IVDD and thinking about euthanasia

IVDD and thinking about euthanasia

IVDD and thinking about euthanasia

Dogs with severe IVDD can leave their owner with a difficult decision. Spinal surgery is not an option for every dog and owner. Non-surgical treatment can be attempted but if this is also out of the question, or if this fails, then which other options are available? Some dogs live a happy life as permanently disabled, using wheels to get about. Whether this is an option for your dog depends on his general health, body shape and personality, and on whether you’re around during the day to care for him. 

If your dog is badly affected by IVDD, and if there is no appropriate, realistic or effective treatment available, then you may unfortunately have to consider the last resort option of euthanasia. It can be a blessing to have the option of euthanasia available when needed. 

It is worthwhile to discuss the option of euthanasia with your vet if you find yourself in this position. Think it through carefully and don’t be rushed into a decision. In deciding whether or not to put a dog to sleep, we have to weigh up all the different issues:

  • If the dog is given treatment that you can afford, then what are his chances of returning to a reasonable quality of life? Your vet can work out how badly your dog is affected and can advise you on his chances of recovery.
  • Will you be able to care for your dog throughout recovery and, if not, are there people who can be trusted to help you? Basic care and nursing skills can be learned and will soon become routine. However, some owners do not have the time to care for a recovering dog, e.g. due to long working hours. If you are physically unable to bend or crouch down to help your dog, then this may also present a major problem. 
  • If vets are convinced that your dog is not going to walk again, then could it be a fair option to manage him in wheels as permanently disabled? In this case, he may also have long term incontinence problems. Consider both your lifestyle and your dog’s personality when thinking this through. 

There is one small group of IVDD dogs for whom euthanasia is always the best decision: A very small number of severely-affected dogs are unlucky enough to go downhill with PMM (progressive myelomalacia) during the first few days of their illness. There is no cure for this painful and unpleasant condition so, for dogs with PMM, euthanasia is the only kind choice and should be performed sooner rather than later. 

In other cases, there may be several issues relating to both the owner and the dog that combine to make euthanasia the only kind choice. It may be that the dog is very badly affected and that the likelihood of recovery is very low, or that treatment has already been attempted , has failed, and there is no way forward. Perhaps the owner cannot afford either surgery or non-surgical treatment, or is unable to care for a recovering dog because they are themselves ill or are currently struggling to care for an ill family member.  However, it’s obviously essential not to rush into making such an important and irreversible decision. Think it all through, explain your situation to the vet and ask their advice. 




8 thoughts on “IVDD and thinking about euthanasia

  1. Michelle Sander

    My friends dogs has IVDD and doesn’t have use of legs however if you put your finger in her toes she gives a kicking motion and if you stand her on all 4s she can stand ajout 17 sec before she flops on her butt in a sitting motion… do you think there is a possibility her walking again and having use of her bladder and bowels.

    1. animalrehab1 Post author

      If your friend’s dog has IVDD and is able to stand for as long as 17 seconds then she should have a reasonable chance of learning to walk again. Her first few steps will probably happen on a non-slip surface (e.g. carpet or rubber matting). It’s essential to keep her off away from slick flooring such as tiles or laminate as, with poor footing,she’ll learn to drag herself around rather than attempting to step. Return of bladder and bowel function is less predictable and I can’t comment on that from the information supplied. For further information and practical advice, try this link.

  2. DoxieMom

    I am struggling with some deep regret/remorse/guilt over euthanizing our 13 yo mini-doxie 4 days ago. I have waves of time where I can justify the decision to myself, and other times I am just in a terrible state of guilt and regret.
    She suffered from IVDD and we wheelchair rehabbed her 5 years ago to the point she could compensate for the weakness on her left side. She came out of the wheelchair and managed along rather well over these past 5 years. Well, she went down again Wednesday night in agonizing pain, and was paralyzed in her rear legs but responded to pinching between her toes. The yelping stopped after a few minutes but she couldn’t move and was obviously uncomfortable. We took her to the vet who said that her response to touch was a good sign but that recovering from surgery was uncertain given her age and that she was overweight. We could put her back in the wheelchair but she couldn’t stay in it all the time. We are gone up to 12 hours a day because of our work schedules and the long distance from work to home. I just didn’t think it was fair to her to be “STUCK” for hours on end in one spot until we got home. Poor thing was also a constant, itchy yeast infection her whole life. She’d been on every combination of Ketoconozole, Cefpodoxime, and Prednisone you could imagine over the years, we also tried various yogurts, and shampoos to help her, to no avail. She had the beginning stages of cataracts, and given her age and our work schedules, we were at the point that we were putting 4 potty pads down both day and night for her (8 a day) because of her inability to make it more than a couple hours without needing to potty. Despite all her “flaws” I loved her dearly, and she loved us. Despite being uncomfortable and unable to walk, she was still in relatively good spirits at the vet’s office. This is why I am so torn up about our decision. Some moments I think we didn’t try hard enough, and some times I think we did the only thing that was fair to her given our work schedules, her age, and history with other health issues. I wish I had hugged her more before we laid her on the table. I was holding her during her twilight shot, and stayed with her the whole time until her last breath just loving her, and petting her, and telling her how much I loved her and how sorry I was. I miss her terribly and I just want to feel ok about it and I don’t. When we get her ashes back we will lay her to rest on our family hunting ranch. Maybe then I will have some closure? Right now I hate this feeling of guilt and seeing her sweet face in my mind thinking she didn’t have a clue what we were doing, and that I betrayed her. How do I move forward and feel acceptance and peace with our decision?

    1. animalrehab1 Post author

      Hello and thank you for your message. Yes, it’s incredibly hard to say goodbye to a dear dog who has become part of your family. However, it is clear from what you have written that euthanasia was the only possible kind choice in this sad situation.
      Your dog had severe back disease. That is not in itself always a reason to “give up”. But, from the rest of the story, we can see that you had no other choice but euthanasia. Dogs who are unable to walk need frequent nursing and attention during the day in order to keep safe, clean and happy. This is absolutely essential early on when they are unlikely to have good bladder and bowel control. And your dog was painful, so of course she couldn’t have been left alone for long periods. As your family work far from home, it would simply not have been possible to have provided this frequent care.
      The decision for euthanasia doesn’t just depend on the dog’s diagnosis. It has to take the whole situation into account. You had it absolutely right when you wrote: “…we did the only thing that was fair to her given our work schedules, her age, and history with other health issues”.
      Looking at your description of your last visit to the vet- It is good that your dog was in relatively good spirits during her last visit to the vet’s office. So she wasn’t full of distress and panic in those last few minutes. That’s a good thing. The last thing she knew was of you being right there by her side.
      You made the only possible wise and kind decision on your dear dog’s behalf. However logical the decision, you will no doubt feel bereft for some time following her loss. Looking ahead though, there will come a time when happy memories of your dog from her healthy days come to the fore and you and your family will feel okay again.
      Warmest wishes in this sad time,

  3. Vivienne

    My dog was diagnosed with IVDD today and they said the only option is to have a operation as the brain is not even communicating with the bladder. But I do not have a minimum of R15000 for the operation. I do not have any other option than euthanasia. This is the worst day.

    1. animalrehab1 Post author

      Dear Vivienne, So sorry to hear your sad news. It sounds as if your dog has been unlucky enough to be very badly affected by IVDD. In a few cases, euthanasia is indeed the kindest option. You will no doubt be feeling awful: For a caring dog owner, it can feel impossible to come to terms with a situation like this, especially if signs of IVDD appeared quite suddenly. I wish you and your family all the best through this sad time.

  4. chris nees

    Yesterday my dog was diagnosed with IVDD, both rear legs do not work and he has no control over his bladder. I took him to the emergency clinic who told me his only option was the surgery as he does have some feeling but did not say how much. Called about the surgery today and I can not afford the surgery. He is a 5 yr old jack russell and beagle, how do you determine the need to have him put down vs trying to recover at home and wish for luck or try paying for the surgery. He currently will not take any medication we have for him either!

    1. animalrehab1 Post author

      I’m sorry to hear about your dog. He’s probably quite badly affected if he’s lost control of his bladder. But, as he has some pain sensation present, there is some possibility of recovery without surgery. Recovery is not guaranteed, but attempting to nurse him through this without surgery is definitely worth a try if you have the time and energy for it. You’d need to set him up in a recovery pen and carry him outdoors for an assisted few minutes several times a day. Whenever outdoors or outside the pen, you’d need to carry him or have him on a fixed length lead and hindquarter sling. You can also expect to be busy washing changes of bedding and keeping him clean and dry while he’s incontinent. I suggest that you look at the information here and follow links on that page for further guidance. If this recovery routine looks absolutely impossible for you and your family (eg if you work long hours away from home, or if you cannot lift your dog) then euthanasia would probably be by far the best option at this stage. Dogs who do not recover sometimes go on to leave a happy life in wheels. However, managing a dog in wheels also requires a lot of lifting and nursing care to prevent sores, etc., so is not the perfect solution for every dog.