I’ve been avoiding this post for a while because I hate thinking about everything Dylan, our great dane, went through. At the same time, I’ve really wanted to make this information available because I’m sure we’re not the only ones who have had to make tough decisions about the health of our beloved family pets. This is going to be a long one because this is all of the info I would’ve liked to have had in one place when we were looking for answers. BE WARNED! There is talk of bodily fluids and some gnarly pictures so don’t proceed if these things make you squeamish.
First of all, this story has a happy ending. Dylan is doing great (knock on wood) and is completely back to normal, but I think it’s important to note that the decisions we made were based on knowing we were willing to deal with even the worst case scenario. We really lucked out with how well the surgery went but we had prepared ourselves (as much as one possibly can) to be able to handle it even if the surgery hadn’t helped her at all. For anyone else having to make medical decisions for your pets, I really think that’s the best thing you can do. Research what the worst possible outcome could be, and decide if you’re able and willing to handle such a situation. This is just my opinion. I am not a vet and have no medical training other than what we’ve now learned about physical therapy/CPR/etc. but these are my recommendations if your pet is sick or hurt and you need to make tough decisions.
How it began
I’ve had Dylan since she was 8 weeks old. I got her from a reputable breeder, fed her the best food recommended for giant breed puppies, took her through three or four different training courses, took her with me everywhere and never noticed any major problems with her walking. When she was 4 or 5 she had some knee issues but with medication and rest those issues were resolved in a few weeks. Wobbler Syndrome is something I read about when doing research on danes before I committed to getting one. It was noted as something to watch for but Dylan never had problems walking and never showed signs of pain in her back or neck.
Now that we have a second dane, and especially now that she’s getting older, the one thing I can say is that she takes a while to stand up from the sitting position. Dylan was our first Dane and she was the only dane in all of her training classes so when she took her time to stand up or lie down, we just assumed that was because danes were huge and preferred to move a little slower than other breeds.
Even when she was a puppy and going through the puppy training and socialization courses, all the other puppies would pop right up to get the treat when being told to “stand” while Dylan was much slower about it but never had any trouble doing it and never looked like she was struggling. Kind of like when you’re tired and exasperated but you have to get up to answer the door. You’re not in any pain and you don’t have any trouble getting up, but you just sort of slowly stretch out of your seat instead of perkily popping right up. That’s the best way I can think of to describe it.
All of this may have meant nothing and even if we had suspected Wobblers at the time, there probably wasn’t anything we could have done to prevent what happened. She was walking normally and wasn’t in any pain so it wouldn’t have made sense at the time to put her through invasive surgery. In hindsight, I do note her slower movement when standing up as a possible warning sign of Wobblers though and there are a few things I will always avoid with danes from now on just as precautions. More on those later.
The awful day
This was in April of 2016. Dylan was about seven and a half. Danes generally live to be 8-12 so she was considered a senior for the breed. Two days prior, Dylan had started walking around with her head down, tail between her legs and lying in the bathroom on the fluffy bath mat. She really only does this when she’s feeling sick or scared or in some sort of pain. She hadn’t been doing anything unusual or strenuous that day. We thought maybe her knee had started to bother her again and we had some pain killers/anti-inflammatory medication left over from the last time her knee was bothering her so we gave her a dose of that and called the vet. It wasn’t an emergency, she was still walking around and eating, but we made an appointment for a check up for two days later.
The next day she seemed ok in the morning but then got worse as the day progressed and didn’t eat dinner that night. She wouldn’t eat the next morning either and was whimpering when she tried to move. When we tried to get her up to go to the vet early that afternoon, she couldn’t even stand. Her legs just sort of kept spreading apart under her and her paws were curling under which we now know is called “knuckling”. It was awful. We had to call the vet and tell them we were going to be late because we were trying to figure out a way to get her into the car since she couldn’t stand at all on her own. Now we’re pros at moving around huge dogs who can’t walk but at the time, it was really rough.
We eventually got to our regular vet. They said they were pretty sure it was a neurological issue but they didn’t have the equipment to properly treat her and she should probably have surgery as soon as possible. At that point, we were told the longer the surgery is delayed, the less likely it is for a full recovery because of damage to the spinal cord. Later we learned this is not necessarily accurate but that’s what we were told at the time so that’s what we were going off of. They referred us to the College of Veterinary Medicine, only about 10 minutes away, so we got her back in the car and took her there. They were notified that we were coming so they met us outside with a gurney and took her straight to the back to examine her. At this point it was still early afternoon.
She was there for several hours and initially they planned to keep her overnight and do the surgery in the morning. We got a call around 4:30 pm though, saying the Neurologist wasn’t going to be available the next day and they thought it was in Dylan’s best interest to go to a facility that could do the surgery sooner rather than later. They recommended a few places they knew would be available and I ended up picking her up shortly after that and driving two and a half hours to take her to the Veterinary Specialty Center in Buffalo Grove, IL. I don’t think I got there until about 8:30 pm and I was of course a bawling mess by that point but they knew I was coming and also sent a gurney out to help transport her inside.
Info from her doctors
The Neurosurgeon that would be doing Dylan’s surgery wasn’t going to be in until the next day so the veterinarian that was there overnight came to speak with me. He was very professional and straight-forward and pretty much was just trying to make sure I understood that we had a senior giant breed dog who can’t walk and we could very well spend thousands of dollars on tests and surgery and still have a senior giant breed dog who can’t walk. Even when speaking with the Neurosurgeon the next day, I tried to get statistics or some percentage for a success rate out of them, but they couldn’t give one.
They ended up doing an MRI the next day instead of surgery so they’d have a better picture of what they were dealing with. The Neurosurgeon told us recent research showed delaying surgery didn’t change the results of whether or not the dog would be able to walk again, so we went with her recommendations. Of course, we were only delaying the surgery for a day and she was being monitored by professionals the entire time. I’m not a professional but I would not recommend delaying taking your pet to the vet. Go immediately and decide what to do together.
After the MRI, it was discovered that Dylan did have Wobblers in three sections of her spine, the most severe of which is where a disk herniation occurred. That disk was pressing against her spinal cord, causing it to swell and made her unable to walk. The hope was to remove the part of the disk that pressed against the spinal cord to alleviate the pressure and hopefully allow her to walk again.
From what we understand, generally Wobblers is diagnosed at a very young age and is fairly obvious due to the wobbly walking the dog will exhibit. When it is diagnosed, the young dog can have surgery to remove the bony malformation so the spine can function normally. This was a strange case because apparently Dylan must have had Wobblers since she was a puppy but her spine was able to compensate for it on its own so she could walk normally. It did, however, make her spine more susceptible to the herniated disk. Because of her age and the fact that she was walking normally before, they did not address the two areas of the spine with Wobblers that weren’t severe. They solely were doing surgery to remove the portion of disk that was creating problems in the severe section. It wasn’t worth risking more injury, and we agreed. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
One thing I wish someone along the way had done was explain to us exactly what all of this meant. As in, what would our life look like, what would we need to prepare ourselves for, if the surgery didn’t work. Fortunately, my husband and I are quite good at doing our own research so that’s exactly what we did pretty much for two days straight while waiting to hear back from veterinarians.
Doing our own research
So we researched. Assuming she made it through the surgery, what would be the worst case scenario of what her life could look like? For one, she may never be able to walk again. There were several things we considered if this was the case.
Quality of life
First, would Dylan be happy? Every dog is different and everyone knows their own dog better than anyone else. Ours are pretty much your stereotypical Danes. They literally spend 90% of their day on the couch or in a bed. Sometimes a people bed and sometimes a puppy bed. All Dylan has ever really cared about is being in the same room as her people. She doesn’t generally even want to lie on or next to anyone (our Dane Cash is a different story), she just wants to be in the same room as her people. Knowing that she spends the majority of her day sleeping anyway, we felt she would probably be able to adjust if she couldn’t walk on her own so long as we were sure to keep her in the same room as one of us and gave her pillows to suck on. It’s super weird but she likes to suck on the corners of pillows. She’s done it since she was a puppy. No pillow in our house is safe from the wrath of the Dylanator. 😛 If she was a different, more active breed who constantly needed to be given things to do, that may have changed our decision drastically.
Would she be in pain? We specifically asked the Neurosurgeon this and of all of the concerns we had, she said she was least concerned about the pain aspect. She was confident we would be able to control her pain with medication. Dylan would need a very soft bed to prevent pressure sores but we already had giant dog beds for them that I made a few years before. I’ll probably do a post on how I made them at some point but until then, message me if you want more info.
How would she go to the bathroom? Regardless of whether or not she was able to walk again, there was a chance she would lose control of her bladder. It was possible we’d have to actually help her express her bladder 3-4 times a day. We looked up videos on how to do that but never ended up actually needing to do it. We were on the other end of the spectrum where she was able to go on her own but couldn’t always hold it, especially while she was on the prednisone.
Keeping the catheter in permanently can be dangerous because of the risk of infections. We read a lot about diapers for dogs. It would definitely make the clean up easier but moisture getting trapped in their fur against their skin for long periods of time can be dangerous and risk infections and urine scald as well. If she had any control over her bladder whatsoever, we read a lot about how getting them on strict schedules can help. They get food and water at the same times every day (which we’d already been doing her whole life) and get taken outside the same times everyday. This can sort of train their bladder and make accidents less prominent or non-existant. We did this the first few weeks of her recovery and after those first two weeks, it completely worked.
Tips that made bladder control easier:
Waterproof the dog bed
If she didn’t have control of her bladder, what were the options other than diapers? Basically, massive amounts of cleanup. But we learned you can make that cleanup much easier on yourself. They sell waterproof diaper fabric at the fabric store. It sounds expensive at $15.00 a yard but JoAnn Fabrics always has 40-60% coupons so we bought two yards for about $14.00. We covered her bed in that so she could still lay on her bed and be comfortable, but liquid wouldn’t penetrate it so we wouldn’t have to wash it every day. Their beds are huge and literally take at least 3 loads of laundry to completely wash them.
When I say “covered” her bed, I don’t mean I sewed a slipcover for it. I simply took a few yards of the fabric, threw it over her bed and tucked the ends under it. Done and done. It did tend to slide out of the way when she started to be able to flip herself from side to side on her own. If it was a longer term situation, I probably would have actually sewn a cover made out of that fabric, or just used pins or iron on velcro to make sure the ends of the fabric stayed tucked underneath.
Use absorbent fabric
We also bought a few yards of two different fleece fabrics. They were soft, inexpensive and super absorbent. I could fold them so there’d be a few layers and lay them on top of the diaper fabric as an added layer of protection. The fleece would absorb any overflow of liquids and the diaper fabric would stop it from penetrating the bed so I could just swap out the fleece as needed and throw the single sheets of fleece into the wash.
We bought a bunch of pee pads. We went through a ridiculous amount of these the first week. She was on Prednisone for 10 days which made her drink a ton of water, which of course, made her urinate a ludicrous amount. As soon as she was off the Prednisone we were able to get her on the bathroom schedule but until then, we had pee pads. The bigger you can find the better. We really liked the lavender scented ones, especially with the amount of urine we were dealing with. We got really good at overlapping 3-4 of them under and in every direction of her hind section so no matter which direction it flowed, the pad absorbed it. It is NOT easy to shove pee pads under the rear of 100 lb dog. If she had ended up being permanently incontinent, I don’t think that would have been a permanent solution. The two weeks we dealt with it were really rough. I think using the diapers and just being diligent about changing it every few hours and being sure to really clean her fur well between each changing would have been more realistic.
Even with the pads, we had to do a lot of cleaning. We found these grooming wipes which smell great and cleaned the areas really well. We went through several boxes of them but it was well worth it. They kept her clean and smelling fresh. The first two days we had a few pretty awful #2 accidents and we had to use a ton of them but the wipes took care of even that mess.
What if she was able to control her bladder, but couldn’t walk on her own? To prepare for this, we planned on getting her on a potty schedule but we needed a way to get her in and out of the backyard easily a few times a day. We have some really great friends who were fully prepared to design her some Tron-esque wheels if necessary. (I’m looking at you, Eddie 🙂 ) but we needed something immediately. I built her a super ugly but super inexpensive and simple ramp (message me if you want details on how I built it). She wasn’t thrilled about using it at first but she got used to it and still uses it today.
We also found the Help em UP harness and shoulder strap which allows one of us to carry her around like a giant piece of luggage when needed or makes it much easier for two of us to carry her without the shoulder strap. She got into the habit of knowing when we put the harness on her, it was time to go outside and we took her out at the same times everyday.
One tip about the harness, it has these two rounded straps that go from the rear of the harness, down either side of the dog’s tail, and attaches to the harness under their belly. I think it is for dogs who have chests more like the one pictured above so the back part of the harness doesn’t slide forward up their body. In a great dane’s case, their chest is so deep that once you fit the rear part of the harness to them, there is no way it can slide forward. The two straps just end up getting in the way of urine streams which means you’re constantly having to hand wash that part of the harness so we just stopped using them. We didn’t cut them off the harness (though we thought about it). Instead, we keep them buckled so they’re not long and dangling on the ground and we just let the loops hang to the side of her hips instead of between each leg and tail. That may sound complicated but it’s really not once you have it on them. Just put the loops to the side and out of the way instead of wrapping them around the back and under the dog.
Use vacation time then plan out a schedule
We were lucky at that point because we both worked from home so we knew we’d be available to take care of her as often as needed. It definitely would have been possible to take care of her if we worked outside the house, but it would have taken much more planning to make sure one of us was stopping home every few hours. For the first two weeks after her surgery, we definitely would have had to take vacation time though. Her medication schedule, physical therapy and accidents before she was off the prednisone and on a potty schedule required attention pretty much every hour.
Use an exercise pen, not a crate
Where would we keep her and how would we keep her separated from our other dog? She couldn’t be on the sofa or one of the people beds because they were too high off the ground. She needed somewhere soft to try and prevent bed sores and luckily we already had giant fluffy dog beds for them. We borrowed a wire exercise pen from my parents and surrounded the dog bed with it so when our other dog got hyper and started jumping around, he couldn’t jump on her or get her worked up. These pens come in all different sizes and can easily fold completely open which allowed us to have access to all sides of her for cleanup, physical therapy or just getting her harness on but still restricted her activity while it was closed. A crate was suggested to us initially, and while that would have restricted her activity, it would have made it miserable, if not impossible, to do everything else we needed to do. The pen was ideal.
What else would her recovery require? Her activity had to be restricted for 8 weeks after surgery except for going outside to go to the bathroom. Not a problem since she was pretty lazy even before she slipped a disk. She’d also need PROM (passive range of motion) exercises three to four times a day. This is the video we found most helpful. Along with her medications and bathroom breaks, we programmed her PROM exercises into our phones to give us reminders when it was time for everything. This was a HUGE help because the first two weeks were rough and we weren’t getting much sleep so it was great to not have to think about what time it was. Alarm goes off, tells us what to do, we do it. It made things much simpler and we knew we weren’t forgetting or missing anything.
How were we going to pay for this? MRIs, spinal surgery and individual nursing care immediately after surgery is very expensive. I mean VERY EXPENSIVE. Fortunately, pretty much every veterinary office offers CareCredit. It’s a credit card strictly for medical expenses, including veterinary expenses, and at least in our experience, they pretty much will raise your limit to whatever you need to cover the procedures. They had a 6 months no interest offer which we took advantage of and after that we transferred the remaining balance to another credit card with a 0% offer. There are a ton of those offers out there. We’d continue to do that to pay off the balance slowly without paying much, if any interest.
