Disc Injury in a Rottweiler: A Time Bomb Ought To Go Off At Some Point, I Guess: Jasmine’s Neck

Even though some breeds are more susceptible to intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) than others, any dog that has a spine can suffer a disc injury.

Intervertebral disc disease is a condition where the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column either bulge or burst (herniate) into the spinal cord space.

Further information: Slipped Disc, Bad Back, and Muscle Spasms in Dogs

Disc Injury in a Rottweiler: A Time Bomb Ought To Go Off At Some Point, I Guess: Jasmine's Neck

Jasmine’s story

Ever since we had the full set of x-rays a few years back, we knew there was a ticking bomb in Jasmine’s neck. Malformations were found in her neck, as well as some spondylosis deformants. This remained dormant the entire time. Until it didn’t.

Out of the blue

Jasmine went from a vibrant, vital puppy, full of life, to a train wreck with a blink of an eye.

She was perfectly fine last night, as well as in the morning. Then I noticed her walking around funny, with her back legs stiff. This I’ve seen before, though couldn’t figure out the reason why those legs would be suddenly in pain.

Then she stood there, slowly moving backward, one step at a time and everything about her just felt wrong. When she lied down, it was in a strange way also.

I wasn’t sure what I was seeing, if anything, you know how paranoid I am. But I had a terrible feeling.

Calling the veterinarian

I did call the vet to make sure he’s going to be there later in a day, in case we did need to come in.

When hubby came home, Jasmine did get up to greet him, but looked stiff in the rear end and now favoring her front right leg also.

It all looked very wrong. II called the vet again to let him know that “there was something wrong with Jasmine all over the place,” and that we were on our way.

It was a gamble, risking the long trip, but something needed to be done.

The diagnosis

So … it looks like a disk injury. No idea when and how this could have happened. It just did. Nothing happened the day prior that could explain it.

Jasmine got a shot of morphine, a shot of steroids and more pain pills and steroids to take home.

We knew her neck was a time bomb, we were just hoping it wasn’t going to go off.

Day two

The first day was completely heartbreaking. Jasmine was in so much pain. We’d hoped the morphine injection would make her comfortable but it barely took the edge off.

The whole rest of the day and during the night she was in pain. We were to expect her drinking more with the steroids but she didn’t want to drink anything at all.

At dinner time, I offered her a piece of steak, she took it but looked like she was going to choke on it. I offered smaller pieces but she didn’t want them.

As I put it away, though, she looked as if she changed her mind, so I offered some again and she ate it this time, as well as some of her food. I was feeding her from my hand so she wouldn’t have to move her head eating.

At least her food has high enough water content, so she got some into her that way.

Unable to find comfort

Much of the time Jasmine would just stand there, unable to find comfort. When she did lay down, she’d often cry out moving her head.

She got more of the pain pills but nothing seemed to have been making much of a difference last night.

It wasn’t until early morning that she finally drank some, when I held the bowl right under her mouth, to minimize the movement needed.

After her next pain pill, she finally fell asleep.

Day three

And then, the next day, Jasmine suddenly looked better! Her gait looked ALMOST normal, she ate her breakfast all by herself. It seemed she was in substantially less pain.

As the day went on, she looked more and more comfortable.

No more crying in pain when trying to get comfortable, no more standing on her bed not knowing how to lay down without pain. She seemed to be moving her head freely, even licked her feet, her knee and groomed herself a bit.

All ready to go at a drop of the hat, as usual. But then, she was excited to go to see her vet the first day too, as much pain she was in.

Her vet felt bad there wasn’t more he couldn’t do for her. “Here you come in, wearing your white coat, but you didn’t do anything for me,” he said to her, telling her he understood how she felt.

But now, Jasmine looks 90% improved!

Questioning the diagnosis

Could it be that it isn’t a disc problem after all?

The prognosis we were given was to expect overall a 25 % improvement by day 4, 50% by day 6, 75% by day 10 and, hopefully, 100% by day 21. It’s day 2 and we are way ahead of the schedule.

So hopefully, fingers crossed, maybe it’s something less serious?

We are praying it is while worrying about a downturn or a setback. But for now, she’s had a good day, so we take that. The only worrisome issue at this moment is that she hasn’t gone poop in almost 48 hours now. So we have to keep an eye on that also.

Note: so far we are not seeing any marked side effects of the steroids. She will be on the high dose only for 5 days, then gradually weaned off.

Day four

Jasmine looks depressed. 

She was more cheerful on day one, even with all the pain she was in. On day two she looked like her normal self. But now she looks down.

This could be happening either

  • a side effect of the steroids she’s on
  • a result of being in more pain today, though it really doesn’t seem to look that she is (she’s moving well)
  • a result of the house arrest which she hates

Yes, this time I didn’t argue about the steroids. 

Steroids treatment

I always fought against putting her on them, however, there is a time and place for everything. Not that I’m happy about it, but this was the time when the steroids seemed necessary.

So while it made sense to put Jasmine on it, now I have the added benefit of worrying about side effects. And depression could be one of them. Increased thirst should be one of them but so far I’m happy to see Jasmine drink at least her normal amount. So I have to see how much of a problem that can be.

Jasmine will be on a high dose for five days total than tapered off. She was given a moderately high dose, 1.25 mg/kg/day.

We can increase her pain meds to see whether the pain is behind her depression.

Her appetite, at least, is normal. And finally, she pooped, even though it was fairly dry and compacted, at least something made its way out so hopefully this might return to somewhat normal.

It’s also been a while now since she last urinated. Earlier she was asking to go out quite frequently but I suspect it might have been her plot to at least get out of the house that way. Normally she doesn’t need to go very often. But I still need to monitor everything as at some point I might need to get concerned about her kidneys.

Either way, plenty of things to talk to her vet about on Monday morning.

Accommodations

To make drinking easier for her, we devised a raised bowl out of a filing box and toolbox rubber matting, as she isn’t too keen on my holding it up to her nose. So hopefully she might drink a bit more now.

I realized one thing – that I like old problems so much better!

With those, I know what to do, or at least what to expect. This is an unknown territory, which makes it that much more stressful.

I also purchased some of the Through a Dog’s Ear music for her to see whether that might do any good.

A week post the event

It was just a week ago when Jasmine did something very very bad to her neck. Feels like an eternity, definitely to her, I’m sure. She really hates her house arrest.

I talked to her vet, wondering whether, given the relatively fast recovery, it could be something less serious than a disc issue.

Considering what he saw, and given the level of involvement of the legs, he feels that this is indeed what we’re looking at. I guess I knew that but was hoping that maybe, just maybe it could something else. It would appear, though, that the disc has only bulged, rather than herniated.

Bottom line is, that short of doing an MRI, we’ll never know for sure what happened. And since Jasmine is improving, the risk-reward just isn’t there with the imaging.

It also remains a question of what happened to cause this, or whether Jasmine actually DID anything. 

Nothing we’re aware off and somebody is with her pretty much at all times. Not that she wasn’t being a wild child lately … but how long between a stunt and onset of a problem would it take?

Prevention but of what?

It would be good to know how it happened so it could be prevented.

But we are clueless. The only event which I could imagine might have caused some damage happened in October …? She was wrestling with JD and they smacked into each other at the shoulders. Jasmine cried out and immediately started favoring her front right leg. However, she walked out of it almost immediately, and there were no further signs of a problem.

Somehow, something happened. That’s all we know for sure.

There is an improvement

The good news is that it seems to be healing.

Jasmine appears to be moving well, last couple days her eyes are brighter again, her posture is strong, and she doesn’t seem to be having trouble turning her head in any direction she likes. She also started doing her favorite full body stretches today, which she abandoned for the past week. Still does them somewhat gingerly, but nonetheless.

Last two days of her high dose of steroids she was finally showing the expected increased drinking and urination.

Before that, I was worried about her not drinking enough.

Her appetite has also increased (and she was quite a starving puppy before that already). To help her out I reduced the intake of dry treats and added one meal instead. Because of the rather high water content, she gets to fill her belly without any additional calorie intake.

I also added some beets and some dandelion to her meals to help her body deal with all the drugs.

Weaning off the prednisone

We made it through the five days of the high dose of prednisone and are now down to half a tablet a day. 

Jasmine is a bit less thirsty now. Just as hungry, though.

On Wednesday she also got an acupuncture treatment. This is one of the times when veterinary house calls can be invaluable. It is so much safer for the vet to come to see Jasmine, than the long ride to the vet’s office.

After the treatment, Jasmine looked really exhausted.

However, it was the next day when her eyes got brighter. Was it from the treatment or would it have happened anyway? Who knows. We’re just happy that she seems to look just about like herself.

Of course, the better she feels, the more likely she is to do something dumb.

She doesn’t realize that. All she knows is that she’s feeling better and wants to do stuff. “Mom, why can’t I go for a walk?” We are, however, painfully aware of the fact that feeling better doesn’t always mean being better and that her body needs more time to heal properly. Trying to explain that to her, though has been unsuccessful.

Veterinary re-check

Monday morning was Jasmine’s parole hearing with her primary vet.

She was looking quite good and we felt she might be able to resume some moderate, controlled walks in her favorite trails. We have also finished her new ramp, so getting in and out of the bus should be now safer.

There were a couple of things I observed which I was concerned about. 

One of them was the level of sadness and resignation. Jasmine looks OK but this is not NORMAL Jasmine.

We also didn’t want to risk messing up her healing process.

