A guide for owners of IVDD hounds undergoing conservative treatment
Veterinary medicine has come a long way and thankfully IVDD is no longer a death sentence for affected dogs. Treatment options range from rest and conservative management to surgical intervention. The exact therapeutic protocol will vary depending upon the severity of the disease.
IVDD symptoms are categorised and your dachshund would have been diagnosed anywhere from Stage One, being the least affected, to Stage Five, where complete paralysis was evident.
Click on the button below for the different stages of IVDD and the prognosis –
If your dog has been diagnosed with a less severe episode or if surgery is not an option for whatever reason (financial, medical, etc.) conservative treatment is one option.
The “Holy Trinity” of Conservative Treatment for IVDD is Crate Rest, Proper Medication & Alternative Therapies/Allied health providers
So, you have just arrived back from the vet or specialist and your beloved dachshund has been diagnosed with IVDD. You have NO IDEA what it all means, apart from a long list of words you have never heard before, and you are officially suffering what we at DISA call “brain freeze”.
Don’t worry!! Make yourself a cuppa or, if it’s after 6 pm, pour yourself a wine, then take a deep breath, breathe and take a few minutes to read this guide. It will be ok.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO MY DOG?
The chances are your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD – Intervertebral Disc Disease, a genetic disease which now effects 1:4 dachshunds.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
It means that in some area of your dog’s spine, surrounding the vertebrae, calcification has developed around the discs. This has now caused pressure on the spinal cord, and as a result, has manifested itself in showing the signs and symptoms that you are seeing in your dachshund. IVDD has 5 different stages, and the earlier it is diagnosed the better, so that crate rest can commence asap. Stage One is the least affected, and Stage 5, being the worst stage, will be complete paralysis. Rest is absolutely essential to ensure that this pressure being applied to the spinal cord can heal instead of rupture. Any rapid movements, jumping, running or just pulling quickly on a lead can cause this to happen. Crate rest is therefore absolutely essential 100% of the time.
WHAT IS CONSERVATIVE THERAPY?
Conservative treatment simply put is – crate rest, proper medication & alternative therapies.
It is important to remember that each dog is different, and so is each herniation, and you and your vet are responsible for your dog’s treatment.
If your dog has been diagnosed with a less severe episode, or if surgery is not an option for whatever reason (financial, medical, etc.), conservative treatment is another option.
Please also understand that conservative treatment of IVDD is actually pretty straight forward commonsense stuff and not complicated at all; the most difficult aspect for the human owners is finding patience.
WHAT IS CRATE REST?
Crate rest means your dog is in his crate 24/7, except for toilet breaks, physiotherapy or maybe some quiet cuddle time. Never allow your dog to roam free during crate rest! During crate rest, your dachshund is ALWAYS carried to and from its crate. Support its rear end; don’t let it hang down when picking it up or putting it down.
For example, to toilet your dog, pick your dog up from its crate, attach a collar and lead, walk outside, place dog down and wait. If your dog is paralysed, this will also involve using a sling; sling one end, lead the other. Remember to also pop your dachshund on a lead and wrap it around your wrist etc. during cuddle time, particularly on the lounge. Even dachshunds with IVDD think they are invincible when the door-bell rings.
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HOW DOES CRATE REST HELP MY DOG?
When humans sprain or injure their joints the rule of thumb is RICE (rest, ice, compress and elevate). With dogs it’s not possible to do this; so instead we restrict their movement as much as possible, administer anti-inflammatories and pain relief so that the damage discs can regenerate and heal.
WHAT DO I NEED?
If your dog has never been crate trained before, there is a good chance he or she is going to give you that typical dachshund “I am not impressed, I hate you and there is absolutely nothing wrong with me” look. Also, we humans are prone to feeling more regretful and upset about the whole event than our dogs. But don’t be fooled. Crate rest is exactly what your dachshund needs in order for nature to work its magic and let the healing process to begin.
- Crate (recovery suite). It is highly recommended that you opt for a metal crate. 36” is a good size. Many owners have commented that soft crates are easily chewed and destroyed as well as they do not offer your dog good visibility. Metal crates can be set up on wheels and wheeled around and they can also be safely put on top of a coffee table etc. This allows your dogs to feel a part of the family and relieves stress for both dog and owner! Don’t forget to cover the crate with a sheet to make it feel snuggly and safe.
- Sturdy (unescapable) pens – remember dachshunds are Houdini’s! The set-up at the bottom of this page is a great example of a recovery suite.
Leaving your dog in a cage 24/7 is no longer considered best practice. Trips out in a dog stroller provide important mental stimulation for recovering patients, just make sure the stroller has adequate suspension, avoid bumps and jolting and take it slowly.
- Sling (to prevent dragging and assist your dog to the toilet) PS Make sure you pop your dog on a lead as well. Can be items such as Support sling by DISA or GingerLead Support Sling (available on DISA Shop), Pantyhose/Tights, Dressing gown cord or a Green Shopping Bag with the sides cut out. (Refer to the link below for further info)
- Pee pads
- Belly bands for boys (available on DISA Shop),
- Baby wipes (for accidents)
- Lots of towels.
- Polar fleece squares
- Diapers for incontinence
- A wheat pillow or doggy hot water bottle.
- Change table or similar to save your back!
- A good orthopaedic type mattress for the crate. Should not be too soft.
- A water bowl for the crate (attached to the side) which is raised high enough so that your dog does not need to bend down to it.
- Pet stroller – just make sure your dog is securely harnessed and avoid 4WDing on the rough roads for a while. These have found to be a godsend for most owners.
- Infra-red anti-barking device has been found to help in some cases.
- Kongs filled with treats (non-fattening). Remember we are trying to keep our dog at a good weight to avoid stress on its back.
- Adaptil Diffuser. A synthetic analogue of canine appeasing pheromone, which has a comforting and reassuring effect on your dog
- Enrichment treats such as LickiMats – available on DISA Shop LickiMat
- Calming “supplements” or pharmaceuticals for anxious hounds – speak to your Vet/Specialist
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Your veterinary surgeon/specialist will have prescribed your dachshund medication to help him/her get by during conservative treatment Remember not all drugs are right for every affected dog. Work with your veterinarian to determine the best drug, dose, and schedule for your own dog.
ASK YOUR VET/SPECIALIST ABOUT THE RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS – GOOGLE ALL MEDS SO YOU HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING.
The types of pharmaceutical drugs that may be prescribed are –
Improvements with non-surgical treatment tend to happen over weeks to months of care, and you will need to help your dog through this time. As a guide, dogs who have a suspected IVDD episode and have no neurological involvement should be restrict-rested 5 to 6 weeks. Dogs who have any level of neurological involvement should be confined & rested for AT LEAST 8 WEEKS to achieve premium healing potential. Not 10 days, not 2 to 3 weeks. A confinement period that short is a recipe for another, worse episode.
PHYSIOTHERAPY & THERAPIES
If you don’t use it, you lose it. It is highly recommended to seek advice from allied service providers (eg: physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, laser treatment) as soon as possible during conservative treatment.
But it is most important that you contact a rehabilitation centre so that you can ensure your dog’s rehab is supervised by a canine physiotherapist. Need a rehab expert?
They will guide you with what exercises and massage you need to do, to ensure your dachshund has the least muscle wastage while healing. They are the best to guide you in what to do, and we have been advised that contact with a rehabilitation specialist should occur as soon as possible.
We cannot emphasise the importance of rehabilitation enough to ensure that your dachshund has the best chance of getting back up on all four paws again.
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