Frenchies are small but solidly built, with a muscular physique, so one might think their backs would be super strong but it is quite the opposite, as being low to the ground means when they make impact, from jumping off the couch or running up and down the stairs, they come in with a hard landing!

The French Bulldog also has an odd way of sitting with his hind legs spread out — thus the nickname “frog dog.”

Although this cute stance doesn’t necessarily signal future back pain, posture is something to consider, since French bulldogs are predisposed to IVDD and Hemivertebrae (bones of the spine that are abnormally shaped).

Dogs need to be active, so I had to find a way to keep my Dachshunds from wiggling so much! Frenchies enjoy lounging around, but they are a bit like Dachshunds. Although they are low to the ground, they want to live a fun life! The most important goal for my pups became recovering them to a happy, pain free life, so they could bounce around again. The journey was long with my first two dachshunds. Thankfully understanding the world of IVDD, and managing the pain our pups can sometimes feel, is becoming easier to do as we learn more and more about the disease and the many preventative and supportive measures we can take as pet parents. We are also sharing more stories of how we can make strides towards wellness and bring relief to our fur babies.

Our lives changed forever when June and Henry were diagnosed with IVDD and a big part of my life revolved around finding ways to make their pain go away. Emergency room visits, strong medication and complete crate rest were not what I’d envisioned when we brought our sweet puppies home. Caring for a dog with IVDD can be draining emotionally, as well as financially. It was disheartening for me to watch my pups not be able to play and jump around like ‘normal’ dogs, hear them whimper in pain, and watch them have muscle spasms. No pet parent wants to see their pups not feeling well, especially when they are in physical pain.

French bulldogs might not bark much, but they do like to talk, so it is important to pay special attention if you notice any of the following signs, as they can be early warnings signals of a bigger issue, and you may need your Vet’s immediate input.

·  Neck pain and stiffness (reluctance to move the neck and head)
·  Lowered head stance
·  Back pain and stiffness
·  Yelping unexpectedly when touched or moving
·  Abdominal tenderness or tenseness
·  Arched back (hunched posture, called “thoracolumbar kyphosis”)
·  Sensitivity to touch (possible aggression)
·  Sensitivity to movement
·  Impaired, incomplete or inappropriate urination
·  Lameness
·  Dragging one or more legs when walking
·  “Toeing over” or “knuckling over” when walking or standing
·  Weakness
·  Stiffness
·  Stilted gait; tentative gait
·  Reluctance to rise
·  Tremors, trembling, shaking
·  Lack of coordination (“ataxia”)
·  Abnormal reflexes
·  Collapse
·  Paralysis in one or more limbs

There is so much helpful advice these days on the web to help you and your little angles live a high quality life with IVDD— the key words being HIGH QUALITY LIFE!

Here are a few tips I found especially helpful during recovery:

Dietmaintain your dog’s healthiest weight to reduce stress on their backbone and neck. Making sure they have the proper nutrients and supplements is paramount during the healing process and your Veterinary can offer guidance if you are unsure what your dog’s optimum weight level should be.

Foodmoisten kibble or feed them wet food. Chewing can cause stress on the jaw and neck, which can result in pain. Same goes for chew toys or treats. Abstain from these during the recovery period.

Eliminate stress on back and neckraise food and water bowls so that your dog doesn’t have to bend down to eat or drink; keep the crate your pup is recovering in at a higher level so that he doesn’t have to raise his head to look at you or his surroundings. There are some great products on the market which allow your dog’s to comfortably retrieve their food with minimal effort.

Acupuncture Therapythis is particularly good for dogs that respond poorly to or cannot tolerate medication. Surgery may not be an option due to health or finances. Acupuncture may be one option to look into, as it regenerates neurons mobilizing stem cell regrowth.

Laser Light Therapyalthough costly, LT has been proven to reduce tenderness, pain and speed up the tissue healing process. Be sure to research this method and talk to your Veterinary before considering this as an option.

Back supportafter a period of recovery, it is important to keep your dog’s back stable and straight. Wearing a back brace such as WiggleLess® puts less pressure on your dog’s spine and may help him or her to have a more enjoyable and normal life.

