IVDD Postsurgical CS


IVDD Post-Injury Issues Following Surgical Treatment

The treatment path following surgery is critical for the maximum return of functionality for dogs with IVDD. A well-thought-out schedule and attention to the needs of the recovering doxie are the minimal requirements for support. It is important to remember that although full recovery may not come for weeks or even months, the steps taken during those first days of the recovery process may make all the difference to you and your doxie.


Case Study: Smokey

Smokey is a very special little guy. He is pictured in our banner and some of his stories appear throughout the website. While all are loved in his home, Smokey is a favorite son. Smokey turned 20 years old on Feb. 14, 2011, and no one could have anticipated that this spry senior would develop an acute disc rupture, but he did.

One night as dinner was being prepared; Smokey's voice was not heard. He didn't come running into the kitchen with his brothers looking for his bowl. Smokey was found in the front hallway, just sitting. His tail was not wagging and he was trembling. He could not stand or walk. And so his journey began.

Smokey needed surgery, but he was high risk. His age, the fact that he was in the early stages of renal (kidney) failure, and the presence of a mild heart murmur were all against him. Still, he was crated and after his brothers and sisters finished dinner, he was whisked away to the emergency vet.

He failed his neurological exam, and his pain was worsening. The decision was made to admit him for a morning MRI following a night of fluids for his kidneys. The MRI told us that he needed surgery, and so the decision was made. Smokey had surgery that morning to remove the ruptured disc material and relieve the pressure on this spine. And then his recovery began:

Time (Days) Progression
Day 0Smokey had surgery. No one could visit Smokey that day. He needed his quiet time to recover. That did not stop the phone calls from his mom, who called every two hours to check on his recovery. It did not appear as though Smokey had any deep pain sensation, and he could not urinate or defecate on his own.
Day 1The effects of the anesthesia were gone, although Smokey was given medication for his pain. Still no sign of deep pain, but little help needed to urinate or defecate. Everyone here at DRBC was ecstatic and hopeful! We made the trip to visit this sad little guy.
Day 2Our trips to the hospital continued. Smokey didn’t want to eat, and it took a lot of encouragement to get him halfway through his favorite foods. His surgeon told us she thought she sensed a slight response on his exam for deep pain, and that she was pleased at how he barely needed help with urination and defecation. His supportive fluids and pain medications continued.
Day 3Smokey felt deep pain! You would not have known that to look at him. When we visited he fell asleep in his dinner and our arms. We were all exhausted.
Day 4Because of his renal issues, Smokey stayed one more day at the hospital for fluid therapy. His limbs were still motionless, but he could hold and empty his bladder and bowels on his own. Dinner remained a problem.
Day 5Smokey came home. He was excited, we were excited, and his brothers and sisters were all excited. Now the recovery work began.
A recovery crate had been set up for Smokey. The bottom layer was a double folded layer of eggshell foam. On top of that was a hospital wheelchair pad in case of accidents. A soft blanket covered that with an airline blanket to tuck him in for warmth completed the crate. The top of the crate was removed easily to change his bedding and to take him out of the crate. No one was allowed to go in his crate with him.
Postsurgical Week 1Smokey’s pain patch was removed, and he switched to oral medications to manage his pain. Because of his renal disease, he could only receive a very low dose of steroid to reduce the inflammation surrounding the area where surgery had taken place.
Finishing meals was still a problem, and his feeding was changed to three small meals a day as he had now lost 1.2 lb. His only time out of the crate was for bedding changes, wound checks, and sling-supported walking.
Limited physical therapy was started by bicycling his back legs gently to maintain muscle tone. This process was repeated six times daily.
During this time, Smokey’s ability to sense touch returned as did his control over urination and defecation. He remained crated in-between potty and physical therapy sessions and was checked every two hours to be sure he was dry and clean.
Postsurgical Week 2Smokey’s low-dose steroid regiment continued, but his pain medication was stopped. The stitches at the incision site were removed. His appetite returned and his weight stabilized.
His time out of the crate stayed limited to bedding changes, wound checks, and sling-supported walking.
Limited physical therapy continued by bicycling his back legs gently to maintain muscle tone. This process was repeated six times daily.
During this time, Smokey tried to stand. He also began to resist the bicycling, which told us his function was returning. He remained crated in-between potty and PT sessions and was checked regularly to be sure he was dry and clean.
Postsurgical Week 3Smokey was weaned from his medications. His weight returned to normal.
His time out of the crate was expanded, and the sling walking was discontinued. Physical therapy continued the bicycling and introduced swimming.
During this time, Smokey regained his ability to walk. His time out of the crate, although highly supervised, increased.
Postsurgical Weeks 4-10Little by little the function in his hindquarters returned. It would take months before he returned to our normal little boy again, but he did regain 85-90% of his function. His hair eventually grew back. Smokey remained crate rested at night and was prohibited from doing stairs or jumping at all. His physical therapy continued.

NOTE: This section of the DRBC website is offered as a medical reference only. DRBC is not operated by veterinarians. Seek the attention of your veterinarian to obtain a complete understanding of any of the topics listed.