CAGED: Maxxie with Canine Degenerative Disc Disease

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We probably should have noticed some of the symptoms last Thursday … but, we never expected this to happen and we were quite occupied with the preparation of two Christmas celebrations on Monday and Tuesday. There was also some family business that we had to attend to, and my offline business running around trying to finish a few jobs before the weekend before Christmas.

Anyway .. Thursday night .. we noticed it. Something was definitely wrong. Maxxie, our first Papillon dog wouldn’t move. He wouldn’t go out to pee. He wouldn’t eat. He was panting a lot, and if he tried to stand up, he lost balance and twisted around and sat back down – weirdly – on his hind legs. It was .. sad to watch. Friday morning, it was MUCH worse. Not only was he in pain, he hadn’t pee’d for a second day in a row, still panting, eyes glossy, not moving and his legs did not look right. We gave him half of an aspirin around lunchtime and within a few hours he was not panting and seemed to be in good spirits. He was aware that we were concerned, and seemed to almost pretend not to be in pain .. licking our hands or forehead or feet (if in reach).

My wife was giving Maxxie a massage around his hips and legs, and it was evident (to us) that nothing was actually broken. That was our biggest worry, because with small toy breed dogs, hip dysplasia is also a common health problem. So we decided to see if he was getting better or worse, and continued to give him half an aspirin Friday night and Saturday morning. Meanwhile, Maxxie really didn’t move much, and didn’t pee. He would sip some water that we would give to him and eat hand-fed food with a healthy appetite.

Saturday morning .. it seemed that Maxxie was getting better. He could actually stand up but, only for a few seconds before he seemed to collapse on himself and his hind legs again. We made an appointment with the VET but, it would not be until Thursday .. unless we wanted to drop him off to emergency Vet services, if his condition had gotten worse over the weekend.

Well, the weekend was improving. Maxxie was kind of walking around, eating and pee’ing and poo’ing once we carried him outside and down all of the steps. It was sad, that he was unable to stand long enough while he was doing that, and in each time a cleaning was necessary. We tried to hold him up but, he just wouldn’t do his business.

We didn’t know this – at the time – but, only after the fact I can now show you a picture and describe better what happened to Maxxie.

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Maxxie couldn’t feel his feet. The above picture is from Wikipedia on Canine degenerative myelopathy and they describe the symptoms as:

Degenerative myelopathy initially affects the back legs and causes muscle weakness and loss, and lack of coordination. These cause a staggering effect that may appear to be arthritis. The dog may scuff its one or both rear paws when it walks. This scuffing can cause the nails of one foot to be worn down. Eventually the condition may lead to extensive paralysis of the back legs. As the disease progresses the animal starts having considerable difficulties walking, and eventually the back legs become useless, at which point euthanasia may be the only option.

Progression of the disease is generally slow but highly variable. The animal could be crippled within a few months, or may survive up to 3 years.

So we took Maxxie to the VET Thursday

Yesterday, at the VET’s office we pretty much described what has happened with Maxxie, how he has been feeling, how he’s been acting, what we’ve been doing to help and all of that. The Vet did a close examination, by feel, of Maxxie’s spinal cord .. and suggested that he does not have the “Degenerative myelopathy” disease, but instead the “Canine Degenerative Disc Disease“. He was also experiencing muscle spasms.

Generally, this is a spontaneous thing. What happens, (as described to my wife and I) is that there are these “vertibal discs” attached to the spinal cord of small breeds, like Papillon dogs. For some reason the outer shell material of these “discs” break or “rupture” and the inner material oozes out and then tries to harden and reintegrate itself with the outer material. Now, depending on whether this break is large or not .. if that material touches the spinal cord, it can create paralysis.

That’s what the vet thinks has happened .. not a serious disc broken, but something definitely reached the spinal cord and that’s what happened. The was based on the Vet’s observation and experience, and from what we were describing how Maxxie’s been getting better these past five days .. etc. And, you can tell – when Maxxie is standing on all four feet – if you take the hind feet and just flip it so he’s standing on the front top part of his foot .. if he could feel his feet, he would immediately fix that and put his feet back to normal.

And, that’s where that little problem can create more problems. It looks like these discs are healing themselves nicely – over time. But, meanwhile Maxxie is up and walking around .. seeing who is coming to the door (prompted by the barking of our second Papillon Sophie) and can go outside to pee by himself. Even though we still carry him up and down the stairs .. it’s not good if he can’t feel if his feet are properly situated on the ground. If Maxxie falls down, he could aggrevate his spine and break the fragile self-repairing disc. And, if that happens – he might not be able to recover himself after a week. There is a risk that he may injur himself and be permanently paralysed in his hind feet .. or, it could even be fatal.

Prevention Of Movement Is The Best Cure

There’s nothing that can really be done, except we have to help Maxxie help himself to repair his internal organs. For the next two weeks, he is confined 100% to the kennel (pictured above) and quite frankly .. if it was up to the Vet .. she would recommend that we leave him in there 24/7 and feed him in his kennel, let him pee and poop in his kennel and so on.

Well .. we will keep him in his kennel for the next two weeks – because we want him around for a long, long time. We will also feed him kibbles and water in his cage as well, but we will take him outside to do his business. It’s a little sad, but necessary.

Poor L’il Guy ..

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