Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) — Sadie’s Journey

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) — Sadie’s Journey



I have enclosed two photos of Sadie.  Read below to see what she has been through and what she has accomplished. We tried many therapies. Sadie was completely paralyzed from the mid-spine back. No bladder control, no intestinal control, no tail wagging, and no walking. She was at the Animal Specialty Hospital in Naples for three weeks. No surgery recommended. She may or may not ever walk again. Now she walks. She can express her bowel and kidneys. Because of the weak hindquarters, she cannot squat properly. We assist her and it is very simple. For urination, locate the bladder under and to the rear of her back legs. If full, it will feel like a golf ball. Apply a little pressure, and pat her flank gently. She will urinate. It actually is very handy to do this because she goes quickly and will go wherever you choose to empty her. Potti Pads or outside. For defecation, she can be matched. I was a former police k9 handler, and we did this regularly with our police dogs prior to walking a beat or giving a demonstration. Take a farmer match, moisten the head (saliva-lick it BEFORE using it) and insert it into the anus. Any dog will immediately try to remove the stimulus,( the match,) and will defecate if it needs to. It may gross out some people, but it is merely a medical procedure to empty the intestine.  Sadie is on a 24 hour cycle and has gotten used to it. It is quick and once-and-done. No worry about an accident.

We did use Eddies Wheels for a short time. Sadie began walking, though wobbly, after a month, so we discontinued the wheels. We tried a rear end sling, and I made several models. Okay, but difficult. But, better than not walking.  The pool therapy and stretching manipulation seemed to be the most effective. We were told the pool therapy at the vet hospital would be $150 a session. I made a treadmill for our pool and used that.  

One of the best items is the brace you see Sadie wearing. It is from Wiggleless. Google Wiggless and  you can find the great lady in California that makes them. The vest has stays in it, and it keeps the spinal cord steady. Less “wiggling”. Sadie walks much better with it and wears it all the time except when sleeping or lying on the couch watching TV. I never walk her without it.

Below is part of a letter we sent to a rescue sight. Sadie was looking for a sister, but the rescue people did not believe their rescue dog would get a proper home with us. (??)

I built a treadmill for Sadie because I refused to believe the neurologist who said that Sadie would never walk again due to  IVDD. Several years ago, we rescued Sadie from a local vet hospital where she was abandoned.  My wife thought she had a great temperament and got her certified with Inter-Mountain Therapy Animals, and then R.E.A.D., a program that encourages challenged children to read, but read to a dog rather than a human because it is less stressful on the child. Sadie sat on the classroom floor with my wife, with a child stroking Sadie and reading to her. In addition to that, Sadie began visiting a local nursing home/senior assisted living facility. She never missed a weekly visit until she was stricken with IVDD. 

It happened when we were out for a walk, and suddenly Sadie’s rear end went down. She gave me a look I will never forget. I attempted to stand her up, and her rear collapsed.  I was in a near-panic. What happened to my little girl?  We rushed her to the local vet, who thought it was a neurological issue, and she directed us to Naples to the Animal Specialty Hospital. They diagnosed IVDD, and said no surgery would work.  They kept her for three weeks.  $8,000. Then they said it was doubtful she would ever walk again.

I was DETERMINED to get her walking again. I built a treadmill to put in the pool, and began twice a day therapy sessions, 45 minutes each. After approximately a month, I felt resistance in the right rear. Yay! She was responding. More therapy and her left leg responded. Three months later she takes her first wobbly steps. Four months later, she is walking!  She is still a bit wobbly, and cannot run full speed. But she is a happy girl and resumed visiting the nursing home. When we began her therapy, we got her a cart from Eddies Wheels. Sadie made visits to the nursing home in her “rear wheels chair” which was a hit with the residents in their own wheelchairs. She is back to her weekly visits but did drop the READ program because the children can become rambunctious and a little aggressive.

It has been three years since Sadie was hit with IVDDWhat I would tell new patients owners is:

1. There is hope. It takes work and patience. Learn about IVDD, and don’t fall for miracle cures. There aren’t any.

2. Stretching and manipulation helpFind out how to administer physical therapy to your dog.

3. Hydrotherapy—I made a treadmill and used our pool. A small dog may be able to use a large tub or bathtub. You have to be resourceful on this.  Paying for it was too expensive for us. $150 per session, and a 100 mile drive.