Worst case scenario she wouldn’t be able to walk again. She’d have to basically live on her dog beds and we’d need to stick to her daily medication, bathroom and PROM schedules for the rest of her life. She wouldn’t be in pain and we’d make sure she was in the same room with us with plenty of stuffed toys to keep her as happy as possible. It would be quite an adjustment for us, but we thought she’d still be a happy dog in this situation.
Best case scenario it would take 8 weeks of recovery as well as physical therapy for an indefinite time after that before she was able to walk on her own again. We would still have to stick to her strict schedule while she was in recovery.
Taking all of that into consideration, we went ahead with the surgery. When explaining our decision to the surgeon, she sounded impressed with the amount of research we had done and said we were the perfect family to be taking care of a dog in Dylan’s situation. She said she’d never spoken with a family that sounded as prepared to deal with any outcome as we sounded. I’m not sure if she was just saying that to make us feel better before she performed major surgery on our beloved dog, but I’d like to think at least a little bit of it was true. 😉
It took most of the day and Dylan was in intensive care for a few days after that. She had a personal nurse watching her and starting her PROM exercises, trying to get her up to stand on her own a few times a day and heating/icing her stitches. In total, she was there for five days. I brought her there the first evening, she had the MRI the second day, the surgery on the third day, then they kept her in intensive care the fourth day and part of the fifth day until we picked her up that afternoon.
When we picked her up, she was barely able to support her own weight and stand but she was able to do it a little. Honestly, I think it was because she was in a strange place with strange people and mostly because she hadn’t quite gotten used to the Help em Up harness. They hadn’t fit it to her properly yet so it was very awkward at first, but when we got her home and got her situated in her setup, she started progressing surprisingly quickly after the first few days. By then she was used to the harness and understood what we were trying to help her to do with it.
The first week we had her home, I took notes on how she was doing every day. Here is a timeline of how her first week of progress went.
Day 2 – Day after surgery – The surgeon said it would be excellent if immediately after the surgery, she was at least able to move her limbs as much as she was able to before the surgery, but it was possible she would get worse before she got better due to swelling. Immediately after surgery her front legs seemed a tiny bit better and her back legs were about the same.
Day 3 – pick up day – When we picked her up, she was able to hold herself up on her own for a few seconds after she’s helped to her feet. We got her home that evening and started to get her situated.
Day 4 – first full day at home – We did 3 PROM sessions throughout the day. The only time she seemed to whine was right before she had an accident. Probably because she wanted to get up to go outside but couldn’t. Other than that, she seemed very comfortable. Her feet were still knuckling a bit but once we’d help her to stand and she stabilized herself for a second, she is able to walk a few feet. Her back legs were still very wobbly. Front legs were much better than the back. Had a #2 accident that was very soft but not watery.
Day 5 – 4 PROM sessions today. Second and fourth sessions were the best. She was much more awake for those and was eager to get to her water dish. Front legs are looking really good. Not too much knuckling and she’s able to push herself up to a seated position fairly easily. She’s now able to stand without us holding up her back end for about a minute while she drinks water before her butt starts to sink to the floor. Had another #2 accident in the morning, still soft. Added a few tablespoons of pumpkin to her food and decreased food from 2 cups to 1.5 cups per meal to try to help with the soft stool.
Day 6 – Did #2 twice today and both were much more solid and didn’t stick to her fur. She seems to be getting a bit restless and wants to try to get up and walk around. Very little knuckling. During second PROM sessions she didn’t want to go back to bed and lie down right away. She was just sniffing and standing around for a few seconds. She’s able to lift her legs when stepping back onto her bed better. Her back legs aren’t tripping on it nearly as much. She’s also able to hold her back end up for a few minutes now before it starts to sink to the floor.
