Is this paralyzed dog always going to be in pain?
December 29, 2011 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Mini Daschund with Intervertebral Disk Disease: Your experiences and advice, should we put her to sleep, or could she improve?

My sister's mini Daschund was diagnosed with IVDD about a week ago, and it has progressed very rapidly. She has had episodes before, but we always thought it was an injury (her "sister" is a 110 pound American Bulldog who might have stepped on her.) This time she progressed from limping and tenderness to full paralysis in the last week. She is on cage rest. She cannot urinate and we are trying to learn how to express her bladder. If she could live with a reasonable quality of life my sister would be willing to care for her like this. The problem is she seems to be in pain. What is your experience with this disease? Have you had a dog in this condition that improved? We don't want to put her to sleep if she might improve, but we don't want to keep her alive in pain that is not going to go away.
posted by catatethebird to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
I have cared for a dog with spinal disease before. I waited too long, because another person involved couldn't let go, and I still feel guilty and I still sometimes wake up at night feeling sick about the dog I tortured.

Paralysis in a dog is not quality of life. There's not enough potential "good days" to outweigh even a tiny subset of bad days. Let her go.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:21 PM on December 29, 2011

For me the golden rule is, as soon as an animal appears in pain, it's time to let them go on. Give her one last day where she is queen, and show her she has been loved.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:44 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

You don't say anything at all about pain meds, which are the key to helping this dog through this. Most dogs suffer periodic bouts of IVDD, and are helped through them with proper pain meds (methocarbamol, an NSAID, gabapentin, tramadol etc.), JUST cage rest is not enough, but this definitely does not have to be fatal for goodness sake! The fact that the dog is so painful is because she has a painful condition that sounds like is not being adequately addressed. Get a second opinion from a vet with more up to date pain management skills.
posted by biscotti at 5:10 PM on December 29, 2011

Response by poster: She is on heavy pain meds and muscle relaxers, and has been on them for longer than reccommended, at higher doses. She is still yelping when held, and shaking, tried to bite my sister today when she took her out. If the pain will go away, we don't want to euthanize her, but she seems to be getting worse not better and surgery is not an option.
posted by catatethebird at 5:17 PM on December 29, 2011

The poor sweetheart! I do agree with These Birds of a Feather. I waited too long with my late kitty, and I am still bothered by it 9 years later.

My heart goes out to all of you.
posted by jgirl at 5:20 PM on December 29, 2011

If she's getting worse, it is kinder to put her down sooner rather than later.
posted by freshwater at 6:01 PM on December 29, 2011

Even if you could eliminate the pain, paralysis is not quality of life for a dog. When my mini schnauzer could no longer walk, I made the difficult decision to let her go. I would have been willing to care for her, but you could see she was just miserable. I agree with Birds of a Feather to spoil and love her for one last day. I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by random thoughts at 6:36 PM on December 29, 2011

Best answer: Anecdata, but when I was really little, we had a standard Dacshund named Rudy. He developed disc disease which progressed incredibly quickly, and was soon totally paralyzed in his back legs, as you've described. The veterinarian tried all of the standard treatments without any improvement. Finally, he offered experimental acupuncture, but didn't express much hope. My mother, not one to spend money on animals, went for it because he was really the nicest dog and my sister and I would have been devastated. The acupuncture worked within two treatments and Rudy went on to live a full and happy life. I wish I had a picture of him to share.

Anyway, if she's in that much pain, it may not work. I just wanted to give you at least a glimmer of hope.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 7:04 PM on December 29, 2011

Here's the brutal truth as I have always understood it: if your dog is in pain you can see, it is likely she or he is masking much more pain you cannot see. Dogs are masters of hiding pain; it's a pack survival mechanism to disguise weakness. I would not mess around or prolong this. I'm very sorry.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:32 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's time.

She's trying to tell you that. She's yelping and shaking and biting while ON THE PAIN MEDS.

Let her go kindly, and hold her while she goes.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:33 PM on December 29, 2011

Response by poster: The vet did offer acupuncture. She is still bright eyed and alert, and I don't feel like she wants to die, as I have seen with other pets in the past.
posted by catatethebird at 7:42 PM on December 29, 2011

If surgery isn't an option, then she needs to be let go.
posted by citizngkar at 1:18 AM on December 30, 2011

Acupuncture is not something that can work on dogs. It "works" on humans because of the placebo effect, which simply doesn't apply to animals. If a dog recovers after acupuncture, the dog would have recovered without acupuncture.

It bothers me that you have said that you don't think the dog "wants to die". Animals are not capable of these sorts of thoughts. They are animals. This little dog may still be cute and occasionally look happy or bright-eyed, but the fact remains that she is suffering in the present and the present is all she has. She cannot conceive of a happy, pain-free future. She isn't comforting herself with memories of a happy, pain-free past. She exists entirely in the moment and the moment horrible place to be. It is terribly, terribly cruel to keep her alive in this condition. e
posted by cilantro at 3:41 AM on December 30, 2011

Acupuncture definitely does work on dogs.
posted by biscotti at 5:08 AM on December 30, 2011

Aw, geez. I'm so sorry. I went through this earlier this year myself. It was absolutely devastating how quickly she went from "damn, I think she hurt herself again" to her being completely paralyzed and clearly suffering badly...less than two weeks.

If the vet has told you that surgery is not an option, you must do the humane thing and have her euthanized. Even if she could get better, the likelihood that she will get injured again is very very high. Accupuncture can work on dogs, but not at this point.

I know it is gutwrenching to have to make these kinds of decisions, but it is definitely her time. I still feel awful about my poor girl, but I know I did the right thing by her.

You have my condolences.
posted by noxetlux at 10:35 AM on December 30, 2011

Response by poster: Just an update if anyone checks this thread: We decided to keep her on her meds and give her time to recover. After a few days she was no longer in pain and scooting around on her front legs just fine (in between cage rest). Today she is almost fully recovered, not in pain, and has regained most of the use of her back legs.
posted by catatethebird at 1:31 PM on February 29, 2012

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