Willy Wonka legs.

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.

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25 thoughts on “Willy Wonka legs.

  1. Oh Jake, his passion for Melvins butt gets me everytime. Glad to hear things at home are normal. You three keep each other warm!

  2. I am so sorry! Two dogs, two spinal taps. I feel like you deserve a medal from the veterinary community for your contributions! Birdie doesn’t have it as bad as Jake, but a few years ago (after extreme pain, inability to walk right, and some falling over), we discovered she has compressed discs in her spine. The back pain forced her to walk funny, causing pain in her neck and legs. Prednisone helped, as did cold laser and massage therapy. The laser and massage really helped stretch her whole body out and reduce her pain. Maybe Jake will benefit from that sort of thing too if it’s scarring or an injury? Fingers crossed for your wonky kiddo!

    • Thank love! I made it very clear to the Neuro that we are open to alternative medicine and therapies so hopefully once we narrow down the issue we can start on something like that!

  3. Tracey, it is amazing how much we love our furry ones! They are family. I am so proud of all you do to make Jake and Melvin so safe and secure. You love those guys so much!! Xxxooo

  4. We have a family tradition here at the 7 Acre Wood. Whenever someone close in heart but far away or near is having some difficulty, the humans send out virtual pink blankets of love to wrap around the ailing human. I have my very own pink blanket. And I am sending out pink blankets of love to all of you. Feel the warmth!

  5. Hoping for the best possible outcome and secretly enjoying the thought of you putting playing cards on Jake’s wheels and adding a little horn for him to honk if that is in his future. Much love.

  6. I don’t think Jake could get any cuter, but him on wheels will probably do that. Instagram may self-implode with the cuteness. Positive thoughts your way 🙂

  7. Oh my, when I read that you went to your car and cried, I just wanted to be there to hug you. I am so sorry that you and Jake are going through all of this. I know how frustrating the uncertainty can be, and I also know what it’s like to have a dog who possess such a huge part of your heart that you would do absolutely anything for him.

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