Denny and Charlie (and the rest)
It started with OnePug...

Back Braces and Other Options

Monday, 12 March 2012 00:22 by robbi

Continuing where I left off last, I had been told by one of the veterinarians here in Houston about something that might help Denny’s spinal issues.

This was one of the vets here in town that has done stem cell therapy on dogs. He was pretty quick to dismiss Denny as a candidate for that, as he felt the problem was Denny’s spine and not the spinal cord itself. He told me that he had recently been to a medical conference and seen a new product available. It was a spinal brace invented by a veterinarian that forces the spine into proper alignment. It consists of a metal frame that is adjustable but very rigid. It is to be worn by the dog for several hours every day in an effort to realign the spinal column.

This local vet (I’m going to call him Brace Vet from now on to distinguish him from Stem Cell Vet who was the other Houston vet doing stem cell therapy) sent me some information he had picked up at the conference. The theory certainly seems sound; it is akin to what humans wear if they have scoliosis and are trying to straighten the spine. Richard & I talked it over and checked out the inventing vet’s website. We watched the before and after videos and decided it was definitely worth taking a chance on. We called and booked our appointment to see Brace Vet and have Denny measured for a custom fit brace.

MB Spinal Brace

A couple of days later I received a very disheartening phone call. Brace Vet called to tell me that the brace is not yet available. It is too new – the brace shown at the conference and on the website is a prototype. It’s not yet in production. Brace Vet has promised to keep in touch with the inventing vet and contact us as soon as we can get one for Denny.

I had been doing some digging about possible alternative braces. There are a couple that are readily available and marketed for dogs with IVDD (inter-vertebral disc disease) to help keep their spines straight and relieve pain from misaligned backs.

LilBackBracer

WiggleLess

None of these were invented by vets and none of them have any clinical studies behind them. They aren’t meant to permanently realign spines, just give support. We had thought that maybe one of these would help Denny until we could get something more substantial sorted out for him. But when we spoke to his Rehab Vet, she recommended against it. Her logic was that currently Denny is using his own muscles to help hold his back; if we put a brace on him it would replace the job of some of those muscles. She wants him to get stronger using his own muscles and not rely on something to take their place. Essentially, the brace might make his muscles “lazy.”

For now, we’re going to take her advice and hold off on getting one of these.  But we’re not ruling them out completely for the future.

Denny’s options in summary:

Neuro-Surgeon says he can operate to remove scar tissue around spinal cord, but odds aren’t great it’ll help. Even if it does, more scar tissue will probably form resulting in a relapse like he has now.

Stem Cell Vet says he’ll do stem cell therapy and we might have a 50% chance it’ll help (assuming it is cord degeneration that is the problem; otherwise it is 0% chance of help)

Brace Vet says stem cell won’t help because it’s a spine issue, not a cord issue. The corrective brace will help but it isn’t available yet.

Rehab Vet says acupuncture, laser, underwater treadmill and chiropractic can get Denny strong again and keep him walking on his own power. He might never be 100% and may have a bit of a limp but he won’t get worse.

Rescue Vet was called for a bit of an overview. He is the Vet for PugHearts Rescue. He’s a friend and he’s familiar with Denny. I called him to get an outsider’s view (with a Veterinarian’s knowledge) of everyone else’s opinion and help us make a decision. He also believes it’s a spine issue, not a spinal cord issue. He expressed surprise that Surgeon didn’t want to operate but thought that probably wasn’t the way to go since we’d end up with more scar tissue again. He was extremely doubtful that Stem Cell therapy would help. He was open minded about the Brace, but wasn’t sure. And he felt laser therapy would give us real benefit, though he was not sure about acupuncture.

This has been so frustrating for us. We just want Denny better. We’ll do whatever we need to in order to make that happen. But it is rather annoying that we can’t get a definitive answer as to what it is we need to be doing!

For right now, we’ll wait to hear about the Brace. Stem Cell therapy is on the back burner but not ruled out. Surgery is a last resort, but I doubt we’ll go there. We’re going to continue with Rehab Vet.

Denny is definitely getting stronger. He’s happier. His walking isn’t really any better, but then again it’s not any worse. Considering how quickly he had started to deteriorate this fall, I guess that’s pretty good news.

When we first noticed his decline and took him back to the surgeon, we said we wanted him healthy again but if we couldn’t get that then we’d be happy with him just not getting any worse. So far we’re accomplishing that much.