On the 21st of March 2016 my partner and I took our bambino Snickers out for a walk with his big sister, Sally the labradoodle, after a long day spent moving house. The walk went as per usual, he sniffed, barked, tried to chase a few people and we carried on home. As soon as we got home Snickers (AKA Snicky) went into his sleeping bag and burrowed deep (as most sausages do) while my partner and I spent about 2 or so hours watching TV. When it was time to do the bed routine, such as a drink then toilet before nodding off for the night, I noticed something different in Snicky. I saw he was struggling to walk using his back legs, and he was looking rather ‘drunk’. My heart started to race, as I knew the nightmare all dachshund owners have was coming true – my boy was suffering from IVDD.

Without waiting even a second I was on the phone to the Canberra Emergency Vet, where I was advised to bring Snicky straight in, given the risks associated with his breed. After speeding from one side of Canberra to the other, we were able to get Snicky in to see an after-hours vet just after midnight, on the night of this IVDD episode. The vet confirmed our nightmare was real, and advised Snickers was a stage three.  However further examinations during business hours, would no doubt increase Snicky’s rating – where he was later categorised as a 4 to 5! I was completely devastated. The little naughty monster, I had since he was a pup, would need major surgery. My partner was trying to calm me down as I was falling apart. Not only was Snickers going to be in a strange vet hospital overnight, doped up on drugs away from his family, I knew based on all the stories I had heard, that a long and painful road to recovery was ahead of him.

The next morning I was phoned by the emergency vet, where I agreed to proceed with surgery. In less than 24 hours since the initial episode, surgery was completed. Later in the same afternoon, the vet gave the all clear for a visit and suggested that we bring one of Snicky’s toys, so he had something from home to keep him comfortable. After we had rushed back to the other side of Canberra for a visit, the vets brought Snicky out, where he was more than just a little pleased to see his pawrents – he was over the moon and full of kisses! However, after taking one look at Snicky, I knew the dog I had had for the last 5 and a half years was going to be a different dog.

After getting over the initial shock of the huge bandage on Snicky’s back, and seeing him fail to move his back legs even slightly, we caught up properly with him and gave him his favourite toy – his girlfriend ‘Rat’ (featured below).

After one more night at the vet Snicky was given the all clear to come home – where I had arranged to take the day off from work to organise his crate, favourite treats and clean bedding and blankets. I thought the surgery was the tough part, however nothing braced Snicky and I for what the yet to come – the crate rest!

Initially Snicky took to his crate well, as he was really tired and still recovering from the meds the vet gave him. As the first weekend passed since his operation, all appeared to be going smoothly – until we had to head back to work. To keep an eye on Snicky whilst we were at work, I downloaded an app to watch him at home in his crate via my iPad and iPhone (Dog Monitor – brilliant app!). As soon as I touched down at my desk, I looked at the dog monitor to check on my baby. I was soon completely heartbroken – Snicky was in his crate howling and tearing everything in it apart!

I was immediately on the road again heading home, and as soon as I walked back in the house, Snicky was shivering, crying and still trying to bust through those bars. I immediately took him out of the crate, where he hugged up to me as best he could and wouldn’t let go. It was from that very moment we knew the next few weeks ahead were going to be purely about Snicky’s recovery, and both my partner and I needed to take a step back from our daily routine and focus solely on getting him better. We didn’t even need to think about the next few decisions, given that we owed it to Snickers to be there for him and make the months ahead as painless as possible. We arranged with our work places to work half days, and ‘tag team’ between morning and afternoon shifts, to ensure someone was home with Snicky at all times. This work arrangement continued for the next 5 or so weeks.

Before we knew it, we hit the two-week mark from Snicky’s surgery, where it was time to begin the next phase – physiotherapy.  Initially physiotherapy was rough, given the tense machine would often frighten Snicky. It got to the point where I hired one for home, where the benefits far outweighed the slight discomfort. Within the first few weeks Snicky was able to stand completely on his own, and his muscle strength was returning. Doing the exercises at home was tough, and there was a lot we didn’t get right the first couple of attempts, however we kept trying and eventually got everything right. Home exercises consisted of two 10-minute sessions, twice a day for close two months, as well as a fortnightly check with the physiotherapist.

I was worried when we hit the four-week mark and Snicky still wasn’t walking. One afternoon, whilst Snicky was in his crate I was vacuuming the house and all of a sudden we hit a milestone. Before the accident Snicky hated the vacuum the most out of anything in life, and would often attack and run after it. Now that he was crate rested, I didn’t think it would be an issue. However, as soon as I started vacuuming around Snicky’s crate, he was up on all his legs barking and running around the very limited room he had in his crate – he was walking! And so I turned the vacuum off, took Snicky outside and he walked some more. He was still very wonky, and would fall over, however it was the most progress he made since the day before the operation! After receiving the OK from the vet, I started taking Snicky on small five minute walks up the hallway of our complex, which he managed quite well. I was also given the green light to start hydrotherapy twice a week, which helped Snicky gain the muscle strength he lost in his back legs.

After six weeks of STRICT crate rest, and a routine of physiotherapy and hydro, it was time to lift Snicky’s crate restrictions, much to his (and our) delight! For any dachshund owner, it’s important to note that easing up on the crate doesn’t mean its fine to return to life before IVDD.  There was a new normal that Snicky and I needed to get used to.  A new normal that banned jumping completely, didn’t involve ‘rough’ playtime, and only allowed him time with our other dog under supervision, to avoid any further accidents. To date, over five months from the accident, Snicky is still a bit wobbly, however this is a small price we’ve had to pay in order to return him back to his doggy life.

Between driving all over Canberra, spending thousands of dollars at vets and on alternative treatments, Snicky was given the all clear by his surgeon. Not only was this the most welcomed news, but it was a sign that never giving up got Snickers through one of the most traumatic events a small dog can ever go through!

In the last five months there were plenty of tears and tantrums and points where I thought I would need a wheelchair for Snicky.  Even though Snicky adapted to his situation rather well, it was still heart-breaking to be faced with the possibility that he would never be the same. My advice to any dachshund owner going through this would be to NEVER give up. Each dog recovers differently from IVDD – some take weeks, some take months, some longer. No matter how disheartened you and your little babies feel at times, just hang in there!  The dachshund is a small but determined breed that will go on just fine, with or without wheels, for their back legs.

As I sit here and finish writing this story, Snicky sleeps deep inside his sleeping bag after a long walk to our local oval and nature reserve. To him, life after IVDD might be different, but its still full of treats, barking, sleeping, walking, treats, drives, visits to my parents down the coast, oh and did I say treats?