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Still paralyzed after back surgery.

Species: Dog
Breed: Cockapoo
Age: 2-5 years
We need help and guidance please!
We have an active family, 3 boys (13,9,8) and one active 4 y.o. cockapoo, Cody. He is a great dog, loves people, attention, life, playing and running. Whenever you sit down on a couch or chair, he runs over to jump on your lap for some petting. He also likes to leap, jumping on furniture and beds and even jumping into my arms at times. About 1 month ago he was in severe pain, would walk slowly and gingerly and yelped whenever picked up. Vet thought maybe he had a disc herniation or lyme(he tested neg. however she said the lab tested only 2 of the most common forms and he may have a form not tested). SHe was unable to illicit pain upon exam. SHe decided to treat him with both rimadyl and amoxicillin. She wanted us to use the amox first for three days, then use rimadyl. Cody got better (instantly it seemed after rimadyl on day 3). He took amox for the rest of the month and some more rimadyl, and he seemed fine. He was in usual state of happy self until 3/17/11 when could not get up out of bed. Vet examined him and said he had a severe neurologic deficit and sent us to The Vet ER. The neurologist examined Cody and did an MRI, diagnosed him with a ruptured disc in the T12 area. He recommended surgery, telling me since Cody could walk (although barely) there was a 90% chance of recovery. However he had to delay surgery until the next day since a dog that got hit by a car came in and needed surgery. He said since Cody could walk, he was not considered and emergency. ON 3/18 in the morning, the neurologist called me and said Cody was worse, that one leg had no feeling to painful stimuli but the other still did. He said the odds to walk again are at this point somewhere b/w 50 -75% (But he also admitted there was not a lot of evidence in such cases, he was saying this at if dog has feeling in both legs prior to surgery there was a 90% chance of recover, if neither leg there was less than 50%, but since Cody had sensation in one leg his recovery chances are in between those 2 parameters). Since we love Cody so much and he is so young we decided to go with the surgery on 3/18 (at a cost of $5,500 but it would be a bargain if Cody could have some of his quality of life back). The neurologist also said at that time that his disc disease extended to T 14 (T12 to T14, new news to me, but since time was critical we opted for surgery for him).
His post surgical course however has been complicated by complete paralysis of hind legs, inability to wag his tail and inability to control urination. We visited Cody yesterday, and it was painful for us. He tried and tried to climb on me, but could not move his hind legs. He seemed frustrated by this. When he sat, he would tend to fall over to one side.
We talked to the neurologist last night who did the procedure and he did not paint a good picture. He placed the odds at Cody walking again at 50% and told us it may take months before he possibly can. He also may never learn to control bowel movements or urination again in addition to not walking again. He may need to live his life walking around in a cart and having to have us either catheterize him or express his bladder twice a day.
My wife started to cry. With three active boys, and both my wife and I working full time, we cannot possibly have a dog that needs that much care, catheterizing him twice a day, cleaning up is poop, and not to mention Cody's quality of life. It would pain him not to be able to greet people at the door and wake his brothers up in the morning and go for walks to leave his scent around the neighborhood. A dog who had a lot of zest and loved to be with people would be confined to where he was put down, with the inability to move. As of today day 2 post op Cody still does not have feeling in hind legs. Because of this, my wife and I have minimal hope that he will walk again. The nurse/tech told my brother in law that after surgery, the dogs at least gain feeling in their legs soon after surgery, and most leave the hospital walking, but this is not the case with Cody. My wife and I are now contemplating putting Cody down due to all of this. I know vets can't guarantee anything, but it seems Cody is not improving, and that his disease was originally worse than thought. We tried to save his life, but feel his quality of life (as well as ours) will be greatly diminished bringing him home in this condition. If we bring Cody home (paralyzed and he never regains functioning) he then becomes a burden, and we will be resentful at times as he needs the extra care. Plus my children will not have a playful dog and will have not so good memories of their childhood dog. I don't think Cody would want to live a life like that. Cody has had a great life thus far. Looking into his eye at the hospital, it looks like the life has been sucked out of him. We are torn and sad and would like your opinion. We would have a harder time with the kids if we brought Cody home then decided later to put him down. Quality of life for the dog and us is important. He is not much of a pet if he can't play with the kids (which Cody loved to do) and would be isolated a lot (something he'd hate). It just seems he won't be able to live the life of a dog anymore. What kind of pet is that?

How soon after surgery should dogs have some sensation in their hind legs and regain bladder function? (The neurologist said he usually sends dogs home 3 days after this type of surgery walking.) I would think the longer it goes without feelling and functioning intact, the less of a chance Cody has for recovery. Putting Cody down, as painful as it is (there are tears in my eyes as I write this), would save Cody from future psychological and physical pain and save us the added burden of a dog that needs a lot of care and nursing.
Please give us your opinion.
THanks.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, I am so sorry to hear about Cody's situation.

This is a really unfortunate set of circumstances. From what you have described, it sounds like everything was done according to the book. But, as you have found out there are never any guarantees.

It's going to be hard to answer your question. I think for me, the answer lies in how much bladder and bowel control Cody has or is likely to have. If he is unable to walk, he can still have an extremely joyful life. I have seen and heard of so many dogs that do extremely well with a pet wheelchair.

But, if he is unable to control his bladder and his urination then this is going to be an issue for you.

Your neurologist and surgeon are going to be able to give you the best advice. They can see if he is making any progress at all. They can also tell you how often they have seen a dog improve with Cody's symptoms.

Here is the plan that I would suggest. I know it will be harder as each day goes by, but I would suggest to not give up on him now. This is because there still is a chance (albeit small) for his recovery. But, I would set some criteria. So, sit down with your family and discuss the situation. Discuss with the boys that you will not be able to live with him if he does not have bladder and bowel control, but that you are going to give him some time to see if he will recover.

Then, write down some criteria. For example...if he has no improvement in bladder or bowel function within 2 weeks then it is time to put him down. Or, if he seems like he is not enjoying life by 1 week, then it is time for euthanasia.

I never like to make decisions like this quickly. Sometimes our fear of what could be clouds our judgment.

I can't emphasize enough how much your vets want to help you. Trust their judgment as well.

I really pray that he starts to improve.



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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

We visited with Cody tonight and had a good visit with him. The ICU vet said with neuro issues it can take a long time even months before you know anything. We decided to bring Cody home either tomorrow or Tuesday. We will learn to express his bladder and go from there. We did get some positive news. I recieved a call from the hospital earlier today to get a progress report, apparently he had some response to painful stimuli this morning. So at least we feel like we are moving in the right direction. Who know where he will be a few weeks from now. We did talk to someone in the waiting room today who also had a dog in a dog wheelchair. She said her dog did great in it. WE feel Cody is too young and to determined to give up on him now. THanks for your response!!


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

It sounds like you have the right attitude! I am so pleased to hear that Cody has some deep pain response. Let's hope he continues to improve.




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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.