Environmentlots of love, comfort, warmth, encouragement, and a peaceful environment. Soft bedding, ramps, extra cushions and support will make your dog less likely to be in a position of distress. Dogs get stressed out just like us humans do. Stress makes it hard to heal!

Treatment options range from rest and conventional medicine to surgical procedures. The protocol will vary depending upon the severity of the disease and Corticosteroids or Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants or other drugs may be prescribed to alleviate inflammation. If medical management does not control the dog’s pain and symptoms, surgery may be recommended. Once a dog’s pain is stabilized, cage confinement for up to 6 weeks is essential to a dog’s successful recovery! Dogs may act as if their pain has subsided once the medication takes effect; however, the medication is only masking their symptoms and if allowed to roam prematurely, more damage could be done.

Despite the desire to cuddle our fur babies, owners need to be consistent in confining their dogs for the full period recommended by their veterinarian. Dogs recovering from IVDD should be on well-padded beds, and those unable to move should be turned every few hours to prevent development of sores.

Prescription pain and anti-inflammatory medications will be reduced gradually over time and dogs with IVDD should do minimal exercise while recovering. ‘On-leash’ walks and using a harness instead of a neck collar will help, while physical therapy, such as swimming or other water exercise, allows comfortable mobility when working key muscles. Other techniques to aid healing, such as massage therapy, may help to reduce overall pain and stress. Acupuncture or acupressure techniques and use of herbal or other supplements can also alleviate pain. The goal with any healing practice is to increase circulation, ease pain, speed healing and promote wellness, while keeping your loved one calm.

Many dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease do very well without surgery, especially if their disease is caught and treated early and owners are consistent about strict cage confinement during the entire recovery period. Your veterinarian will determine the best medical protocol for IVDD and your dog. If your dog is in severe back pain due to IVDD, one or more of the following medications may be prescribed:

Steroids: They are anti-inflammatories and immune system suppressors. They are good especially if given in the vein the first 8 hours or by shot in the muscle, and followed by pills at home. The most commonly used are: prednisone and dexamethasone. Accompany with a stomach protector such as Pepcid (famotidine).

NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): they are anti-inflammatories, and also have pain killing properties too. They must never be mixed with steroids or the NSAID aspirin. The most commonly used are: Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox or Metacam. Accompany with a stomach protector such as Pepcid (famotidine).

Muscle Relaxers: During a herniation a dog can have nasty muscle spasms. Muscle relaxers help prevent them and they also help keep the dog calm while in crate rest. The most commonly used are: Methocarbamol and Valium.

Pain Killers or Analgesics: They help through the healing period by making your dog more comfortable. The most commonly used are: Tramadol or a Fentanyl patch.

Remember that all drugs have side effects and some (steroids and NSAIDs) need to be given with a stomach protector. Steroids and NSAIDs should never be mixed or switched without washing out the other from the body for 7 days. Ask your vet or pharmacist for an informative brochure on each drug or search the web for adverse side effects.With the right diagnosis and the right treatment, IVDD is manageable, and making your dog feel loved and happy is top of the list! At WiggleLess®, we strive weekly to work with the local community and our friends across the US and abroad to bring IVDD to the forefront of the pet community so we can all learn and share but most of all help all our beloved dogs to live the longest, healthiest lives possible.

AUTHOR BIO: Lisa Luckenbach has developed WiggleLess® back braces for dogs that are overweight and need extra support, elderly with aching backs, diagnosed with IVDD-related back problems, or overly active and can benefit from the structure a dog back brace provides. In addition to running WiggleLess®, Lisa is a registered yoga instructor, licensed massage therapist, public speaker, ordained minister, and breast cancer survivor. She shares her home with her husband and three spunky, adopted dogs, Ryder (Cocker Spaniel), LaVerne (Schnauzer/Doxie mix), and Chai (Doxie/Beagle mix). Visit WiggleLess®.com to learn more about Lisa and her back brace for dogs.

Dr. Marika Zoll

Dr. Marika Zoll