The Portland French Bulldog Meetup Group Message Board › Congenital vertebral anomalies

Congenital vertebral anomalies

Cece
user 106367252
Portland, OR
Post #: 1
I have a 5 year old Frenchie. Around 2 years old she started heavily panting and the emergency vet determined that she had hurt her back. We did any MRI to see the extent of the injury and it turned out to be a congenital malformation in her upper spine. Now that she is 5 and her little body has grown, she has started to show some early signs of paralysis in her hind legs. She's fairly active for a Frenchie and very playful. With her current condition she needs to be watched closely to make sure she doesn't overdue it and a lot of the activities we used to do together we can no longer do. Recently the heavy panting has started again so I know she's in pain. We've started her rounds of prednisone and pain medication to get through it hoping it's just another flare up.
Her neurosurgeon says she may be a candidate for a spinal surgery that only one hospital in Sacramento can do, but now that she is older, we need another MRI to see how the bones have shifted.

My question is, has anyone had a Frenchie who has faced a similar fate? Each MRI is around 2300 (with bloodwork and CT scan.) We've already had one done 3 years ago. The surgery is between 5-6k$. If your dog has gone through the surgery, was the recovery so painful that it seemed like it was in vain, and what kind of outcome did you experience? I am trying to make the decision to either take out a loan to pay for the surgery (which may or may not solve her problems) or face the decision about her quality of life vs my desire to keep her around. Her neurosurgeon is only giving me a professional opinion about her options but really can't express what she would do in my situation. Wondering if anyone who has gone through this with a positive outcome.

Oh- and for anyone curious. I got her from (who I thought was) a reputable breeder who wasn't much consolation. I haven't contacted her in 3 years because her response wasn't favorable. She seemed offended at first then asked for proof and wanted to see the MRI. (She is a vet tech) She only mentioned that she might start doing xrays on her pups in the future.

Things we have tried:
-monitoring her play, building ramps, carrying her up and down stairs, acupuncture, chiropracty & meds as needed
Kris
twofrenchies
Seattle, WA
Post #: 39
Hi Cece. Well, I'm not sure how much help I'll be but couldn't resist posting since I have had similar issues. My guy is 3 and round about the same age (2 yrs) he started panting and walking backwards. He'd yelp if you even came near his hind end and after a trip to the vet we learned he had: arthritis in his back, an oddly-formed vertebrae & an inflamed disc. The vet put us on the same cocktail you seem to be dealing with and we had to keep him immobile for a month. Since then we've taken the same types of steps you have (or lack thereof!) by monitoring during play (he too is VERY active for a frenchie) and not letting him jump on/off things. Since the first incident, he's had a couple of flare-ups. He seems to know it's coming as he trembles when his back starts to bother him. We found a good non-steroid anti-inflammatory (I can get you the name if you like) and when we see these flare-ups we just keep him immobile for a few days and give him a few doses of that and things seem to turn around. Our vet told us that surgery should be the absolute last option and we ought to avoid it at all costs. She knows we're experiencing a flare-up on average of every 3-4 months and says it's a better alternative just to deal with them as they come then to do surgery (which, as you've learned, is very costly and often does not work). So, that's my 2 cents. I don't know how much help I've been but at least you know you're not alone?!
Gracian H.
user 6787620
Stayton, OR
Post #: 181
Dear Cece,
Frenchies often do have spine issues even if they are bred well and have issue free parents. I don't know the breeder in question, but as a former breeder with healthy dogs we have occasionally seen one or two of our pups have allergies and other issues come up. Frenchies as a breed are prone to all sorts of aliments and disorders. But if your breeder has not done her due diligence in x-raying her dogs than yes, she should be doing that and getting other health clearances on them as well (eyes, knees, spine, etc).
Having mentioned all of that I HAVE seen lots and lots of dogs have spinal surgery and recover extremely well and most often completely. If your vet is recommending you to go to Sacramento I suspect they are referring to UC DAvis Vet school. They are awesome and often ll work with clients with the cost since they are a teaching hospital. It's worth contacting them to see if they have payments plans etc.
If that is not in the cards for you then you could also surrender your Frenchie to a rescue group. I used to volunteer for FBRN and they can take your dog in to rescue and more than likely have the operation done. BUT, she will stay in rescue either with a foster family for the rest of her life if she is considered too fragile to adopt out, or they will then adopt her out to a new family if the surgery is successful. That part may be heart breaking to you, but I think of it as a better alternative to having her put to sleep if her back gets worse.
I noticed you took her to an emergency vet. Have you also taken her to a regular vet that specializes in back/spine issues? I know the specialists are pricey, especially in Portland, but 2300 seems a bit steep for the testing that has been done. There are very good specialists at OSU and in Springfield, OR called Oregon Veterinary Referral Associates (OVRA). We had a puppy meet with an accident and broke his jaw. They fixed it and were awesome!! The surgery was UNDER 1,000.00 and they were wonderful and very professional.
Good luck. Please don't give up on your baby :-) I hope some of this information helps.
Cece
user 106367252
Portland, OR
Post #: 2
Hi. Yes, her neurosurgeon recommended I take her to the small animal hospital at UC Davis. I have contacted them, they were pretty firm with the price stating they were an animal hospital not a school. I'm not interested in surrendering her. My first choice would not to have her euthanized. I'm worried about her being in pain for the rest of her life, even if we went through the surgery there would be no guarantees that she would live a pain free and full life. We would just hope for the best outcome. I was just looking for someone who had gone through this procedure with positive results. You don't always know if the procedures are suggested because they are the next step and it is their job to offer the service as an option, I sometimes feel like things are just suggested. I have gone through a lengthy treatment/ surgery for my elderly dog (cancer) and now look back and realize it seemed more about the money, the dogs best interest was not taken into account. It was really hard on him and if I could go back in time, I would not put him through that again. And he still has cancer. I took my frenchie to an emergency vet but they are actually a practice that has specialists, not just for emergency care. She has seen numerous vets, we have been around the block.
As far as her breeder, I realized these things happen, but I expected her to be more sympathetic and less defensive. It is genetic and she should know that if she plans on breeding dogs from this bloodline. When my dog was a puppy I told her she had some severe allergies and her response was "My dogs don't have allergies!" I have several bills to the emergency clinic suggesting she does. When the MRI came back, it seemed like she didn't believe me again. Her only response was to ask for the MRI. My intentions are not to discredit her as a breeder. I'm just trying to sort out the next step for my dog. I was only stating the bit about the breeder if I had someone come back and say that I should have done my research before selecting a breeder.
I'll contact OVRA and see what their prices are like for the CT scan and MRI. Her neurosurgeon here isn't quite sure if she is a candidate for the surgery, we would need current imaging sent to the school to have them review it.
Thanks for the information.
Cece
user 106367252
Portland, OR
Post #: 3
Thanks. This did make me feel a little better although I wouldn't wish this on any dog (or human for that matter.) When it first happened her neurosurgeon said there was a chance she'd never have another episode. We've been dealing with little episodes over the years, all manageable. The latest was so similar to that first one, and the last year she has lost more mobility. Not sure if your frenchie is showing any signs of this? I was hoping to avoid surgery but I know she runs the risk of being fully paralyzed her in hind legs. I take her to see a specialist that tests her back and hind legs to see if she is in pain periodically. She always tells me she's fine but I'm certain she is. She flinches when you touch her, she can never get comfortable, she always feels tense. And this is when she's not having an episode. I would be interested in the anti-inflammatory medicine you have your dog on to see if it helps. I'm going to ride out the current episode while I do more research on the surgery and hopefully hear from someone who has had success with it. She's such a happy pup, I feel so terrible we can't do playdates or meet ups anymore. I'll keep you posted on how she's doing in case you're ever faced with the same decision or find yourself in the same boat.
Molly B.
user 13134467
Portland, OR
Post #: 11
I'm sorry to hear you're having such problems. I haven't experienced it 1st hand, but some friends have a Frenchie that was diagnosed with severe disc degeneration of his neck. He had surgery this spring, and so far is doing really well. They had more trouble keeping him quiet because he was feeling so good after surgery. He's been able to start his PT now and should do really well. Yes, I hope your breeder takes from this that spinal xrays should be done. They will only give so much information so early in life, but it's something
Kris
twofrenchies
Seattle, WA
Post #: 40
Yeah Cece, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much more serious your case is than mine. The paralysis for sure is a big warning sign. As for the liquid anti-inflammatory I use, I believe it's called metacam. After I got a prescription from the vet I was even able to order more online (at a greatly reduced price). Speaking of vet prices, I totally get where you are coming from with your retrospective about your dog with cancer. I've had vets recommend things to me that I felt guilted into, later to learn that it was done simply to line their pockets. I think we must remember that vets ARE in it to make money for the most part. Sometimes it makes me cringe to hear vets s'moring me into additional products that I know are unhealthy for my dog. As an example, I've had several push topical flea treatments on me when my dogs don't even have fleas, calling it "a preventative measure". I hate putting poison on my dogs and avoid it at all costs yet they push it because they make money when people buy it. It's really sad. :(
Wendy
user 14072399
Portland, OR
Post #: 11
Ok I don't like to get into discussions very often but I have to on this one. Vets recommend flea preventative because all dogs get fleas! Fleas are everywhere! Unless you keep your dog in a bubble it will come across a flea. Frenchies being the sensitive babes that they are are prone to Flea allergy dermatitis, which can be caused by just a few flea bites. In the end treating allergies and skin issues becomes much more expensive for the pet owner than just using a monthly flea preventative. I am a vet tech and I recommend it to every patient I see. It does not line my pocket, I'm paid the same whether you buy it or not. Everyday I see dogs come in for itch skin. The first question I ask is " are they on a flea preventative?" 7 out of 10 people who say their dog doesn't get fleas, well guess what ?! They have fleas. I actually prefer Comfortis because its a chewable tablet and you don't have to put "poison" on your pets skin.
Wendy
user 14072399
Portland, OR
Post #: 12
Also, if vets were people "in it for the money" they would have chose a different profession. I don't know if you've checked how much an average veterinarian makes lately, but they are definitely not in it for the money. Vets live pets! Probably more than anyone. People being due happy is why vets have to recommend every option in the book. There is no wait and see anymore. If the vet doesn't recommend "x" for the pet, and something happens to the pet because they didn't get "x", not only will the vet feel really bad that they didn't try everything possible, but people like to sue. So yes the vets are going to recommend lots of stuff, but ultimately it is your pet and your decision what treatments to choose. The best thing to do is find a vet you really trust, and then you'll never have to question their motives. And every doctor is different, even in the same practice.
Kris
twofrenchies
Seattle, WA
Post #: 41
Wendy-our experiences are obviously very different and there is nothing wrong with that. I've been active with dogs in just about every capacity you can imagine for my entire life. I've had frenchies for twelve plus years. I have never used topical flea products and never had issues that I could not control with holistic methods. I have met people whose dogs have DIED from issues related to topical flea products. I have also had frenchies with extremely severe allergies and know, first hand, with tens of thousands of dollars invested and buckets of tears, how important it is to manage such things.
I am not saying ALL vets seek to line their pockets. Any type of blanket statement is bound to be incorrect. I am only saying that to trust anyone implicitly is naive and to think that money isn't a factor even moreso. I once worked at a Humane Society where the staff vet, rather than euthanizing sick cats with the meds provided, chose to puncture their lungs and allow them to suffocate, so that he could take the meds home and sell them. No one is bad all the time. No one is good all the time. It pays to keep your eyes open.
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