If your dog never regains deep pain sensation, there is still hope that they can lead a normal life. To me, the loss of deep pain sensation was almost like a death sentence, but I was wrong. Let me introduce you to an amazing thing that some dogs can do called spinal walking. Strange name, right? When I hear it, I always have this mental image of Skeletor walking around. I've had a hard time understanding exactly what spinal walking is, but it goes something like this. A dog can learn how to walk without communicating with the brain. It's more of reflex than the brain telling the legs what to do. If your dog learns how to spinal walk, they will look a little drunk, but they will appear to be walking! What's most important is that they can get around the house without dragging their back legs behind them. What an improvement in the quality of life! However, in order for a dog to have a chance at learning how to spinal walk, their parents must be diligent about physical therapy exercises. DILIGENT! Did I mention that you have to be diligent? The video below will show you Max's baseline abilities a few days after his spinal surgery (I'm sorry it's so dark; I shot this video on the crappy phone I had before I got my new, sexy Samsung Galaxy S3).
As you can see, we had a long journey ahead. It was depressing watching Max crawl around the house with his front legs while his back legs dragged behind him. What kind of quality of life was this? Erik and I were diligent about physical therapy, and we saw some improvements, but not as many as we would have liked. We are very fortunate that we live in an area with 2 facilities dedicated to providing physical therapy for animals. We started taking Max to Scout's House twice per week. By the way, I HIGHLY recommend Scout's House. They are so nice and really care about improving the quality of animal life. Almost immediately, we began to see huge improvements in Max's abilities. They did a variety exercises with him, but I believe the underwater treadmill is what helped him the most. Now just because we started taking Max to professionals twice per week doesn't mean Erik and I could slack off at home. We continued to do physical therapy exercises (prescribed by Scout's House) 3 times per day. This was a ton of work, but I'm proud to say that Max can now spinal walk! Here's what spinal walking looks like (honestly, Max does not have a drinking problem):
Spinal walking is awesome because Max can now get around the house pretty easily, and he no longer drags his back legs. Of course, he cannot get up or down stairs, but I'll take spinal walking any day over dragging! He can also stand when he eats (we used to feed him out of our hands while he was lying on the floor) now, but it helps to have an elevated food stand because you don't want your dog to put unnecessary strain on their neck. In the above picture, you can see the food stand that I had made for Max (yay for Etsy!). As great as spinal walking is, it's not good for going on walks outside because spinal walking dogs tend to still drag their back legs a little (their paws will get scraped up by sidewalks), and they sometimes lose their balance and fall over. This is why I highly recommend that you get a cart for your dog. Erik and I bought a cart for Max from Doggon' Wheels. This is the best purchase we ever made for Max. He LOVES it! Most dog wheelchair companies make a custom cart for your dog, so you will need to send a ton of measurements. Even if you don't take your dog to Scout's House, I recommend that you make an appointment with them for a wheelchair fitting. They will take all of the measurements for you so you'll know that you're sending the right ones. You don't want to purchase an expensive wheelchair just to have it not fit your dog. Some people wonder if their dog will take to the cart. I know that some dogs are a little weirded out at first, but this was not the case with Max. Here's a video of his first time out in his cart:
You will get a lot of stares when you take your dog for a walk in their cart, but who really cares? Most people are just thinking that you are your dog are pretty awesome! You'll attract a lot of attention, but I've found this to be a positive experience. It gives me a chance to educate people about IVDD and let them know that it is not a death sentence.