Rocket Hitchcock is a 7-year-old Schnauzer/Terrier mix. His hobbies include going for investigative strolls in the neighborhood, playing long games of low-intensity chase with members of his toy collection and convincing us (his two dads) that he has not had enough bacon treats and that we should really do something to remedy the situation.
During the first few years of his life, we noticed that he had this funny “wiggle” in his motion when we would go for our walks. It was actually super cute. It was as though there was simply not enough structural support in his mid-body to keep him in-line as he moved.
I never thought much about it until, when he was 4 years old, he began suffering severe back pain. We had an x-ray done and one of his vertebrae lit up like a Christmas tree. It turned out to be one of the ones where his “wiggle” was causing spinal friction. He was diagnosed with I.V.D.D. (Intervertebral Disc Disease). The vets wrote a prescription for anti-inflammatories, pain meds, and limited movement for 30 days.
We did everything we could for him at the house. Our work schedule was such that one of us would always be home to supervise him and carefully carry him in and out for his bathroom breaks. We blocked off a small area in the living room full of blankets, pillows, and toys for him to cuddle with. We didn’t really have to worry about him moving around much because he was so looped up on drugs.
We began studying up on I.V.D.D. and quickly discovered that it has a tendency to have repeat flare ups. We knew that if Rocket recovered from this round, we were going to have to be extremely careful with his activity levels going forward. If there were to be another incident, he would potentially be facing either an invasive back surgery or – the unthinkable – paralysis of his back legs.
We investigated online to see what sort of back braces existed for dogs. We were underwhelmed until we discovered the web page for the WiggleLess. It sounded like everything that one could imagine a brace could be and we saw that it was initially designed for dogs who suffer from I.V.D.D. We put in an order immediately.
This was about two weeks since the beginning of Rocket’s drug/rest regimen. The WiggleLess arrived at the house. We put it on him. I kid you not: He stood up, looked around and gave us this smile as if to say, “That feels so much better.”
Needless to say, his recovery came off without a hitch and his WiggleLess was essential to that process. Today – almost 4 years later – Rocket lives a next-to-normal and super happy, pain-free life.
Here are some things that we have learned over the years that we would like to share with newcomers to I.V.D.D.
1. No stairs. This is per the vet and per our own experience. Our house has lots of stairs. We carry him up. We carry him down. No exceptions.
2. Limited jumping. The vet informed us that I.V.D.D. is prevalent among dogs who “launch from furniture”. Rocket is a “launcher”. It’s how he got his name.
3. He wears his WiggleLess 98% of the time. The summer after his initial flare up was unusually hot. We only had him wear his brace part-time because of this. We thought he would be fine. Unfortunately, he experienced a second flare up. We took him back to the vet and confessed to her that we hadn’t been keeping his brace on all of the time because of the heat. She said, “Keep it on him.” Understood. Luckily, it was only a minor flare up and he was back to his old self in just a few days.
4. On our walks, we keep him away from bigger dogs and overly excited puppies. It’s exercising caution. We don’t want him to get pounced on which could cause a back injury.
5. I groom him at home. It’s possible that we are being overly protective. However, he came back from the groomer’s favoring his back one time and we decided that it would be safer to try do it ourselves. Not only is it safer, you’ll get to save a few bucks at the same time. There are hundreds of “how-to” videos online that show you different ways to approach home trimming.
In closing, my family wants to say a huge thank you to Lisa for the brace that she has created. The WiggleLess turned out to be the missing ingredient in Rocket’s recovery from I.V.D.D. and it continues to be his daily life jacket that keeps him safe, sound and snug. He would not be the pup he is today without it.
Los Angeles, CA
An avid dog lover, Nicholas Lanier works as an indie Casting Director in Los Angeles. His most recent project was the award-winning feature film “Elizabeth Blue” which co-stars Kathleen Quinlan and Adewale Akinnnuoye-Agbaje.