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Dewey the Dachshund's Story: Paralysis Caused by a Slipped Disc

Posted December 05, 2014 in A Vet's Life

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (

AJ Debiasse, a technician in Stroudsburg, PA, contributed to this article.

The day Dewy became paralyzed
Dewy, a 6 year old dachshund, was perfectly fine on Saturday morning. During the day, he ate his normal amount, played fetch, and went for several walks. Later in the evening, he seemed sore: walking hunched over like an old timer. Sunday morning, Dewy could not even stand. Dewy was paralyzed! His owner took him to the emergency clinic immediately.

Dewy's ER vet was concerned that he might have a slipped disc. This condition, called intervertebral disc disease or IVDD, is common in Doxies. In can happen in other dog breeds as well and rarely in cats.

The vet started with a neurological exam. Dewy’s reflexes were normal, which meant that the slipped disc was in his lower back. Fortunately, he still had sensation (“deep pain”) in the toes of his back legs, which meant that there was still hope for recovery.

Radiographs were performed to rule out other causes (such as a fracture or a tumor), even though they rarely show the slipped disc. Knowing exactly where the disc was would require “advanced imaging,” meaning an MRI, a cat scan or a special type of X-ray called a myelogram. MRI is often the preferred diagnostic tool, but that depends upon the imaging availability in your area and your surgeon’s preference. 

After full blood work showed that Dewy was a good candidate for anesthesia, an MRI was performed. It showed a slipped disc in the lower back, in what is called the lumbar spine.

Dewy's owners elected to pursue surgery and were referred to a surgeon. He explained that there are two parts to the surgery:

  • The first step (a laminectomy) was to remove the slipped disc.
  • The second part (a fenestration) was meant to lower the risk of this happening again in the future (at least in the back). The center of other discs — above and below the slipped disc — would be removed as a preventive procedure.

Surgery was a success.  A very large amount of disc material was removed, and the pressure on the spinal cord was relieved.

After surgery, Dewy needed intensive care. He required restricted activity

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at, and follow him at

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