As we entered the house that night, it was strange. No Lilly greeted us with a wagging tail. We called out several times but nothing. After a frantic search, we found her on the couch. She did not appear to be in pain, but obviously, she couldn’t move her legs. Our hearts sank but little did we know we were beginning a 10-year odyssey with our girl.
By this night in 2011, Lilly had taken over our lives. She was smart, loyal, funny, and bossy. The news was not good at our local veterinarian as he feared Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). There was not much they could do for her but made an appointment at an animal hospital almost three hours away. As Dr. Randall performed the surgery, we sat in a local restaurant and waited on the call. The news this time was better, and he felt she had a chance of at least partial recovery. Lilly would indeed recover and recover again after a similar incident two years later.
What is IVDD
IVDD is a painful condition that can cause leg weakness and difficulty walking. Severe cases may cause paralysis and loss of bladder and bowel control. IVDD is a general term that includes several conditions, including disc degeneration, disc herniation, and all the pain and issues that come with it. Treatments can range from crate rest to severe surgery. Our surgeon also explained that immediate medical attention drastically improves the dog’s chances of recovery. The longer the time before surgery, the less chance of recovery.
IVDD is a common disorder in dachshunds such as Lilly. Type I IVDD is prevalent in dachshunds, while Type 2 is found in larger breeds. Although other dog breeds are impacted, the dachshunds’ shape makes them extremely susceptible. Approximately 18 to 24 percent of all dachshunds will battle the disorder in some form.
Most dachshund lovers understand this high risk of a back injury. To most, the risks are worth it. However, many may not know how to care for their pet after an injury. Once Lilly was injured, we put in a system that would protect her and give her a rewarding life. Tips such as these can give your pet the type of life they deserve.
Dachshund’s bodies are unique. Those cute but short legs and the long torso make them different from most breeds. However, these features cause unique problems. If a dachshund becomes too heavy, pressure is put on their backs. A little extra weight could increase the chance of injury. Lilly is almost exclusively on low to moderate calorie foods. She has a few other issues that have made her susceptible to urinary problems. Her special food increases her chance of a healthy life. Also, her decreased strength has made it almost impossible to empty her bladder. I express her bladder by hand at least once a day to decrease her chance of infection. It is possible that she would have had bladder issues anyway, but her back issues have multiplied them. Her diet gives her the best chance at a healthy life.
Sleeping or resting
After Lilly was injured, we struggled with the best place for her to sleep. Before the injury, she slept in our bed every night. Mainly because of her bladder problems, we decided to find a better solution. She slept in a bed beside us for a time. However, she tended to wander. This created two problems: having bathroom accidents all over the house and getting into things that could injure her. Eventually, we found a solution. For the last several years, Lilly has slept in a portable crib. We have it padded, and it gives her a comfortable place that keeps her safe during the night. She now knows it is her safe space and sleeps most mornings until we get her up.
Because of her back issues, we do not ever use a collar on her. We have a body harness for emergencies but try to avoid it. If Lilly has to be moved manually, we used a bed to transport her. She quickly learned the system and jumps in when she knows the time has come. She is taken to the vet like this for appointments and is gotten in and out of her crib each day. Also, she jumps into her bed each evening, and I put her on the couch with us for family time. Basically, we never put her in a situation where pressure is placed on her neck. Besides, I get the feeling Lilly likes to be toted on a pillow everywhere!
The hard part: Tough love
Anyone who has had their dachshund give them “the look” knows they are hard to resist. We would all love to let them do what they want all the time. But you just cannot. It is not easy, but it is important.
Limiting Lilly’s treats and her freedom has enabled her to be safe and happy for almost ten years with a life-threatening injury. Sometimes you have to say no.
These are not rules that everyone must follow. They are the tips that have worked for us. Lilly is now 13 years old and is as happy and active as she ever has been. She has a “bunny hop” run and waddles just a tad but lives life to the fullest. I hope maybe an idea or two presented here can give you and your fur baby the same happy life.
Cliff McCain lives in Oxford, Mississippi, and works as a learning specialist at the University of Mississippi. He is a lifelong educator and is the proud owner of Lilly, a dachshund, and two rescue dachshund mixes – Datchet and Windsor. In his spare time, McCain enjoys traveling with his wife, Laura. An amateur writer, McCain is passionate about animals, travel, education, and health/fitness.