Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Back Health for Dachshunds

I have two of the most amazing dachshunds ever Riley (3 years) and Thurman (1 year).

We recently had an awful time with Riley that required two emergency vet visits in 12 hours with an additional 'normal' vet visit days later.

It started out that he seemed fine when I left for work Friday morning. However, an important note is that I was getting ready for work so I didn't spend much time watching his every move. He went outside as normal and walked into his kennel as normal so I didn't notice anything.

By Friday afternoon my husband said that Riley just 'wasn't himself'. He was not acting right, but he just thought he didn't feel very well. I got to him late that night (we went camping and I got a later start than everyone else). I saw him a little after midnight and could tell he wasn't well. I took him for a short walk thinking he needed to go to the bathroom. His abdomen was extremely hard (a tight feeling). I took him for a walk and he went a little slower than normal. At one point on the walk he stopped and laid down on his side. He NEVER does that. I walked back to our campsite and again, he laid there on his side kind of staring off into space.

At this point I thought that he might have eaten something poisonous, eaten something that caused a bowel obstruction, or he was sick with one of those deadly dog viruses going around that people can't explain.

Not wanting to take a single chance, I decided to hop in the car and take him to the vet. As I was driving (and in the middle of nowhere no less) I called a 24-hour animal clinic I had heard about in passing because it was the closest one I could think of from where I was at. Luckily, they were there and told me they could see him as soon as I could get him there.

It was nearly 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning at this point. The vet came in and confirmed that Riley's abdomen was extremely tight. But that it wasn't bulging as if he had eaten too much or not gone to the bathroom. Riley was acting lethargic and not moving around a tremendous amount.

The vet was still unsure if it was sickness with his belly or if it was an injury. Little did I know dachshunds really like to hide their pain and discomfort and try to be tough guys. Thanks Riley-you made my life more difficult for the first several days of this problem!

So, the vet ran a panel of blood work and did two x-rays to see if he could get a better grasp on what the problem was. By around 3:20 a.m. both were ready and I was being briefed on the results. His x-rays were clear and only showed a slight enlargement of the spleen (but that could just be that he is a small dog and they were able to see more on his x-ray versus a larger dog). His blood panel showed that his liver enzymes were at a 'high' level. I left that night with two medicines for him, one of which was a supplement for liver cell regeneration.

In addition to medicines we took home, they gave him an injecting on the top of his neck of extra fluids just in case he got worse. This would help him from getting dehydrated since he wasn't showing interest in water and food. The photo below almost captures the bloated look of his skin.

I was shocked at how much fluid his neck held without hurting him at all. He looked like a hunchback and surprisingly distributed through his body quickly. In the 15 minute drive home the photo was nothing compared to directly after he had it done.

I got home and fell asleep with him. The next morning (yeah, it was really just later that day) he wasn't doing any better. He still didn't want to walk, was staying exactly where I put him, and was staring off into space all the time. Because the results of the previous night really weren't definitive I was still worried that he had something that was a poison or making his liver worse. I took him back around 1 p.m. and they ran his blood again. His liver number went from 114 to 87 which was certainly an improvement. But again, the new vet still couldn't tell if the problem was a poisoning/illness or an injury.

We took Riley to our normal vet that next Wednesday four days later and it was determined that he was having pain. After a very long and extensive body check we were able to find that the problem was his back. The only sign we got was that he stopped panting when the vet touched a specific spot on his back. His panting was a sign that he was uncomfortable but willing to show vaguely that there was a problem. The reason he stopped panting was that he was trying to hide that anything was wrong. There was no wincing, no yelp.

Dachshunds are gentle, but they really like to pretend they are fine. We got steroids and continued the pain medication as well as the medication for rejuvenating liver cells (this wouldn't hurt him).

It was about another two weeks before Riley was really seeming to be himself. He has been limited on movement including no steps and no jumping on and off furniture. His appetite and water intake slowly returned to normal and his alertness to his surroundings has improved as well. We are careful to keep him as physically inactive as possible for him to keep a slow recovery.

Generally vets agree on 4 weeks of strict cage rest. Riley is fairly lazy when unprovoked, so we have been allowing him access to one room and his dog bed. If we leave the house we cage Thurman (the uninjured dog) so that he can't rough house and hurt Riley again.

We are going to keep a careful eye on his recovery because we certainly want to avoid any type of back surgery which runs a few thousand dollars, as well as a difficulty on any pet.

Carrying dachshunds should be in a way that supports their entire body and keeps their back straight rather than hunched. It doesn't take much of a wrong move or bad support to cause them problems because their body is so long compared to the rest of their proportions.

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