On December 18, the world stopped turning for our family when our 8-year-old shepherd, Chesney, suddenly lost the use of her back legs. Speaking for myself, I was sick to my stomach and conflicted – it was so overwhelming that we honestly considered putting her down if things didn’t dramatically improve.
Fast forward to today – it has been almost a month and she is making noticeable progress. Our world has started to turn again…my floors are no longer covered in pee pads, baby wipes and towels. Chesney has full control over her bladder and she no longer leaks all over the floor. She “almost” has the poop situation under control, but it has not been bad because her stool is firm and easy to clean up.
I am extraordinarily hopeful that Chesney will continue to improve – she is noticeably trying to use her back legs. I take her outside every hour to walk around our yard and deck. She sniffs and pees and even tries to engage our other shepherd in play. I can see her back legs trying to walk – she has no strength, but there is something connected between her brain and her nerves and muscles.
Is it the acupuncture? The cold laser treatments? The supplements? Is she so healthy that her body is healing itself? It’s hard to say, but her improvement is amazing. The pit in my stomach is gone – I no longer wonder if we should put her down. All I do is work to make her better – each and every day.
For those who have suggested a wheelchair, we do have one (generously donated by a friend), but we are not going to put her into it for at least two weeks. A veterinary tech friend advised me that back injuries are treated like fractures, and though she may be showing signs of improvement, she needs to be allowed to recover at her own pace, without us forcing her into therapy and/or activity because she is still fragile.
As has been stated before, we did not pay $2,000 for an MRI, so we do not know if she has IVDD or FCE. Without a concrete diagnosis, we are going to err on the side of caution and continue to allow her to fully recover before putting her into a wheelchair (which may tip over as she learns to use it), or intense physical therapy.
In the meantime she gets massages, range of motion exercises, walks in her harness, and lots and lots of love.
We are fortunate – I work from home and can be here for Chesney. Two weeks after she became paralyzed, I joined a Facebook group for people who own a dog suffering from Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). Though I was 99 percent certain that Chesney didn’t have this insidious disease, I wanted to join in case anyone had ever experienced “rapid” onset of symptoms.
The fastest onset that I read about was four months…not 12 hours. But I digress…today in the group someone posted a video of her shepherd who suddenly lost the use of her rear legs. The dog had DM, but this sudden paralysis came on within hours – more likely a spinal issue like Chesney’s than DM. But that dog’s life will be ending later this week – her owner is physically unable (due to health issues of her own) to lift her dog. The situation breaks my heart – for the dog, and for her family. Caring for a paralyzed dog is physically demanding – so much so that someone who is old, or in poor health, may very well not be able to do it for any length of time. It made me realize, once again, that we are fortunate – even though this has been hard.
So this is where we are today – moving forward and full of hope. For any of you who are dealing with a major health struggle with your pet, my hat is off to you. It’s tough, but these wonderful companions are worth the effort.