Sunday, June 27, 2010

May 20, 2010 - Disk Rupture and The Start Of It All

Sam had surgery at the Seattle Veterinary Specialist Hospital ( for a herniated disc on Friday, May 21, 2010. He remained in their care until we brought him home on the evening of May 26th.

It all started around 11am on Thursday, May 20th, when Sam’s mom, Linda came home from an appointment. All the dogs were jumping around, excited and boisterous when Linda came in. Linda apparently "bumped" into Sam and he squealed in pain - making a sound never heard before and one that we were very surprised at given the inconsequential contact that had precipitated his scream.

Then Sam got into a stand-up, paw on shoulder, face-to-face, wide-eye, foaming at the mouth confrontation with Owen, his brother, that thankfully only resulted in the usual string of angry noises being exchanged. Afterwards, Sam was quiet and withdrawn but otherwise appeared fine. As Linda got the other kids ready to go into Vancouver, I got Sam to come upstairs with me, where I gave him a treat and then he walked back downstairs with me. I put his car harness on and he came down with me into the garage and hopped into the truck. We then decided to poop and pee him and so he hopped out of the truck, didn't do anything, so he jumped back into the truck and as we buckled him in for the trip into town, Linda remarked that his back seemed "tender" when she buckled him into his seat.

Once he got into town, he hopped out of the truck as usual, went into Linda's mother's backyard, where he sat down, which was unusual. He then went into the house but did not jump up on the couch, which is what he usually did. This was around 11:30 am. Linda then left the kids at her mother's house for the day.

I received a call around 3:30 pm from Linda's mom that Sam was in her backyard, unable to use his hind legs and would not let her pick him up. Linda was contacted and she went to get Sam, who was then rushed to Animal Emergency in Vancouver. He was evaluated, suspected to have a ruptured disk, given some medication and was subsequently moved to Mosquito Creek Veterinary where they took x-rays and where Sam’s vet Janice, gave him an acupuncture treatment to reduce the swelling. At that point, he still felt pain in his hind legs although he could not stand or otherwise use his hind legs. Sam had more sensation in his right hind leg than his left, although he still felt deep pain in his left hind leg.

After a period of consultation about what to do next and where to go, a decision was made to drive to Seattle Veterinary Specialists ( in Kirkland, Washington just north of Seattle for further treatment. Sam received a small injection of Demerol en route that Janice had supplied us with for the 2-1/2 hour trip down. He was given some Arnica orally at Mosquito Creek before our trip down to Kirkland. Once at the clinic in Kirkland (arrived around 11:30 pm May 20th), Sam was hospitalized, given pain, anti-inflammatory medication and perhaps something to calm him down. We spoke with the emergency veterinarian on duty, Dr. Wirth and reluctantly left the clinic around 1:30 am to find some dinner and the hotel for some sleep.

The next morning (Friday May 21), Dr. Wirth, reported that he had vomited a couple of times over-night, probably from the medication that had been given. She went on to note that Sam had reduced sensation in his left hind leg and that an MRI would be done later that morning. When we arrived at the clinic, Dr. Mison, who would be doing the surgery, reviewed the MRI results with us noting that Sam had a ruptured disc between L2 and L3 on his spine. It was at that point that we, along with Sam’s regular vet, Janice, gave the go-ahead for surgery that would occur early Friday afternoon. Dr. Mison ventured a guess that Sam had perhaps an 80 - 90 percent probability of regaining his ability to walk again.

Dr. Mison called us after Sam's surgery with the news that Sam’s spine had been "badly bruised" and that the ruptured disc material was not viscous but rather more "like cottage cheese". The surgery was otherwise straightforward and Sam was resting afterwards.

We returned to the clinic, spoke with the emergency vet on staff at that time for an update on Sam as Dr. Mison was in surgery. Overall, the surgery had gone well but because of the ruptured disc and the damage that had been done, Sam had no deep pain sensation in either of his hind legs or along the affected area of his spine. While this was disappointing, it was not an uncommon occurrence and we were told that this might last two weeks or more before any sensation redeveloped. In addition, Sam was being administered medication via IV and that his bladder was being expressed. The technicians at the clinic would be flipping him every four hours to prevent bed sores and massaging and doing “range of motion” exercises with his hind legs every six hours to keep the blood flowing. Sam would be hospitalized for another 4 to 5 days.

We then visited with Sam who now had a long rack of stitches along his shaved lower back and an IV in his right front leg. We did our best to assure him that “everything would be alright” and that we would be back for him before leaving that afternoon around 6:00 pm for home to gather up the other kids from Linda’s parents.

Some highly relevant articles on degenerative disk disease include: