NZ Forest Native Birds
Help for a Paralysed Dog

OBITUARY: Sadly, we had to have Krystal put to sleep at
10am on Thursday, 7 July 2011.
She was about a month and a half from her seventeenth birthday. But I hope her story will help many more dogs who suffer paralysis to have a longer life as Krystal did.

I have turned the information given to us by a breeder friend into a downloadable e-book in PDF format. (To download it right-click on the link if you use Windows, and control-click if you use a Macintosh.) It details the treatment for a dog that becomes paralysed. Since it contains a copy of a letter written by a vet, you may want to print it to show your own vet should you be unlucky enough to have a dog that becomes paralysed. Tips from myself to stop your dog developing a prolapsed disc are also included, along with an article on Vitamin C and arthritis.

The diary I started when our own dog Krystal became suddenly paralysed in her hindquarters follows:

On Sunday, 20 January 2002, we noticed our Dachshund Krystal was very quiet. In fact, she didn’t seem to be walking very well. When this happened to Nicky many years ago, we instantly suspected back problems and all that was required then was a week or so caged up. Even when it happened again and he was yelping with pain we merely had to keep him confined for a longer period. However, when Roger examined Krystal he thought her tummy seemed hard so he thought she might be constipated. He took her straight to the vet.

Unfortunately, the vet was away on holiday and the locum was a very young woman not long out of veterinary college. She said Krystal’s anal glands seemed full and swollen and cleaned them out (a very unpleasant job). After that Krystal rallied amazingly, but very briefly; then suddenly her back legs went. She didn’t seem to be able to move them, never mind walk. The young vet wanted Roger to get a second opinion (especially as the practice, a rural one, doesn’t have facilities for the hospitalisation of small animals). So Roger took her to a vet in the city, who x-rayed her back and said there was nowhere near the damage he would have expected from Krystal’s symptoms. In fact, there was very little wrong at all. He prescribed a week of Prednisone, plus being penned up with water and newspapers, and gave us some suppositories for her bowels and also some coloxyl 120 tablets.

Nearly two weeks of never-ending washing followed because, although Krystal seemed able to tell when she needed to go to the toilet, the Prednisone made her drink far more than normal, which meant she was continually needing to urinate and she wasn’t able to get far enough onto the newspaper to stop the urine going all over her bedding as well—not to mention over the poor dog herself. Roger cut away as much of her feathering around her rear end as he could, but I doubt it helped very much.

Once she came off the Prednisone she slowly started to improve in terms of not wetting herself (simply because she didn’t need to urinate so often) but she still couldn't seem to move her hind legs. Then a breeder friend suggested swimming. Unfortunately, unlike our friend, we don’t have a swimming pool, so we filled up the bath. Poor Krystal didn't like this. Those high, white, smooth walls must be intimidating to a little dog. Also, we felt she didn’t get much benefit from it. All she was doing was paddling with her front paws. Then we saw on the Internet some advice that suggested she shouldn’t swim but should be able to touch the bottom of the pool, so we bought an inflatable paddling pool. We would have preferred a 2-metre one but it would have taken up too much room, especially as we knew we would have to walk round and round the pool, encouraging her with little pieces of biscuit. Also, the cost was $70, against $25 for one that was a little under 5 feet. It does the job and Roger placed a car tyre in the centre of it to encourage Krystal to walk closer to the pool wall.

At first Krystal just walked on her front legs, dragging her back ones behind her. Then we noticed (the very next day) that she was moving her back legs rhythmically as though swimming. What she was actually doing was walking on the tops of her feet. Next day she occasionally brought one foot down to touch the pool bottom with the pad of the foot instead of the top. Later that day she was doing this all the time. Unfortunately, the legs still seem too weak to support her weight. Today is Monday, 11 February, and we will continue to give her 20 minutes of walking around the pool twice a day for as long as it takes. One thing we are considering is slowly lowering the level of water in the pool so that she gradually bears more weight on her back legs. We heat the water to 30°C, by the way.

I shall post more information here as Krystal continues to improve. We see no reason why she shouldn’t, though it’s doubtful she will make a full recovery—i.e., she may walk a little stiffly or drag one leg slightly as Nicky does. Nicky was actually very hump-backed for years after he recovered. His problem (which started much the same as Krystal’s, with him seeming quiet and not walking quite right) was the main reason for our stipulation that our house in the country had to be single-storied.

12 February 2002:
Last night I noticed that Krystal stayed a second or so longer on her feet when placed on the ground than she has been. Today she is dragging herself around the house with surprising speed. We’re still not sure whether her legs are really too weak to support her or she just lacks confidence. She was mistreated by her previous owner (who still expected Krystal to perform well in the show ring!) so lack of confidence is a possibility.

26 February 2002:
Sorry I haven’t had time to post until now. A few days ago we stopped Krystal’s paddling pool physiotherapy because she seemed to be walking around enough without too much trouble. She is still staggery and looks very ungainly because she turns her back feet in when walking and her spine is humped. We hope she will straighten it out quicker than Nicky managed to but it doesn’t look very likely. However, she is quite capable of lying on the floor or her bed with her body stretched out straight.

20 April 2002:
Well, Krystal continues to improve. She’s getting around almost as fast as she used to, even if she does look ungainly. She’s also slowly getting back her confidence, which was severely damaged by the trauma. I notice she wants to be with me most of the time, spending her day tucked in a basket under my office desk. And this morning she caught a mouse. Not that this was difficult, though I’ve no idea why it was so easy. Mice usually give our dogs an exciting hunt, even if they catch nothing. When I opened the back door and stepped into the carport I noticed the mouse at once, crouched in a little hump on the concrete, facing the closed ranchslider (sliding glass door with aluminium frame). Krystal and Sanneke (a cream Dachshund who came to us early in the summer) rushed down their ramp but didn't seem to notice the mouse.  “What’s that?” I demanded, pointing. Krystal went down the rest of the ramp and sniffed it; it didn’t move. But for the fact that it was upright, I might have assumed it was dead. Eventually she decided to make a half-hearted grab for it and it scampered under the ramp. Sanneke went after it. They both started nosing around. Since both dogs seemed sure it hadn’t found an escape route, I lifted the bottom of the ramp. Krystal dived in and snatched the mouse. A second later it was dead and I disposed of it.

25 April 2002
There’s no doubt that Krystal is improving all the time, becoming steadily less ungainly and less hump-backed.

14 July 2002
Krystal has been straight-backed for some time now. She even started begging over a week ago. On Friday (day before yesterday) Roger had to take her off one of the armchairs twice. Yesterday when I went to make my bed I found her curled up beneath the duvet. Until Friday she hadn’t been able to jump onto any of the furniture. Now our main concern will be to teach her that jumping on furniture is no longer allowed. J Neither is begging.

Suspect back problems in your Dachshund the moment you notice it isn’t walking right and seems quiet!

30 October 2008
Krystal turned fourteen in August so she can no longer jump on furniture even if she wants to. Slowly the “slinky minky” that was restored to us by 14 July 2002 has gone again as age caught up with her. But her walk is no more ungainly than to be expected for her age and she can move fast if she wants to.

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