As mentioned in our previous post, Jake’s legs have always (in the year I’ve had him) been wonky. Just before Christmas, I started noticing a wee bit of instability. His hind legs would teeter a little and a few times he’d end up in a sitting position with his legs having slipped out to his side. Nothing consistent, but I decided to make an appointment with a local vet who specializes in Bulldog breeds (mostly due to the breathing issues he was having but figuring he could help with legs too!). Due to the holidays, the appointment was for right after the New Year.
The day of the appointment, Jake was walking towards the mudroom for our morning walk and his hind legs gave out behind him. He panicked and so did I. His eyes bugged (even more than normal) and his hind legs appeared to be swimming on the hardwood floor behind him. I went over and held him. I then set him upright and he was able to walk again. We went out and on our way back in, his legs gave out again. I carried him in.
By the time we got to the new vet, Jake’s hind paws were knuckling. The legs giving out were worrisome enough but I motored through those moments. The knuckling made me feel sick. They did x-rays. Jake’s normal-up-to-that-day-wonky-gate was somewhat explained, he had 5 vertebrae in the center of his back that were for lack of a better technical explanation, jumbled and missing disks. But there was not a ton of certainty that his crazy spine was the cause of his sudden hind leg weakness. So that two hour vet appointment turned into a call to a Neurologist who got Jake an appointment for first thing the next morning. As the new vet did blood work on Jake for the tests he was sure to be having the next day, I went out to my car and cried. Then I pulled my shit together and took my little guy home.
The next day we saw the very same Neurologist that Melvin saw a year-and-a-half ago. Up to this appointment I personally knew one dog (Melvin) who had had a spinal tap and one person. By the end of this day, this very same doctor would perform a spinal tap on the second of my dogs, along with an MRI. Because of our past experience with him, my fears about anesthesia were lessened a bit. I loved on Jake and handed him over to the awesome staff.
Here is my version of the findings. Jake has a curved spine, at the same spot where he has the jumbled vertebrae and no real disk matter. This is apparently an issue he was born with (and is not uncommon in Frenchies). Father down his back, there are few disks that are slightly compressing his spine but that part is fairly mild. He also has two spinal cysts in another spot, again, compressing his spine. These things independently are not wildly worrisome but together, they create a spine situation that can be easily injured, even by just jumping off the couch. These things together, explain his gait up to this point.
But those things didn’t cause the majority of concern with the neurologist, wonky gaits are hardly a 911. What he was concerned about, and what he suggested was causing the current issue with Jake’s hind legs, was a certain area of Jake’s spinal cord. This area showed abnormal coloring/structure/tissue. Immediately the hope was that it was an infection, but the spinal tap ruled that out. The other things it could be are…
- Spinal injury. Jake is on a course of prednisone to see if there is inflammation. If he improves, we will call it injury and he may end up staying on prednisone to help with future bouts of inflammation that could cause him trouble.
- Spinal cord scarring. If its scarring, Jake will not improve on the medication. The issues he is having will not get better and over time his condition would decline. This scenario would eventually require him to be aided with mobility.
- Spinal cancer. We are putting this lowest on likelihood but they are unable to rule it out. If Jake were to worsen over the next few weeks, we would have to move this up on the list. Unfortunately, the spinal cord cannot be biopsied so we can’t get an immediate ruling on this. We didn’t go into a ton of detail on this one but I’m guessing this would not be a good outcome. Thus, I refuse for it to be this.
So far there hasn’t really been a ton of change in Jake. To be clear, his legs are not unusable all day. I would say that about 20-25% of the time that he is awake they give out on him. The rest of the time he just tends to be extra wobbly and falls over a bit easier than normal. He is no longer allowed to jump off the couch, even gingerly. I lift him up and down. I let him do the steps if he can, otherwise I carry him. He is allowed to go on slow, short walks but if he is knuckling, I just let him out back so that he doesn’t damage his precious, beautiful paws.
He continues to be adorable as ever. He is eating fine. Melvin still shows him who is boss. Whatever it is, we’ll figure it out. I will carry, stroll or wheel him to joy, always.
Thanks for all the well wishes, we love, love, love each and every one of you! As you can see from the photos below, it’s pretty normal around here. And clearly Jake’s nose is still able to sniff Melvin’s bum.