Day 7 – This is the first day she whined in pain a few times when doing 4th PROM session at about 10:30 pm and while dealing with her neck area trying to move her. This is the first day she’s down to two doses of Hydromorphone instead of 3. It’s the second day she’s down to one dose of Prednisone instead of two. Earlier in the day she wanted to be much more active. went outside 3 times. barked at sounds outside. argued with cash over a toy. got excited and almost started hopping around outside when Chad was messing with the chickens. got up on her own and walked over to the office/bathroom area when chad and I were in the bathroom for a minute and I had left the x-pen open. tomorrow we’ll reign in the activity. needs help when squatting outside. front seems solid. back still wobbly and slow to stand without help.
Day 8 – Skipped the morning PROM because of the pain/whining 2-3 times overnight. Did the other 3 PROM sessions and kept her in bed all day and she hasn’t whined in pain at all all day. Can still flip herself side to side when she wants to and does so regularly. Built a ramp down the deck stairs for her so when we do let her walk around again she should have a much easier time getting outside since we won’t have to lift her down the stairs. Chad said she was reluctant to eat the pumpkin in her food at night but she did eventually eat it.
Day 9 – whined slightly while I was sliding her over on the bed this morning from her front end. She’s not continually whining though and is still flipping herself. She didn’t eat the pumpkin or the glucosomine tablet in her food in the morning.
I stopped taking notes after that but we continued doing her PROM exercises 3-4 times a day for the full 8 weeks of her recovery and by the fourth week she was pretty much able to go outside by herself. We still went with her to be on the safe side and she sometimes still needed help getting her back end up off the ground or out of a squatting position but she was progressing better than even the best case scenario we anticipated. We were really lucky.
Two weeks after the surgery she did end up getting a Urinary Tract Infection, likely from the catheter, and after that she developed a Seroma at the base of her stitches. The Seroma was just a build up of fluid. She didn’t even seem to realize it was there but it made her no-so-pretty stitches look that much more disturbing. She was put on antibiotics for the UTI and after driving her back up to the Specialty Center to have her surgeon look at the stitches and Seroma, we decided to leave the Seroma to see if it would go down on its own since it didn’t appear to be straining the stitches at all and there can be risk of infection after the fluid is drained.
The first round of antibiotics didn’t work and the day after finishing that course of antibiotics, Dylan’s urine still appeared much darker than it should be. She started walking around with her tail between her legs and wasn’t eating much, if any of her food. We took her back to the vet and I think they took a direct urine sample from her bladder without lying her on her back. They sent the urine to a lab so they could identify exactly which type of bacteria it was and exactly which antibiotic would kill it. That was going to take a few days to get the results back but since Dylan was obviously in pain and wasn’t eating, they started her on a different antibiotic which would kill the next most likely type of bacteria. At least we’d be trying something and if we needed to swap antibiotics after getting the test results back, then we’d do that. The second type of antibiotics ended up being the correct one and it cleared up her UTI in a few weeks. She was feeling better and eating more after only a day or two.
Collecting a urine sample
To collect her urine we just use a cheap piece of Meijer tupperware that is very shallow, follow her around as she’s looking for a place to do her business, and right when she squats, just slide the dish under her from behind. From behind is important because if she sees us squatting down in front of her she’d sometimes get weirded out and stop going. Seal the top on the tupperware, wrap it in a plastic bag to be on the safe side and take it to the vet as soon as possible.
When we’ve had to collect Cash’s urine, because he’s a male, the dish method isn’t as realistic because he’s usually going on a bush or tree. In his case we sacrifice a soup ladle and follow him around from behind, same as Dylan. When he goes, we just stick the end of the ladle into the stream and catch as much as possible. Transfer it to a tightly sealing dish and take it to the vet. The vet prefers as fresh of a sample as possible and would even do this same technique outside the vet office if you didn’t come with your own sample but the dogs are usually less willing to do their business when you actually want them to do it away from home.
There is also the option of the vet getting a sample directly from the bladder but that sometimes involves lying the dog on their back and there was now way we were going to risk doing that after she just had spinal surgery. They were able to work with the sample we provided them.
