The following day we had an appointment at the local referral centre for a CT scan to confirm the suspected diagnosis and surgery to follow. There are different degrees of severity with IVDD, ranging from just mild pain all the way to complete paralysis. Summit was in the lower mid range of that scale as his pain was more serious and he had the root signature, however he was otherwise neurologically quite normal. The CT is used to identify the exact disc that has herniated, in Summit's case it was C4-5, so that the surgeon knows where she is going. The surgery involves making a window in the vertebral bone and carefully scooping out the herniated disc material that is compressing the spinal cord and nerve roots. Since Summit was neurologically normal prior to surgery, he was expected to be fairly normal after, though some dogs do experience a little bit of a set back.
It was a huge blow then, when he recovered from the anesthetic, to realize that he was completely paralyzed in all 4 limbs. The only thing he could do was lift his head. I spent several hours at the hospital with him that first night, as I was very upset and concerned that after putting him through all this I may have to euthanize him. The staff also couldn't get him to eat or drink, so I fed him while I was there. His run was a little cozy for the two of us, but we got snuggled in together on all his blankets and snoozed together, had some snacks, and listened to some music. I was too upset to really be able to document any of it. I took a couple photos, but no videos.
That night I drove home in tears, and when I got there the girls both met me at the garage door which caused me to burst into hysterical tears. I was so inconsolable that my boyfriend, who hadn't seen Summit since before surgery, thought he must have passed away. I guess in that particular moment, to me it was almost one and the same. After all, how do you care for a quadraplegic 30 kg dog long term?
The next morning he didn't seem any better (it was the weekend, and I decided to go twice daily in order to feed him), which was demoralizing. After talking with his surgeon, we decided to start him on steroids to see if that would help the inflammation that might be causing some of the paralysis. The difference between that morning and the evening was immense, in very small ways as is the case with neurologic cases. I arrived that evening and noticed that he had some tone in his tail. In the morning I had noted that his tail was completely limp, like a noodle. I also found that he had some reflexes in his back legs. He still couldn't really move anything voluntarily, but I was really heartened to see some improvement. It was probably the best Mother's Day gift I could have gotten, considering the circumstances.
|Mother's day in the hospital with my best boy.|
|A "cake pawp" I bought in Toronto for his birthday.|
|Home at last. I think he looks pretty happy about it.|
|The morning after coming home, able to hold sternal position for the first time.|
|A sea of dog beds|
We also started to see him sleeping in more normal positions, like the one below. It may not seem like much, but a few weeks ago he couldn't even curl his legs into this pretzel position.
The rest is still to be determined. He is making great progress but there's a long way to go yet. The majority of the improvement happens within the first 6 weeks after surgery, so we have a few more yet to go before we know exactly how much better he's going to get. Here's a video so far: