Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hank. Cervical Disc Disease Management When Surgical Treatment is NOT an Option. His journey and recovery blog.

Hank was a statistic no one wanted to happen.

He is a beagle who is middle aged, lazy and overweight. He also spends his time outdoors with a hyperactive over exuberant nut case of a brother, Moe. Moe has everything going for him. He is active, lean, muscular, and full of energy. This lifestyle has made him a powerhouse, it has also made him a liability to his brother, fat, old, slothy Hank.

Moe, Caleb, Hank
Hank was found laying on his side unable to stand, move, or walk on a Friday afternoon. He was shaking, trembling, and crying in pain. His family brought him to see me on a Sunday after it was apparent he was not recovering on his own.

Now I am just like you. I heard his story, looked at his pitiful pathetic desperate self and thought, "Oh God! why did they wait to bring him in?"

This is what I saw when I entered the exam room the first time I met Hank and Caleb.
I will never forget seeing them.
I feared the worst...

I have been wearing a white coat for a while. It has provided me some important life lessons. One is to not assume or rush to judgement. Hank's family was overwhelmed with caretaking for their son, Caleb, who has spina bifada. Caleb is 8 years old and preparing for his 6th surgery this year. It was very clear very quickly that this family was taxed beyond what many of us could handle on a routine basis and now Hank was down and out. When I discussed my concerns for Hank, how he needed to be transferred immediately to a neurologist and how the optimal care for his current condition would require an MRI and decompression surgery with its $8,000 to $10,000 price tag, his family went white with anguish.

Hank was Caleb's best friend. His lifeline, and his inspiration for all of his surgeries. At every surgery Caleb carried in a stuffed version of his beloved Hank to keep him company.

My bright idea of publicly posting Hank's condition in an effort to gain social media assistance to cover some, or all, of Hanks medical costs was abandoned when Caleb's mom quietly mentioned that they already had a GoFund me site set up to help pay for Caleb's next surgery. How could I ask for help with Hank's medical needs when Caleb's were in competition for those dollars? There was no way I was going to ask, or beg, for help and have it cost Caleb. So I did what I believed was the only option left. I took Hank's case on as my own. No advertising, no reimbursement, no discussion of anything except to say to his mom "You worry about Caleb and yourself, and I will worry about Hank."

And so it was. After two nights in the clinic Hank came home with me. I arrived at home late Wednesday evening with a paralyzed Hank and an almost absent ambivalent husband who now expects that I take the critical cases home with me. A few minutes of basic technician training and my husband was enlisted in Hank's care and understanding that verbal protests would only damage our relationship and fail at discouraging my maternal veterinary compulsions.

After 14 days with us, including a week of almost completely sleepless nights because Hank refused to sleep on a dog bed at the end of our bed, and would only stop crying, whining and bellowing when I put him in our bed. Which is a ridiculously dangerous place to be because who wants a paralyzed dog to fall out of bed? AND he is peeing and pooping at unforeseen intervals.

Hank required 24/7 care. Multiple baths at 2 am because had to go to the bathroom, multiple times getting up to try to figure out if the whimpering and discontent meant he needed something like, perhaps,, food?, water?, pain medication?, to go outside?, to sit up?, to get more attention?, to see the cat who believed she also belonged on the bed?, to cool him off?, warm him up?, etc. etc. There is no exception to these pups being an intensive amount of work with an unknown amount of recovery time.

There were days I went to work exhausted and cranky. There were nights my husband hated me for inflicting these restless nights upon our bedroom. And, there were the endless questions of whether this was all for naught? Would he ever get better? Would his family take him back? Would that be best for Hank? What would the rest of Hank's life look like? Would he relapse in a week? A month? A year? Would he recover the next time?

Here is Hank's YouTube diary.

There are a few critical things I hope that everyone leaves this blog with;
1. These cases are difficult.
2. There is no rule book for time and prognosis.
3. These cases need affordable options provided to clients,
4. Never surrender hope.
5. Or let anyone steal your faith.
6. These cases deserve an opportunity to provide and offer the fertile ground of miracles a chance. If any vet tells to you surrender your hope IF YOU DON'T have a couple grand available immediately walk out and find another vet. 
7. Managing pain is possible, and these cases have a chance at recovery. Hank was trembling and panting for a week in discomfort. It was hard to watch, and I tried very hard to keep him as comfortable as possible, BUT, I did not out him in a drug induced coma. 
8. We got through it together! Me, Hank, my husband, and the staff at the clinic. Provide a supportive network or encouraging helpful people. Death is not an option I considered. I understand this is on a case by case basis, BUT, I was prepared for a cart and a dog who needed help for as long as Hank needed help.

What does Hanks future hold? I am not sure. He is home with his family. We talk often and we will continue to do so. Caleb has his next surgery next week. Our best wishes and thoughts are with him. We have faith,,,, sometimes that is enough.

Caleb comes to visit Hank, day 3.

Hank and his family day 10

There is a whole lot more information on IVDD on my other blogs. Please visit them. I think they answer every question I have ever had on managing this disease.

Hank goes home, day 17

If you have a pet in need, or a pet question you would like to ask, please find the helpful people at It is a free and open community for anyone and everyone who loves pets.

I am also available via Facebook, Twitter @FreePetAdvice, and YouTube


  1. So, while I am both proud of you for your compassion and a tiny bit concerned for the depths of your obsession ( ;) ), I find myself wondering more about you than Hank. Hank is getting the best care a guy in his position can dream of; the rest is up to him. You however, I find myself wondering how this plays with a veterinarians compassion burnout. Do you find yoyrself refueled and refilled by cases such as this, or are they, long run, taxing and requiring stretch? I understand the short term is hard, but am more interested in the long term effects. Burnout or fuel for the fire?

    1. Hello,
      I appreciate your concern, and I recognize the short and long term consequences of (I think) all of my decisions. While I cannot articulate the full magnitude of my life and choices I can honestly state that I am not over extending myself to a point that inhibits or restricts my passion, or quality of life. I am approaching the second half of my life with as much fervor and determination as I did my twenties. I love (LOVE) being a vet, entrepreneur, and challenging every aspect of both. If I am tired I take time off. I have no financial pressure anywhere. I have no children. I have this life and I am not going to look back and regret a second of it. Long term thats what I think about. I want to push every envelope and embrace every opportunity.. even if it is just for the challenge of it.. even if I don't succeed. I often use the analogy of being a runner (of which I am not any kind of acknowledged or accredited athlete), I love to run to give myself an outlet to let my mind and body be free of the stress of work. I sign up for races with the ackknowlegement and permission to quit anytime it is no longer fun. I do not care (nor even know) what times I run at, or where I place. Sometimes I stop and have a beer with the crowd (the NYC marathon always has partiers along the route) and sometimes I run like hell just to feel my legs be pushed beyond their normal leisurely pace. I live for the experience for myself, no one else. Short term i run hard, long term I have wonderful memories of watching runners run past as I make a toast to them! I have no regrets,,
      Thank you for the comment and for reading!

  2. You're an amazing human and a fantastic doctor, Krista. I'm proud to call you my friend.

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  4. My dog has been diagnosed with ivdd based off of just an exam. His doctor thinks X-ray won't show much and we can do meds and rest. We did that for a week and after 48hrs of no meds he started shaking, trembling and was extremely scared. That passed after about 30seconds and he was back to normal. The first time he "hurt" himself he was sleeping under a chair and came out of there scared, shaking/trembling and didn't want to jump up. After that he wouldn't jump on anything and was very hesitate about it. After a and half he was already jumping and looking normal when I brought him in. I wasn't allowing him to jump but he snuck a jump in twice. But after that second mini pain episode they put him in complete crate rest. I've got him accupuncture and laser therapy and every time they ask he's he's doing I can't say better nor worse because he still tries to act wild and like himself. What are some ways to know if his back is feeling better? I continue on the plan of crate rest but once that time is up, how can I be sure he's ok if he doesn't show hesitation.

  5. Thanks for your encouragement! I’m having days helping my dog with this issue, and I want to give up. I’m looking for your physical therapy blog for hank.

  6. Thanks for your encouragement! I’m looking for the blog/video on physical therapy for hank

  7. Hello, I just found your video. My dog was diagnosed with IVDD and hip dysplasia. He had surgery for IVDD about 2 weeks ago and he still hasn't shown signs of walking. I've been taking him outside about 3 to 4 times a day. This isn't easy because he is overweight and I'm a petite woman. I've been doing the standing up exercises and the leg extending in and out movements too. He is also on diet food. Please please please, I need help! Is there anything else I can do to help him walk again? He is also doing #2 just fine, and after almost 3 days of not peeing, he finally went today in the morning. Before that he was going just fine, but he also isn't drinking a ton of water. Thank you.