One of our wonderful followers, Tamara L. from Vancouver kindly shares the story of her French Bulldog Oslo, who has been diagnosed with IVDD last year and bravely made it though.
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Like many lucky dogs, my French Bulldog Oslo leads a happy, active life. He loves to cuddle, play fetch, do the infamous ‘Frenchie 500’ and rough house with other dogs. Also, like many lucky French Bulldog owners, I considered myself well educated on the inherent health issues and threats that are associated with this breed. Knowing that they are extremely durable, but also extremely fragile, I tried to limit how much ‘crazy play’ my little guy partook in. Small bouts of activity - usually 10-15 minutes in length was our rule. No jumping off high furniture & absolutely no running up and down stairs.
One beautiful morning, last July (just a few days before Oslo’s 3rd birthday) I took my boy out for a game of ‘Fetch’. We played for maybe 10-15 minutes. Then we walked the 1 block back home. As soon as we got home that day, I noticed Oslo acting ‘funny’. He wouldn’t really come when I called him, instead he would just stand in place, stiffly, and stare at me. I chalked it up to him, perhaps, just being tired and bull-headed. Most bulldog owners will attest to the fact that sometimes their dogs simply will not come when you call them!
The next morning, Oslo was still acting quite stiff and unusual. He was walking very slowing & his breathing seemed a bit ‘shaky’ & ‘quivery’ as well. So it has been decided to schedule him a Vet appointment for that same evening. I felt a bit silly because up until then he had no other symptoms other than ‘acting strange’, but I was concerned & I wanted to err on the side of caution.
The Vet did a physical exam including a spinal ‘pain’ test where-by they run their fingers down along the dog’s spine trying to illicit a ‘pain’ response. Oslo passed with flying colors. He showed no pain in his spine. The doctor suggested that perhaps he just had some residual ‘over heating’ from the game of fetch the morning earlier. She said that sometimes ‘heat stroke’ can last a few days. She sent us home.
As that evening at home progressed, Oslo’s condition seemed to worsen. His whole body was quivering and shaking uncontrollably. His breathing seemed quite labored, he was tossing and turning unable to get comfortable in any laying position, and he seemed to ‘grunt’ whenever I touched him. After a short confrontation with family members at 10:30pm Oslo went back to the clinic. Again the Vet did a spinal pain test, and again Oslo passed. She seemed perplexed and concluded that perhaps he was dehydrated. We agreed to leave him over night for observation.
At 4:00am I got a call from the clinic. Oslo had lost function of his hind legs. He was, essentially, paralyzed & he could no longer control his bowel functions. And that is the exact moment that my entire world was flipped upside down.
Because his condition was now considered too delicate for a normal, general practice Veterinary clinic, Oslo was referred to a Specialist Clinic here in Vancouver. It was there that he was diagnosed with ‘Inter-Vertebral Disc Disease’ (or ‘IVDD’ for short). When a dog has ‘IVDD” their spinal discs harden. As the dog moves, these now hardened discs are unable to bend (like a normal, soft, squishy disc does) and they will shatter and break through the disc wall, causing extreme pain and neurological damage to the spinal cord. Occasionally the discs can break with such force that the spinal cord actually gets severed from the force.
Depending on the severity of the disc rupture, dogs can sometimes recover on their own with the help of 8+ weeks of strict crate rest and a heavy round of pain meds, muscle relaxers and inflammatories. However, in a situation as sever as Oslo’s had become, where-by he had already ‘gone down’ (become paralyzed and lost bladder control) he was not deemed a likely candidate for this ‘conservative’ form of treatment. His best chances at recovery were to have surgery… immediately.
Surgery was quoted at $7,000 - $8,000 and we were NOT insured. We did not have that sort of money sitting around, but we were able to borrow enough for the surgery to go underway. Oslo was operated on that same day & his chances of a full recovery were set at 80-90%.
I am happy to report that Oslo came through the surgery beautifully (with 27 staples down his back!). The first few months of recovery were very tough; Oslo had to relearn how to walk & how to go to the bathroom. His care took countless hours and seemed to cost countless dollars. I absolutely could not have done it without the help of all the people who donated their hard earned money to his cause. It has been 7 months now since Oslo’s surgery and I still update his blog on a weekly basis. He has recovered remarkably well, though I am not sure that he will ever be 100% ‘normal’.
If there were just a few things I wish people could take away from Oslo’s story, it’s this:
1. Bulldogs are extremely tough little dogs. Just because your dog is not yelping or screaming in pain does not mean that something very serious isn’t going on. Pay attention to subtle symptoms like quivering, shaking, lethargy and soft whimpering and take them very seriously.
2. IVDD can affect ALL dogs, but it is especially prevalent in ‘short legged’ dogs like Frenchies, Dachshunds, Corgis, etc. Owners of these breeds need to familiarize themselves with the risks, causes & symptoms.
3. Obtaining your dog through a ‘good breeder’ does not mean that your dog will never suffer from IVDD. Regardless of where your French Bulldog comes from, and how ‘good’ it’s lineages are, you need to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of this disease.
4. GET PET INSURANCE NOW! Do not let the cost of a life-saving procedure be a factor in whether or not you do whatever you can to save your pet’s life.
5. Above all- Trust your gut. You know your dog better than anyone. If they are acting ‘funny’, have it checked out. Do not let anyone (your spouse or even a veterinarian) tell you that it’s “nothing” when you truly believe that it’s “something”.
You can check out Oslo’s blog here: http:/www.ouroslo.wordpress.com
And here is a wonderful picture of Oslo and his brother Jersey: