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Thread: Disc decompression surgery; need advice

  1. #1
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    Default Disc decompression surgery; need advice

    Oliver, my 12 year old, just had spinal decompression surgery, for two ruptured discs that had rendered him barely mobile and in severe pain pre-operatively. These were chronic disc problems that suddenly became worse (behaviorally - these dogs can be so stoic) within a matter of two to three weeks. His neurologist said he couldn't believe he could even walk at all and that he wasn't crying out in pain with every movement. The discs had encapsulated around the spinal cord so it was a surgery that carried the risk of paralysis due to excess spinal cord manipulation. It was a risk I decided to take because I rationalized (in consultation with my vet and the neurologist) that within a few months the discs would deteriorate further and pain meds would not hold him and we would end up putting him to sleep because he would lose all mobility and the pain would be intolerable. His health otherwise is excellent - no murmur, good lungs, good labwork. Unfortunately, one week after surgery, he has not regained the ability to walk on his rear legs. He has good sensation in both legs, and has some movement in his right leg, but nothing in his left leg (which was the worst one before surgery - it was constantly collapsing on him every time he got up from lying down or went down one step). He is urinating and defecating on his own (phew!). He has no strength to even stand on his own. I have to hold him up by his hips to help him as he sniffs out a good place to do his business in the yard, and also to exercise his front legs. I also do PT on his rear legs three to four times/day. His neurologist said it may take up to a month before movement will return. His spirits and appetite are great. He scoots around the house dragging his rear legs. My question - does any one else have any experience with this? Also, until movement returns, I was thinking of getting a wheelchair for his rear legs, because he's killing my back supporting him as he "walks" around the yard. I don't like the slings. Does anyone know of a wheelchair company or if the wheelchairs work? Thank you for not judging my decision to have surgery on a 12 year old dog. I did what I thought was right for him - trying to give him a better quality of life and hopefully some more pain free years.
    Bev
    Oliver (blenheim, born 3/2001), Riley (black & tan, born 8/2002,), Madison (ruby, born 9/2003), and Oz (tri-color, born 7/2007)

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    I kind of would have expected the surgery clinic to provide such a set of wheels.
    Rod Russell

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    I have a call in to them and am waiting to hear back. Maybe they have them. I didn't ask and they didn't offer. I'll ask now for sure though.
    Bev
    Oliver (blenheim, born 3/2001), Riley (black & tan, born 8/2002,), Madison (ruby, born 9/2003), and Oz (tri-color, born 7/2007)

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    Good luck. I do hope the clinic is able to help with providing some wheels for Oliver. Recovery from spinal surgery is slow, so fingers crossed for your dear old boy.
    Margaret C

    Cavaliers......Faith, The Ginger Tank and Woody.
    Japanese Chins.... Dandy, Benny, Bridgette and Hana.
    Remembered with love......... Tommy Tuppence and Fonzi

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    I would never judge you, I would/ will do the same if my 11 year old is ever in that situation. I just saw a recent video of a rescue from the American Cavalier King Charles Rescue Trust, Abby, she is in a rear end wheel chair...maybe they can help you...it is a you tube video posted on their Facebook page. Sending hugs to you and Oliver.
    Joanie
    Sam Tailor (11 year old Tri) and Gibbs (2 1/2 year old Blenheim)
    Emma Lou (Nov. 27, 2000 - June 10, 2010)

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    Just have time for a quick reply, but I'll try to write more this evening.

    It would be uncommon if the surgery center had wheelchairs or other aids, but they likely have websites and ideas to pass along.

    Eddie's Wheels is probably the most well known supplier - http://eddieswheels.com. There is a yahoo group for people with immobile dogs - I think it is called "Dodger's List." I can find out. You could get a lot of tips and information if you join that group.

    My neighbor's 13 year old fox terrier just had ventral slot decompression surgery for cervical spine disk compression, and they also did some fenestration of other disks. This was about five weeks ago, and he has done quite well. So other people have this done for senior dogs - you are certainly not the only one!

    Over the years, I've dealt with two large dogs and one Cavalier that all had DM (degenerative myelopathy). All three of these dogs could not walk during the last year or so of their lives because their rear legs would not support them. The one good thing was that DM does not cause pain, so that was not an issue.

    I personally far prefer the rear support harnesses rather than wheelchairs. I did have the harnesses that I used custom made, so perhaps that is why they worked so well. (I had a friend who made them.) I never found a commercially sold harness that I really liked or that fit properly. Since all of these dogs were in their teens when they were incapacitated, they did not have high activity levels that needed to be maintained. It was just a matter of helping them to walk around outside so that they could empty bladder and bowels and maintain some flexibility and muscle tone. With a harness, a dog can assume the position to defecate, which is helpful. I will say that it was so much easier with the Cavalier than it was with the dogs that were 65 and 75 pounds. The harnesses for the big dogs had an extension that went around my shoulder to help support the dog's weight. And I was a lot younger and stronger then, too! The harnesses had separate "loops" that went around each of the dog's thighs, so that it was easy to both pee and poop. I could support all of their rear weight, and all three of the dogs could move their legs and "walk" as long as I was supporting their weight.

    Pat
    Pat B
    Atlanta, GA

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat View Post
    I personally far prefer the rear support harnesses rather than wheelchairs. I did have the harnesses that I used custom made, so perhaps that is why they worked so well. (I had a friend who made them.) I never found a commercially sold harness that I really liked or that fit properly. Since all of these dogs were in their teens when they were incapacitated, they did not have high activity levels that needed to be maintained. It was just a matter of helping them to walk around outside so that they could empty bladder and bowels and maintain some flexibility and muscle tone. With a harness, a dog can assume the position to defecate, which is helpful. I will say that it was so much easier with the Cavalier than it was with the dogs that were 65 and 75 pounds. The harnesses for the big dogs had an extension that went around my shoulder to help support the dog's weight. And I was a lot younger and stronger then, too! The harnesses had separate "loops" that went around each of the dog's thighs, so that it was easy to both pee and poop. I could support all of their rear weight, and all three of the dogs could move their legs and "walk" as long as I was supporting their weight.

    Pat
    Pat, does your friend still make the harnesses? They sound much less complicated to use than a wheelchair. His neurologist is not ready to have him go to anything like that yet anyway. They still have faith that he will get movement and strength back - at least in his right leg. I'm hoping they're right. I'm sure glad he's peeing and pooping on his own at least. And he doesn't seem to be in any pain.
    Bev
    Oliver (blenheim, born 3/2001), Riley (black & tan, born 8/2002,), Madison (ruby, born 9/2003), and Oz (tri-color, born 7/2007)

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    Sorry to hear this Bev. I know you are doing all possible for Oliver and making desisions with his best interests in mind. I saw a sling on the Drs Foster and Smith website that's different than a traditional sling. It looks like a regular harness, only you put in on around the hind legs. It's called the Silver Tails Easy-Lift Rear Harness. I would copy and paste the web address, but for some reason my tablet won't allow me to.
    Hope Oliver starts to feel better soon.
    Joyce - Proudly owned & loved by

    BellaMia (Aug. 30, 2012) My Beautiful Ruby Milo (Jan. 20, 2014) My Handsome Tri
    Sydney (
    April 16, 2000~April 4, 2012) Always and Forever In My Heart

  12. #9
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    The person who made my harnesses was not a “professional” – anyone could replicate this.

    The harness was similar to this:

    https://seniorpetsupplies.com/featur...-up-leash.html

    But since it was custom made, the fit was perfect and there was no requirement for extra webbing and slider buckles in order to adjust the fit.

    Get some one-inch soft nylon webbing. Measure for a loop to go around each thigh, have the loops meet at the top over the hips, and then make a piece that will become your handle. You can customize the handle to your height and preference and your dog’s height. I need to pull mine out and look to see if we cut each piece or if it is one continuous piece, but I think we cut one piece that formed the two thigh loops and a separate piece for the handle. Then we used a punch and metal rivets (from Tandy leather supplies) to fasten it all together. You could also probably go to a shoe repair shop or leather making/craft shop and get someone to sew the pieces together or rivet them together for you.

    Another reason that I preferred this to a wheeled cart is because it encourages the dog to move his legs and attempt to bear some weight so it helps with rehabilitation. In the case of my three, DM is a progressive disease, but I think this harness helped them to deteriorate more slowly than if they had been in carts where their rear legs were immobile.

    The only time I would consider a cart would be for a young (esp. large), active dog that still wanted to explore in the woods or go on long walks, etc. It would be impossible to use a cart inside my house, and I wouldn’t use one for rehab.

    We made the first harness 30 years ago before there was an internet. Wish I had patented the design.

    My large dogs pulled themselves around inside the house as you describe, but my Cavalier was almost 15, and she was quite content just to stay put on a large cushioned dog bed and sleep or watch the activity until I carried her to another room or to the sofa to watch TV with me or to my bed for the night, etc. I always made sure that there was a sturdy water bowl near her bed and she would pull herself over to drink water. She also was continent and I would just make sure to take her outside regularly. She was healthy (no heart murmur) until the very end when she developed a malignant tumor inside her mouth. That progressed rapidly and was the reason that I had her euthanized at 15. She was my last Kilspindie and probably one of the last ever of that line.

    Pat
    Pat B
    Atlanta, GA

  13. #10
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    Thank you so much Joyce and Pat. I'll probably get one of those harnesses as it will help with one of Oliver's PT exercises. I have to lightly support him by the hips and let him sink to the ground and repeat 20 times, three times/day.
    Bev
    Oliver (blenheim, born 3/2001), Riley (black & tan, born 8/2002,), Madison (ruby, born 9/2003), and Oz (tri-color, born 7/2007)

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