At this time she was on half a prednisone every other day and one Tramadol at night. She really seems happier on the prednisone-free days. Her drinking and urination are almost normal on the off days, increased on the days she gets the medication. Her hunger is crazy, though, she constantly acts as if nobody has fed her for a week.

She tells me that daddy didn’t give her any breakfast, then she tells hubby that mommy didn’t giver her any lunch … She consistently denies having had any dinner. Her entire life she was very gentle taking food but now we have to watch our fingers. I feel bad for her and hope that this settles down once she’s off the meds.

A short walk for the soul

On Sunday evening we decided to take her to the trails for a little walk.

She hasn’t been anywhere since the fateful Friday and it’s been making her sad. We did take her at least around the block, but that was not what she wanted and craved.

The more rational reasons behind that were a) that we wanted to experiment BEFORE the vet visit, so any negative fall out could be caught, and b) we wanted to make sure she takes to the ramp well enough BEFORE we actually have to make the trip to the vet.

We didn’t really anticipate major issues but didn’t want to take any chances.

It didn’t make sense to find out she doesn’t want to use the ramp the morning of the appointment and having to come up with a different solution or take risks.

We made the ramp as wide as possible (around 20 inches) and as long as possible (around 8 feet). Still, the incline is steeper than she’s ever used. Also, now she has to get into the bus through the back, which she isn’t used to either.

Jasmine isn’t completely comfortable with this yet but uses it well enough.

She was much more keen on using it to get out of the bus, which is technically odd, as one would think it must feel safer going up than going down. The rewards, of going down, however, are greater!

The little walk went well. Jasmine didn’t tire and nothing else went wrong either. I was so scared! First real outing since her disc injury, a bunch of new things in the mix. I worried as if she was made of crystal and was going to break to pieces with just a wrong look. Fortunately, she did not.

Veterinary visit

The long morning trip to the vet went well also.

Jasmine was excited out of her mind. As we walked into the reception, very quickly she also discovered a mitten glove somebody lost and they had on the counter. Jasmine has an obsession with gloves. When she sees one, she has to snatch it and bury it. She tried snatching this one too.

It didn’t matter that it got put away, she kept trying to get to it, jumping up on the tall reception desk. *sigh I’m convinced she feels she needs to take care of them since they’re abandoned and lonely.

The vet checked her out thoroughly, even though it was rather difficult with her level of excitement.

He did an overall exam, checked for signs of pain, muscle tone, myofascial trigger points, and proprioceptive reflexes (awareness of foot in space) and some other tests for nerve responses.

The findings

The good news is that pain appears managed. We can lower her prednisone to 1/4 every other day and stop the Tramadol and give it only on a as needed basis.

The not so good news is that the reflexes in her left hind leg are not where they should be.

She gets around well, the function is quite good but not at full function. That was one of the things I noticed about a week ago, that on a sharper left turn her left hind leg appeared out of sync with the rest of the body as if it got stuck behind the rest of the body. I’ve seen this happen only twice and not in the past week.

But I was watching him doing the exam and that leg is somewhat slower in response.

This particularly poses risk if Jasmine got too exuberant. If she stumbled or fell, and compensated for the fall with violent neck movement, things could get messed up pretty bad.

Jasmine will have to ease back to her activities gradually, starting at a low level. We are hoping that the function might still get to normal with time.

Acupuncture treatment

Jasmine also had her acupuncture session later that day.

If she was excited during her morning vet visit, she was totally out of her mind for her acupuncture vet’s visit. Even jumped on her couple times as she was greeting her.

The acupuncture vet was very pleased to see Jasmine like that.

However, it posed some challenges, particularly with keeping the needles in her. Jasmine was trying to play and roll around, needles came out and new ones had to be inserted. Jasmine shook and needles went flying and new ones had to be inserted.

Then we did try Dr. Marty Becker’s trick of holding the nose to prevent a shake, it really does work (when you manage to grab the nose on time)

Finally, Jasmine resigned to the fact that nobody’s going to play with her while trying to keep the needles in place, and settled down.

The vet took advantage of the calm time and left the needles in. The whole session lasted almost an hour longer than normal.

Then, as the vet was getting ready to leave, Jasmine decided she really liked her pom-pom hat and wanted to mother and bury that. Even when the vet put the hat on, Jasmine kept negotiating, “Come on, you don’t know how to take care of it, I’ll take care of it for you. Just let me have it.”

I don’t blame Jasmine for being all crazy.

Stir crazy

She’s been feeling so badly, then cooped up for so long … now she’s feeling pretty good and wants to do things. She has all this energy she needs to put somewhere. Jasmine is used to daily walks and activity. Not getting that ought to show somewhere.

The upside is that the acupuncture vet feels very positive about the progress Jasmine made since her session two weeks ago and feels positive about the restoration of full function. She felt than the next treatment could be after three weeks unless something changes.