Meanwhile, the Seroma just slowly got bigger and the swelling started to move up her stitches. The base got to be bigger than a golf ball and the swelling moving upward was about as wide as my thumb. When it was obvious it wasn’t going to go down on its own, our regular vet was able to drain the Seroma. It actually was very simple, Dylan didn’t even seem to know they were doing it, and it didn’t come back after they drained it. It was gross and messy, but quick and painless for Dylan and in her instance, it did not cause an infection.
I think it was about a week after the Seroma was drained that they removed the stitches. So surgery was done, Dylan was walking on her own again, UTI was gone, stitches were out, 8 weeks of PROM exercises and restricted activity were finished. Now what?
Things pretty much went back to normal except for a few preventative things:
We try to keep her from jumping around too much.
She does this weird hopping thing with her front paws when she gets really excited and wants to jump up on us but knows she’s not supposed to. We call her “puppy frog” when she does it. 🙂 That’s not too much of a concern but we tried to keep her from jumping on the people beds because they’re higher up and it makes me nervous. She didn’t even attempt to get on them for a few months after her recovery but she has started getting up there a few times a week now. :/
We only use her harness when taking her on walks
We never attach the leash to a gentle leader or her collar. We don’t want anything putting extra strain on her neck and it’s actually much easier to control her in general when she’s wearing a harness with a leash and two handles attached. We even have a more standard harness that we use for our other Dane. Now knowing that they can have issues that are not detectable, we will never attach a leash to anything on their head or neck ever again. The breed’s necks are too long and heads are too big as it is. The last thing we want to do is put more strain on them. For every dane we have from here on out, we will solely use harnesses. The trainers are not going to be thrilled with that, because they always want the leash attached to their collar, but that’s what we’re going to do.
We kept the ramps to the backyard.
Even though she’s doing so well now, you never know what could happen. Even with the knee problems she had earlier in life, if those come back, a ramp will be less stressful on her joints. She still uses it to go down the stairs but generally uses the stairs to come back up. We’re building a new deck this spring and plan to incorporate a nice looking ramp on the side of it.
No more dog park.
This will be permanent because we know she won’t restrain herself to prevent further injury, especially when other dogs are involved. When we first started hosting game nights again after her surgery and recovery, we kept her separated probably for the first month or so and didn’t let her around the other dogs because we knew she’d push herself too far too soon. Even now, if she gets too worked up, we separate her until she calms down and stops trying to rough house. When we asked her surgeon what could have caused the slipped disk, she said she’s seen dogs slip a disk when stretching their neck to reach a Cheeto and she’s seen dogs slip disks jumping for frisbees. To us, that meant there wasn’t going to be a realistic way we could prevent her from doing any and all movement that might cause another slipped disk. All we can do is try to curtail the more erratic movements that are likely higher risk.
We watch her closely on walks.
Honestly, we have a fenced in backyard so we don’t take them on walks nearly as much as we should. When we do though, we watch her closely and usually bring her home after about 10-20 minutes while we continue the walk with our other dane. It’s not super noticeable but she’ll start to drag the tops of her back feet slightly so you can hear her nails scraping the sidewalk. She gets so excited when we go for walks that she’ll keep going regardless of how tired she is. We’ve noticed the day after we take her on a walk though, she’s much slower to get up and move around. Even though she’s probably capable of going on longer walks, we have to keep in mind how it’s going to affect her the following day as well. I’m guessing this might have more to do with her age and the fact that she’s not normally active than her spine issues but either way, we think it’s important to be aware of.
We were really fortunate that things turned out so well for Dylan but as I’ve said, even if she was never able to walk again, we would have made the same decision and were trying to plan and prepare for that. I’m sure many will think we’re crazy for the amount of time and money we’ve put into her surgery and recovery but we don’t regret our decision one bit and we’d do it again. She’s part of our family and as long as she’s happy, we’ll do whatever we possibly can.
I hope parts of the info above will be helpful to someone down the road. If you have a pet that’s going through anything like this and you have more questions, feel free to message me. I’m happy to share whatever other information I can with you.