenty of time who did not walk again. I have two in my care right now who require carts and are incontinent. The dogs themselves seem happy, but it's a significant burden on the family to take care of them. If all deep pain was lost, this makes the prognosis even worse, unfortunately. The complete loss of deep pain is the most severe classification of IVDD, indicating severe spinal compression. I was taught in school that after any spinal injury, we would consider six weeks the time after which we wouldn't expect to see any more improvement. That is to say - at six weeks post injury, you've "got what you've got" and it's probably not going to change. Having said that, in my real world practice, I've seen dogs who were still paralyzed at six weeks out who did eventually gain back function - definitely not 100%, but able to voluntarily urinate and defecate and walk (albeit with a weakened and clumsy gait).

So your vet is technically correct in urging you to give him more time. However, any vet should be also willing to consider your family and lifestyle and what's going on with your life as a person to understand that euthanasia may be an option. It's a lot of work nursing a dog like this and for some families it's too much - emotionally, stress wise, and sometimes financially. I completely understand that, and this is why I'd never say "no" if an owner in your situation asked me to euthanize their dog. There's no guaranteed recovery here, so I understand if my clients don't want to "drag it out" without a pretty solid promise that their pet will get better. It's 50/50 at best, ***** ***** probably worse if he's still got no deep pain and you're seeing no improvement on the steroids within the first couple of weeks.

My owners who continue to nurse their paraplegic pets use diapers and intermittent expression of urine to keep their pets as clean as possible, but it's difficult. It's akin to taking care of a baby in regards ***** ***** Dogs with chronic bladder emptying issues are very prone to bladder infections and bladder stones that can sometimes even require surgery, so they're not without potential health issues down the road too.

I'm sorry that you're in this difficult spot - when I'm dealing with pets like yours, I never judge or pressure one way or the other - it's really more of a decision for your family than it is for me, since you are the ones doing all the hard work. I'd support you in your decision, whether it be to continue care for as long as the pet seems happy, even managing his urinary and mobility issues, or to stop treatment.

Please let me know what other questions I can answer for you :)

~Dr. Sara

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Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.
Hi,
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Doc Sara