Now we have to ease Jasmine back into a moderated version of her normal life and do our best to prevent any mishaps. Meanwhile, Jasmine is seeing her chiro on the 8th as well.

Right now we feel we should give full attention to Jasmine in order to keep her safe. Taking photos could be a distraction that we might not need at the time.

Animal communicator

I also contacted the last animal communicator we worked with because I was quite impressed with her the first time.

I wanted to see if we could find out what and how happened, how was Jasmine REALLY feeling, and I also hoped that maybe the communicator might be able to explain to Jasmine why she needs to take it easy for a while.

The report

She starts off by showing me an image of you laying down with her and I feel a male is standing over both of you, there is no doubt that she knows how much you love her.

The spine

I am not seeing any discs slipped but I am seeing what looks like the nerves or the spinal cord is being pinched so if the discs were slipped I feel they are adjusting back into place. To me, it feels like the area about the bottom 1/3rd of the cervical area.  

She is also showing me the esophagus though so I’m not sure how this is connected.


I feel like her bones in the neck area a weak?


She is showing me trying to walk backward and with this the sense of her just wanting to move her head and shake but she can’t so I feel this has taken her by surprise.

Pain assessment

I feel her depression is more pain-related than mental lack of stimulation or confinement. I say this because she shows me an image of her just standing still and not moving and I am hearing the pain was 8 to 9 on a scale of 1 to 10.

[Jana] yes, it looked like she was in a truckload of pain

I feel that her lack of movement is distressing for her but not in the fact of being confined to an area, it feels more like not being able to shake and turn to bother her. It’s like wearing an invisible cone on her head.

Her stomach feels a bit on the queasy side and just overall she feels like you would if you had the bad flu, achy and overall blah.

I don’t get the sense of it being anything she did to make this happen, to me it feels more like part of genetics. The sense she gives me is that her neck twisted, but she does not show me any specific incidents expect what she is showing me above. Maybe she just had her head the wrong way and twisted as she got up? Is there anything around her bed that she could have gotten her head under while sleeping and awoke quickly?

Overall state

She just seems so fragile to me; not really mentally but physically. Maybe this is due to the meds. I have asked her to please understand that she needs to be quiet for a few weeks so she can heal but to me, she seems stubborn and determined which is also a good thing in that she is ready to fight this.
[Jana] Yeah, that’s Jasmine, stubborn and determined

She is showing me barking at you as if asking “why aren’t you playing with me” so I told her it was so she can get better.

She wants to know if she can go for a walk?
[Jana] See the pattern here?

I told her that walks would be for when she is better.

At this point, we’re just thankful that Jasmine looks comfortable and seems to be healing well.

Happy to get out

From the moment Jasmine did get her parole, she’s been a happy girl again.

She’s her crazy self again, not realizing that she IS supposed to take it easy still. As scary as it might be to us, it is good to see her vibrant and full of life again. Though we have to watch and make sure she doesn’t do anything to re-injure herself, particularly since the hind left leg doesn’t work the way it should yet.

It’s been quite a task because she wants to do what she normally would.

She seems to be feeling good; we were able to stop the Tramadol all together, and she’s now on a 1/4 prednisone every other day until we run out.

On Saturday she even got to go to the horse farm again. 

Did that ever make her happy! I tagged along to chaperone and was that ever needed! She is ready to rumble; at least she thinks she is.

Jasmine’s new ramp

This also gave us the opportunity to shoot some pictures of Jasmine’s new ramp.

We’ve had a ramp for getting in and out of the house ever since Jasmine’s first knee surgery. But now we needed one for getting safely in and out of the bus too. Jasmine got comfortable with it; she’ll accept anything that gets her places.

Hubby built it all by himself.

In our experience, dogs and ramps get along quite well, even though our first attempt to make a ramp for getting in and out of a vehicle failed miserably – the ramp was too narrow and too short, which made the incline too steep. Jasmine didn’t like it and neither did I. Didn’t feel safe to either of us.

So this time we made sure it is wide enough and long enough.

Easier to do now too. The bus has enough room for a huge ramp, our previous vehicle did not. I actually found a place which does sell ramps that look good, come in large enough sizes and fold in half. But making one was cheaper, and more importantly, faster.

Price was not on Jasmine’s list of required criteria but speed certainly was.

In closing

Jasmine has improved and declined a few times. Then she started piling on other issues. Eventually, it all added up to too much to make her go through all that.

Watching the sudden fast decline was heart-breaking. Before Christmas, she was full of life and we thought she easily had at least one year of full life in her. And then things took a downturn which we were unable to reverse at the end.

Related articles:
Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Prevention, Treatment, and Physical Therapy

Further reading:
Slipped Disc, Bad Back, and Muscle Spasms in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsIntervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)Real-life StoriesSpondylosis

Tags: :

Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

Share your thoughts