4. Diet— For healing and general health. We feed no grain products. Sadie gets Cosequin, Dynovite, and takes Rimadyl for joints and Tramadol for any possible pain. Tramadol is Rx from vet.  Proper diet will ensure a hard, dry stool. IVDD dogs may squat in their stool, and hard turds are easily picked up and do not soil the dog.

5. UTI—Urinary Tract Infection. IVDD dogs may be more susceptible to UTI’s.  Sadie had them initially but is free from them now. Crystals may form in the kidney/bladder.  Sadie is very well hydrated so she flushes her system. She has great bladder capacity and does not have accidents.  We give her D-Mannose to prevent UTI’s.

6. Sadie uses her Wiggleless braceIt makes sense to me that I don’t want more stress on the ruptured portion of the spine. She walks better with it.  And she thinks it makes her look slender!

7. Don’t let your dog get fat—The dog will have less activity in some cases and may put on weight. More weight will stress the spine and joints.

I know what an owner goes through mentally and emotionally. But, once your are past the initial shock you will find that your pet can have a full and rewarding life. You will become closer. If your pet needs wheels, then so be it. The best ones we found were Eddies Wheels. Lightweight and well designed. They are expensive, around $350. What about a go-fund-me for owners that do not have the financial resources?   Sadie is not aware she is slightly handicapped. She can walk over a mile, and quite fast. When she gets tired, she looks up at me and I carry her.  I make sure I plan out our route so she doesn’t look for her “ride” too far from home.

Regarding other treatments:

Chiropractic—I would not use it on Sadie. It is not guaranteed to help, and may cause further injury. Google it. Too scary for me. I can’t imagine a chiropractor manipulating her spine and now she is further paralyzed.

Laser therapy—A vet neurologist told me there is no documented evidence it works. If someone offers it, I would make a deal that I will pay if it shows positive results, and if you cannot agree to that then  I will not waste my money. If you believe in your laser, put your money where your mouth is.

 Acupuncture— I have not tried this. If anyone has positive results I would love to hear about it. However, I am skeptical and would like to see documented results and before-and-after evidence.

Physical therapy—This worked for me.

Wonder drug—We worked with a veterinary neurologist and tried a drug used on humans with MD. It was strictly a trial and he documented the results in a somewhat scientific manner. Immediate slight improvement with control of rear paw placement. We took the drug home for a test trial. Sadie had a convulsion, which the vet said was a result of the drug. He said to stop the drug.

Dog with IVDD

I can attest to one thing for sure – don’t give up! Our vet told us that Sadie would never walk again but I couldn’t bear to see my happy little girl in that miserable condition. I am not a doctor but I was willing to give it my all. 

Sadie’s IVDD treatments began when she was still in grade 1 IVDD. We caught it early and immediately started the treatment, to which she responded within 4 months. Due to our timely action, the disease didn’t progress to grade 5 where the neurologic deficits and change in gait become almost irreversible. 

That said, we would never give up on our child, would we? I would never tell you that your little fur baby would never walk again. I say, give it your best shot. If it can happen for Sadie, it can happen for anyone. 

In Sadie’s case, surgery wasn’t an option as per her vet. So, I opted for non-surgical treatment including dietary care, anti-inflammatory medications, and crate-rest. However, each dog is different and so is their treatment. 

Unlike Sadie, your dog with IVDD may require surgery. Honestly, your vet is the best person to talk to for a medical opinion. All I can do is speak from my experience and I suggest doing everything in your power to help your beloved pet, even when everything seems doom and gloom. 

I believe being more proactive can help save your pooch’s life as this disease can be life-threatening in advanced stages. During my ordeal with Sadie, I found that Animal Genetics offers IVDD testing for both CDPA and CDDY mutations. 

Educate yourself as much as you can! 

 I too am not a veterinarian. I am only relating my experiences with this awful disease. Your situation may be different.

This is a good website for IVDD. Read all you can at all sites and use what is best for you.

If you have any questions about our experience, let me know. I hope you are serving as a  reference and support site only. If you are selling a product or service, please delete this email. It would sicken me if a commercial entity would use IVDD in order to market a product or service to enrich themselves. Owners of IVDD animals are in a state of shock when they learn the diagnosis. To take advantage of that emotional weakness borders on criminal, and is certainly not ethical.


Doug Madsen



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