It started when Molly peed in our bed. She hasn’t had an accident in the house in ten years, let alone in our bed. What was going on? It did thunder that day – maybe she just got extra scared and she is ten years old after all so maybe it’s just a little harder to control her bladder when she gets scared these days. That would be understandable? I decided to take her to the vet just to be sure she didn’t have a bladder infection or something.
I took my dog to the vet to check her for a bladder infection, and they pointed out a weakness in her back left leg. When they overturned her left paw while she was standing up, it wasn’t self-correcting right away. The right foot was still functioning at 100%, but the left was just a little slower. Well that’s strange – I hadn’t noticed this before at all. I guess I noticed she was getting just slightly weaker in her hind legs, but she was ten years old and I assumed it was just a little arthritis or something.
The vet said it could be a pinched nerve which may or may not self-correct. And it didn’t seem to be bothering or hindering her in any way at that point, so I really didn’t think too much of it. They gave me an anti-inflammatory and a mild pain killer for her to take to see if it helped anything. She hadn’t been acting like she was in any pain, but I did as instructed and started giving her the medicines twice a day for a few weeks. The medicines did nothing. Her legs became noticeably worse over the next 4-6 weeks. What was going on?
I decided to take her in for X-Rays to see if they could determine if this was actually a pinched nerve or something else like hip dysplasia etc.
It was both.
The vet came in to talk to us and explained she did have some pretty serious hip dysplasia, especially on the left side. Ok this is common, I can handle this.
She also has some sort of nerve issue. There were two possibilities: Lumbosacral Disease or Degenerative Myelopathy. These are both totally foreign things to me, so I’m trying to process what they are and what the solution is. Lumbosacral Disease can be potentially fixed by surgery. Degenerative Myelopathy can’t be fixed at all. Ok it’s most likely the first one she said – wonder how much this will cost. On top of that she has hip dysplasia – but that sounds manageable too. She’s still pretty young and everything else is working perfectly. She has tons of energy, perfect hearing and eye sight. I will just investigate the surgery options so we can get back to our normal life together.
The vet recommends I see a specialist, a dog neurologist. She says they will most likely need to do advanced imaging, an MRI, to confirm a diagnosis. The MRI itself can cost between $2,000-$3,000. Yikes – just to diagnose the problem? Wonder how much spinal surgery is going to cost then. Guess we won’t be going on any trips next year. But she’s my baby and she’s so healthy otherwise, so if they think they can give her some healthy years back it’s totally worth it.
This is when I go home and cry my eyes out. I don’t want her to be in any pain and I was totally not expecting this sort of diagnosis. A few weeks ago she was perfectly fine and I just thought she might have a bladder infection. I’m still trying to process through all of this when another vet calls me that I had reached out to earlier for a second opinion. After describing her symptoms and the way things have progressed, he tells me based on her breed and the info I gave him, it really sounds like Degenerative Myelopathy. Oh shit – that’s the bad one that can’t be fixed. What?
At this point my heart is literally breaking.
I start researching the two diseases, and it’s really looking like she has the incurable one – Degenerative Myelopathy. All of the symptoms make sense. She’s wobbly/unstable in her hind legs, and it started more in one side then moved to the other side. She doesn’t seem to be in any pain, another thing that’s a strong indication of DM. The prognosis says they can survive around 6-12 months before the disease eventually moves to the front legs and they become completely paralyzed. There’s an image of a Corgi with its legs outstretched completely. And I fall apart completely.
Flash forward a week and a half later, and my husband and I are at the neurologist getting a full neurological exam and MRI. The doctor confirms our fears, but I already knew deep down that he would. The thing is, DM doesn’t sound all that common. It’s not really diagnosed that often. But that’s mostly because it is a diagnosis of exclusions. They must rule out all other possibilities first and they can do a blood test to confirm the dog is a carrier of the gene, but that’s as close as you can really get. The only way to truly confirm DM as the diagnosis is to perform an autopsy. I’m betting not many people do autopsies on their dogs.
So now you’re pretty much caught up to where I am on this journey. My dog is the love of my life. I’ve had her since she was three months old. We rescued her literally from a crack head on the side of a road, who asked for $5 and some cigarettes in exchange for her. I’ve spent the last ten years trying to spoil her rotten and give her the best life possible. She was the most scared timid dog when I first got her. Now she’s the most loving, sweet, spoiled little girl. She loves going for long walks, chasing bunnies and squirrels, riding in the car (going “bye bye”), treats, belly & butt rubs, and spending time with me, my husband, our parents & our friends.
I’m still trying to process and accept that her last 6-9 months will be spent slowly losing the ability to walk. I’m lucky I work for a pet care company where I have access to a lot of veterinarians and pet behaviorists to use as resources for advice on this diagnosis. They’ve all been very supportive and have all pretty much said this will be a heart wrenching thing to watch –but to just try and stay positive for her because generally dogs with this disease are mostly happy and normal up until the point where they can’t move at all…
I decided to start this blog because as I’ve been doing research on this disease, it’s helped me to hear from other people that went through this – things they’ve tried, what worked and didn’t work, and to be honest I thought it would just be cathartic for me to write about this experience instead of bottling it all up. Hopefully I can successfully help Molly transition to her new reality, but I know a lot of this will likely be trial and error. I also hope this blog will help other pet parents who are faced with this situation find some comfort and education on what to expect and what we can do to help each other along.
First order of business – I ordered a bunch of things from Amazon the other day including:
-Support Harness for Back Legs
-A wide assortment of different booties/socks with grippers
-Adhesive paint for paws (I’ll let you know..)
-Special scissors to groom the hair in between her paws so the adhesive will work and not be as messy
-Life jacket for swimming/physical therapy (she hates to swim, we will see how this goes)
-Dog ramp to help with stairs, getting in and out of the car (so far she wants nothing to do with this)
-Peroxide to clean wounds on her feet (it’s common for them to start dragging their feet which can cause the hair to wear down on their knuckles & sores to form – hence the booties and socks)
-Resolve Carpet Cleaner to get in front of any bleeding or accidents that may occur (the technician at the vet cut her back nails down really short when she was under anesthesia – standard procedure I guess – and because she drags her back legs when she walks her nails immediately wore down to the quick and started bleeding). I’ve been keeping her on the grass when we walk at the park now to let her nails grown back in).
-Rubber bands to help keep the socks on
-Neosporin just in case
I’ve received about half of these items and plan to spend the next few weeks trying them out. I’ll let you know what works and what doesn’t work.
Thanks for reading,