Wrigley's Back Surgery Tail
As the owners of KeepDoggieSafe.com, we talk with dog parents every day that are looking for help for their aging or injured dogs. We do our best to find the right products to help our customers and ship them as fast as possible to help relieve their dog's pain.
Imagine our surprise when we found that our own dog had just become injured and while we feel very confident helping our customers, helping our own dog was well beyond anything that our products could solve.
We came home one day and Wrigley, our 11 year old Bichon, yelped for no apparent reason ... In one split second- our lives changed and our difficult journey began. If you have experienced a dog losing his ability to walk, there is nothing so heart-wrenching as his eyes as he's begging you to tell him what's wrong. It's even worse if they are in pain.
Taking Him to the Vet for a Diagnosis
Wrigley was still in pain the next day, so we took him to the vet, who said he had hurt his back. She gave him steroids and pain meds and took a non-conclusive XRAY to see if we could abate the pain. After 24 hours he wasn't better and she recommended we take him to a back specialist for an MRI to determine the problem. This is where it got very scary and stressful. In severe back injuries in dogs, there is a short window (72 hours) where it is best to decide what you are planning to do back surgery or try holistic means. Wrigley was in lots of pain, and had lost some of the feeling in his back legs. We decided to see a specialist.
Finding a Dog MRI
This is not an easy task in most towns, the first step would be to call an animal rescue or the SPCA in your town, they seem to have the best advice and helped us immediately. They recommended one of the best specialists on the West Coast. The specialist diagnosed Wrigley with a "Grade 3 " back injury, he had still had feeling in his right leg, limited feeling in his left leg. Grade 5 is the worst and you don't want to have a grade III escalate to a Grade 5 and do more nerve damage that won't be repairable. He recommended that we do an MRI to determine the damage to Wrigley.
It's not an easy decision to do an MRI for a dog. First, there's the cost - If you don't have pet insurance, an MRI will easily cost more than $1,000. And surgery is thousands more.
If you know you aren't going to do the back surgery, it's best to not do the MRI. We were undecided but did the MRI, so we could see more detail and decide from that point.
Weighing the Options
Our vet is a neurologist and a top back surgeon who only does back surgery. He explained in great detail that he thought Wrigley's chances were 95 % chance he would walk again.
Now we had to weigh the following factors:
Cost - As mentioned, this is thousands of dollars. Ouch!
Pain- Would we be putting Wrigley in unnecessary pain? Were we doing this for Wrigley or for us? This is the heart-wrenching part. Once again, our vet was excellent and reassured us. We also called other people who went through the process (that had used our vet) and they said it was remarkably easier on the dog than they feared.
Recuperation - It takes at least three weeks after your pet comes home before you can let him resume normal activities. Wrigley has to be either in a crate, or by our side 24 hours a day until his stitches come out. And after, that, we will have to adjust his exercise activities to slowly get him back into shape. We were afraid that this would be too much to put him through. It's not like you can explain it to him. He's not going to understand. You just have to be strong.
We decided to do the surgery right after the MRI results. Once again- we were lucky that he had an open schedule, otherwise Wrigley would be under anesthesia twice. It was the toughest decision and the stress and pain were severe. We couldn't see him for three days after the surgery. We were stricken and fearful. However, we realized that we did the right thing for him. Wrigley had a ruptured disk. There was no other option that would get him out of pain and get him back walking. We knew we made the best decision based on the data we had, but that didn't ease our guilt or fear for his pain.
Picking Him up to Take Him Home
Three days after surgery, we picked Wrigley up. He was delighted to see us. He couldn't walk yet, but the doctor said he'd be walking within a few days. We couldn't believe that he would be walking so soon.
Wrigley had a huge scar that a nurse friend of ours called a work of art. But it is really long! He was also on drugs - muscle relaxer, steroids, pain reliever, etc. It's easy to put it in a piece of chicken. Wrigley was hungry! He hadn't eaten in days.
Progress So Far
We can't believe it, but Wrigley got better every day after he came home.He never appeared to be in pain, even after the pain patch came off a few days after he came home. Three days after he came home, he started walking! And then every day, he tried to walk more. We can't let him. He can only walk when he goes outside to the potty. And not far at that. That's a big challenge, as he doesn't understand that he is on bed rest. We watch him like a hawk all day! When we aren't home, he is in his crate, which is three feet by three feet (as recommended by the vet)
He's now been home for a week, and while he's not 100% yet, he is doing amazingly well. His stitches come out in less than two weeks.
The best part? That's easy. When Wrigley walks, he is so happy, he can't stop wagging his tail. He is so happy that he can walk again! And so proud of himself.
We know we made the right decision- we can't stop wagging our tails every time we see him.. And we are glad that we helped our dog as much as we help yours. Our staff went through the journey of the back surgery with Wrigley and we are all here to help you with your dog.
What Products Can Help You:
We tested all of the lifting harnesses on the market and are only carrying the ones we think are the best. The Solv-it harness is very well engineered but too complicated to put on a dog. The Kurgo lift harness is best used for lifting a dog up into a car in conjunction with a ramp.
Our favorite lift harness is the lfit n go harness because it has a front and back and the harness can stay on your dog so you don't have to keep taking it off.
See the video of a dog walking with this harness https://youtu.be/qCmlvHaoQlQ
We have dog stairs on the couch, bed, window ledge and everywhere he would even think to jump up. We prefer the scalloped stairs, they have the smallest incline. Buy the stairs as a preventive measure, to reduce the chance of a back injury from jumping.
Our most important lessons:
Buy pet insurance, read the terms carefully, be sure that your dog is covered if he has a pre-existing condition. In our case, Wrigley had mild back injuries in the past.
Go to a back specialist, check out his ratings, call the SPCA or dog rescues near you, find out who they recommend. We donate to all of the charities, and they directed us to our vet. We feel very blessed that he was in our area and had openings.
This video is six days after surgery. Before the surgery, he couldn't stand.