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Thread: K9 spinal injuries

  1. #1
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    K9 spinal injuries

    For our officers who have or work around K9 officers, I was wondering if any of you have run into a very disabling spinal issue called "Fibrocartilagenous embolism" (FCE)
    This is essentially a spinal stroke where some of the gel-like material in a disk somehow winds up inside a blood vessel in the spine and then causes a blockage of the blood flow resulting in death to the tissues the vessel serves in the spine.

    It's seen in large breed dogs and can happen from falls, jumping off something and landing wrong, fighting etc., anything that might injure a disk. I've never seen or heard of this and now I have a dog who suddenly developed this 4-1/2 weeks ago, and within an hour of first symptoms of lameness his backend became completely paralized and incontinent, not even his tail moves.

    After taking him to the huge, new, state of the art veterinary teaching university in Ames the neurologist did an MRI and extensive exam and diagnosed this as FCE.
    $2,000 later all they could tell me is there's no surgery or drugs that can fix or speed up recovery, and that most dogs usually will recover within 3 months. "Recover" doesn't mean 100% as before, the dog will have to relearn how to walk and there would always be some deficit, which is to be expected.

    I went back for a re-exam yesterday and we were there for 90 minutes, the neurologist and I talked at length and he was very concerned there has been no improvement in 4-1/2 weeks and that he seems to have lost some of his pain sensation in the rear legs which the doctor says does not typically happen- the dog is injured and the damage doesn't usually get worse afterwards, it stays level and then improves.

    I was thinking about police dogs and how active they can be, and how they jump up and from heights, can fall, be kicked by a suspect and generally they are prime candidates for a spinal injury, it seems this FCE is fairly common though I've never seen it in any dog I've owned the last 30+ years so this is all new to me, and it's especially heartbreaking to see this happen to a sweetheart of a dog who is only 3-1/2 years old.

    The doctor said they can do nothing, and that I shouldn't feel guilty if I put the dog down if I can't manage the condition since I've done more than most people would have done already, but I want to give him at least two more months to see if there's any improvement at all.
    I was cautioned about watching for a bladder infection, and pressure sores which I was warned are extremely difficult to resolve in a case like this.
    Meanwhile I bought a harness to lift him up and help him outside since he weighs 126#, and a large thick rubber mat to lay on.

    If anyone has run into this before I'd sure like to read your story about either the recovery/treatments or what happened, I can take the good news along with the bad news, I am not nearly as optimistic as I was 4 weeks ago, less so with the fact there has been no improvement at all in 4-1/2 weeks, but I really want to give him the chance to recover within the published 3 month time frame I've read about.
    Last edited by sculptor; 11-15-2013 at 09:29 PM.

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    Do not feel bad...I had the same problem with my K9. His name was Bear because of his huge face/head. He was a German Shepherd. One day I had left the house for a family gathering, he was happy, jumping around, tail wagging when I was leaving. I returned back home an hour later to discover he could not even get up, wag his tail or even hardly turn his head without pain. I took him to the VET & they told me they (believe) it was FCE as you described but I would have to send him off for tests which my cost me $1500. Well needless to say I didn't have the money so I chose to put him down even though it almost killed me. He was also 3 half year old.
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    I apologize for the typo's, was using my not so *smart* cell phone.

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    Thanks for replying with your story thinblueline614, very sad too! this is the first time I've ever heard of this condition but I've been reading a lot. From what I know know a certain fairly large percentage of the dogs do recover to some degree of normalcy and that it can take 3 months to see improvement.
    Unfortunately as you and I both found out, the only diagnosis method for this is an MRI and even then this is not a firm AH HA! diagnosis like xrays of broken bones, it's still diagnosed by ruling out every other possible cause first.

    I took my boy back for a re-exam Thursday as the neurologist was concerned there has been no improvement at all in four weeks, unfortunately after the exam they did not have any options to offer, or encouraging news, but I'm going to wait out the next two months and see, but I am not anywhere as optimistic as I was three weeks ago and I don't have the feeling this is going to have a good outcome.

    German Shepherds such as yours are also very prone to another spinal disease I forget the name of now, it is a progressive deterioration of the nerves etc that reminds me of MS, and there's no cure.
    Sure I understand the cost issue, in fact the doctor told me not to feel bad because this was nothing I did, and if I put the dog down because it's difficult to deal with situation wise that I shouldn't feel bad either since I did more for him already than most of the people he sees.The first bill was $2004 with $1000 of that for the MRI the re-exam bill was only $57 even though I was there for 90 minutes with the doctor, the student and the exam, that's a lot right now when I'm on partial layoff since June but I don't care, I just want him better again...

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    No problem at all.

    I hope he recovers well for you. My German Shepherd was like my own kid. But that is life....have to deal with losses just like gains.

    Goodluck to you & your pup.
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    Thank you thinblueline614, I'm hoping for a positive outcome, we'll see what happens over the next couple of months.

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    Options

    Is your dog on any medication for inflammation, medical or natural to help with any swelling that could be causing undo pressure on his joints and tissue?

    Have you tried acupuncture or joint manipulation?

    These are not cures but they may help with recovery and or may spark something in the healing process.

    Best of luck

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    Hi Johnnys1, he was given an injection of cortisone by my local vet the day this happened, I actually believe the massive hotspot he developed in one location of his hip soon afterwards could have been a reaction to that, he'd never had a hotspot before in his life and then whammo he suddenly developed one about 3" diameter that took four weeks to finally resolve.

    The neurologist and doctors at the university have said there is nothing that can be done, no surgery they can do or medications that will either fix this or speed up any healing process.

    I was instructed on the range of motion joint excersizes, warned about pressure sores and urinary tract infections- the former they said can progress severely enough the bone can become exposed, the latter I'm told is extremely difficult to treat in a dog with this condition and has a poor outcome.
    So far there are no pressure sores, during the day he can rest on a 1/2" thick 4'x6' rubber mat which also gives him traction the tile floors don't, I bought that for this issue and lay a large thick bath towel out on it for him to lay on which is both soft for him as well as absorbent, since he is incontinent the towels get rotated several times a day.

    At night he has a smaller, thicker, waterproof mat with a towel on it to sleep on in the bedroom.
    It is a lot of work, and I'm constantly doing laundry now, but I'm not going to give up.

    I have heard of acupuncture for pets, but unfortunately I live in a very rural location, the only veterinary clinic around here has two vets, one is 82 years old the other is very often out of town and out of state dealing with hog farms and the like, they don't even have an xray machine... The nearest other clinic is a 45 minute drive away, actually two in that town, but one I've never been to before and the other I used to go to but no more.
    There are no specialty animal medical services closer than that University which is a 2 hour drive each way, I don't think they offer acupuncture either.
    The best I can do under the circumstances is what I've been doing so far, especially since I've been on reduced hours at work since July and my income has been half what it was which really puts the bite on things.

    Here's a video of him I did last week.

    jigs week5 - Video Dailymotion

    Thanks for the well wishes.

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    Thanks again for those who posted or read the thread.

    Unfortunately I have bad news now 3 weeks after I opened this thread, I took my boy in for a re-exam at the university and the neurologist on the case had been very concerned there had been no improvement and that his deep pain sensation has actually deteriorated slightly from the initial exam. The doctor said it was very unlikely there would be a recovery, but I figured I'd give him the full 3 months timeframe I've read that dogs recover from this over and see what happens.
    Now some 3 weeks after the 2nd exam there's not only been no improvement at all, but he has been eating less and less of the food I put out for him and in the last week or so even less and that's despite adding some canned meat and the like, he just has little interest in eating any more.

    That plus his weight and muscle mass loss, incontinence and no improvement in his paralized condition are 3 different major things going wrong for him, I don't mind dealing with this if I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel with even a partial recovery, I can deal with a dog who can't walk- they do make dog wheelchairs and I do have a harness, but his going off food and the incontinence is really bad and those will both cause serious issues.

    A veternarian elsewhere posted that she had seen 2 dogs recently with this, and that both began to recover a week or two after the initial injury, some recover, some don't I guess.

    Anyway, I set up an appointment for my vet to come out to put him down on Thursday when I was scheduled to be off work since I'm on reduced hours, but now since I need to use up vacation time before February I am taking off this week.
    Been through the loss many times over the years and it never gets any easier making an appointment to "schedule a death" if you know what I mean, this one's harder since he is not quite even 4 years old, but it's clear after 2-1/2 months of hope and trying that there's no chance of even a partial recovery.


    Last edited by sculptor; 12-09-2013 at 10:35 PM.
    RIP: Officer Jamie Buenting, Rockwell City IA PD, FA & tactical trainer, EOW 9-13-2013

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    Very sorry to hear that sculptor. I was hoping he would get better for you. I had to go through the same thing though, so I know how it feels.
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    Thank you thinblueline614, you know how it is with this. I really wish I had a magic wand to fix him up but I don't, if I'd get just one little sign of improvement...
    I named him "Jigs" after my character's name in "SecondLife" where I role played as a dog, as well as a horse and an owl among others in an authentic 1800s era themed wild west community. A doctor gave me the name in-world, and it sounded like the perfect name for my puppy almost 4 years ago, so that's what I named him.
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    RIP: Officer Jamie Buenting, Rockwell City IA PD, FA & tactical trainer, EOW 9-13-2013

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    It is done, I went to pick up his ashes today, I don't know how to describe it, only those who have gone through this knows, but until I actually had the box in my hands it felt as though he wasn't really gone, that I might turn the corner in one of the rooms and he would be there sleeping on the floor, but as soon as I had the box in my hands I had a pit in my stomach feeling- he really is gone. The only time I've been able to pick him up was when he was a puppy, and now his ashes.
    I put together a virtual memorial on one of my regions.

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    RIP: Officer Jamie Buenting, Rockwell City IA PD, FA & tactical trainer, EOW 9-13-2013

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    I have had that same *pit feeling* in my stomach also. It doesn't feel good at all. Every since I had to put my (bear) down, I have not bought another dog since then. That was over a year ago! Anyone that has a true heart would understand & have the same feelings for an animal. My big German Shepherd was my family member so I hurt, like I had lost a real family member.

    Best of luck finding another pup to raise. I will get another one eventually.....a good farewell to Jigs.
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  14. #14
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    Thank you thinblueline614, each person handles their loss differently, some can't dive right in and find a new pet right away, and then of course there's the tendency to expect or want the new pet to be or act the same as the one who passed away and that just doesn't happen as each one is unique no matter how many you have.
    You'll get your new dog when the time is right for you- a year's wait is not unusual.

    My friend the retired deputy sheriff had a German Shepherd, I think when he was a police Officer in Seattle. I remember him talking about his dog and his loss, he never had another Shepherd afterwards but did have other dogs as well as cats when I met him and his wife.
    I think it was too painfull for him to get another Shepherd, at least that was the impression I had.

    I am still in a very devastated frame of mind and my heart aches, but I am trying to reach the people I purchased Jigs from to see if they are planning another litter, it's been almost 4 years since I bought my dog from them and for all I know they no longer breed.
    I do have two other dogs but one is almost 14 but in good health, I know I'll be going thru this process again.

 

 


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