DANELINKS.COM                                                                                                                                                                                                 2/1/05

 


ELECTRA'S STORY

   by Daniel Goebel


I can remember as if it were yesterday. It was a warm summer evening, the sun was getting ready to set, and we were getting close to our destination. After driving for two days in the cramped Isuzu Trooper the anticipation was beginning to build. I’m sure if you were to ask the people I was riding with, they’d say I had a grin from ear to ear. After all I was going to get my first “Show Great Dane.” What more could I ask for, my first fawn Great Dane, and I was getting pick.

The breeder had sent me videos of the puppies every week so I could watch them grow. Little did I know then, that they would be treasures today. After spending two days with the puppies I finally made my choice and once again we were on the road. I swear I spent the next two days in the back seat holding and kissing this little girl. By the time we got home, everybody knew it was a match made in heaven.

Over the next several months I was graced with the opportunity to endure the things we all go through. Things like wrapping ears, potty training, loosing corners on the walls as they teethe, etc. Then around four months I got to begin our conformational training. I was a dedicated newbie. I went to class every week (sometimes twice a week), worked with her every day, and asked my mentor and breeder a billion questions every day.

Then one day all our hard work paid off, she was finally going to be six months old. I decided to take her to a nearby show to get her use to the environment. We traveled with my mentor who was exhibiting at the same show. While there my friend/mentor was showing my dog’s movement to another friend within the breed. After all she did have excellent movement, this was one of the reasons I chose this bitch. And so my journey begins.

This friend of my mentor/friend noticed that my puppy was cow hocked. Of course this is minor in a puppy as they grow, but we called my breeder and she recommended a little more exercise to help strengthen her rear. Four days later my mentor came over to see how Electra was doing. Unfortunately she noticed that she was starting to fall down in the rear and that her movement was off. She thought it was a symptom of Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (H.O.D.). I took her to my vet to get X-rays of both her hips and hocks. There was slight swelling in her hock joints. To help slow down her growth rate we lowered her protein to 19%, stopped her exercise, and continued her on 3000 mg of Vitamin C, along with a buffered aspirin twice a day. With her decreased activity I thought she was starting to get better.

Two weeks later I took her up to see my mentor for another evaluation of her condition. What happened next was a complete bombshell, she was slipping on the floor, uncoordinated, dragging her feet, and again falling down. Then I heard the last thing I wanted to hear…WOBBLERS. As I look back the word meant a death sentence…how funny. Thankfully she was able to get me into an Orthopedic Specialist the next day. There they did a neck X-ray, along with some coordination tests and “confirmed” in his opinion that it was Wobblers Syndrome. He said the only way to know for sure was to do a Myelogram. From what he explained, it was the main tool needed for true diagnosis. X-rays alone are not enough to diagnose it, and the vertebral compression will not show up on the X-ray.

So began my pursuit of understanding this disease in its entirety; to make the best decision for my little girl. I talked to the breeder, my mentor; author’s of some books, the Internet, along with neurological specialists and every day vets. To my relief there were personal and professional opinions, explanations, and stories of recoveries. Although I do not want to discredit those who have had success in rehabilitating their loved ones, but, it all seems to be conflicting information, or better yet an endless tunnel of contradictions. At this point I would do anything to extend the amount of time I could spend with my puppy. From what it seems my choices are very limited and to be honest I don’t think I like any of the options available…

DO NOTHING AT ALL

I don’t know if I could actually “do nothing” to help improve this condition, and clearly it isn’t going away all by its self. All the so called research points to this being a progressive disease that eventually leads to paralysis. Not to mention the longer I wait to make my decision, more damage is being done to the spine.

SURGERY

I have to admit, I am not fond of putting my dogs under anesthesia, and the thought of having surgery on the spinal area is terrifying for humans not to mention dogs. But this, in my view, the only way to physically treat the cause of the ailment. I have been told that there are some horrific complications related to this kind of surgery, yet nobody seems to know what they are. I have also been told that the after care can be horrific from one extreme to the other.

ACUPUNCTURE ALONG WITH CHIROPRACTIC REALIGNMENT

I believe that Acupuncture is a great way to relax and stimulate the muscles and ligaments around the wound area. I actually did a treatment of acupuncture for her. I don’t know why, maybe some vain attempt to see some improvement. The session went quite well, and she relaxed and fell a sleep. After the session it was a rude awakening to see no improvement. I have been to a chiropractor for realignment and it seemed to work, although I was in pain for a few days after the first few sessions. If the vertebrae are out of alignment and adding to the pressure that’s on the spine, clearly I need to attempt correcting its position. But I have not yet performed any true diagnostics to define the true cause of compression.

IMPLANTATION OF GOLD BEADS

First let me explain my understanding of this is, there are several gold beads that are implanted into the neck. They act as a way to constantly apply acupuncture to the affected area. Then the neck is put in a soft cast to support the neck and help it heal. This wrapping usually stays on for about four weeks and will need to be reapplied if any symptoms show up in the future. There have been some astonishing results with this, and any sign of improvement is a blessing. But unfortunately it seems this is only a band-aid and will only help improve the symptoms not the cause. Does that mean that my bitch will continue to deteriorate without me knowing it due to her symptoms have been hidden from me? I was told that the causes of Wobblers is of a negative charge and the gold beads are of a positive charge causing the deformed bone to begin to correct it’s self (kind of like a break in the bone known as remodeling.) Another concern about the Gold Beads is there have been no X-Rays, Myelograms, or M.R.I.’s to prove this process of remodeling induced by gold beads. When I asked an owner of a Doberman who had a tremendous recovery she said, “The only way to be sure of the success was to do a Myelogram.” I again asked a doctor who performs the implantation of the gold beads the same question, and he said, “I have not been able to get any of my patients to do an X-ray or M.R.I. to prove the success of this procedure.

PUT HER DOWN

Well, this is clearly not an option. She seems to be living a happy, healthy life. The only thing wrong is she appears to be unsure of the ground below her rear. If I felt that her quality of life was being hindered due to this disease I would certainly consider it as an option…hopefully I won’t need to go there. Yet I feel I need to give her every opportunity to live out her life.

Going back to her initial diagnosis the orthopedic surgeon recommended a neural surgeon in Colorado by the name of Dr. Patricia Luttgen. After about a week of weighing the different options available to me, I decided to call her and schedule an appointment. Fortunately we were able to leave within a few days.

At this point Electra was hardly able to walk. She could only take a step or two without falling down. Just standing was a tremendous effort, I swear a breeze could pass by and she would teeter-totter. I drove up at night hoping she would sleep the whole way; so I wouldn’t need to stop and potty her. Although by now she had grown quite accustomed to being treated like the finest china. Off I were with a sad sense of desire, Colorado here I come.

My first impression of Dr. Luttgen was kind of profound. I just had a feeling of compassion, trust, and a deep sense of knowledge coming from her. The initial diagnosis took several hours and she encouraged me to be involved with the whole process. It started with an assessment of Electra’s unconscious proprioceptive response to certain situations. This included placing her rear feet upside down, pinching of her toes, etc. Then Dr. Luttgen took the time to look over my choice of food, the previous x-rays taken, and gave me the opportunity to ask any questions or address any concerns. Finally I took Electra outside for Dr. Luttgen to view her proprioceptive response while she urinated or had a bowl movement.

After spending half the day discussing the different option available to use, I decided to allow Dr. Luttgen perform an M.R.I. to locate the problem that was causing the ataxia. Again Dr. Luttgen encouraged me to tag along and watch the process. What I saw next was truly astounding. While Electra was in the M.R.I I was watching the monitor to view the results. First they took several views to see if there was any articular involvement. This was like a camera traveling down her spinal cord, like sliding down a tunnel, taking snapshots along the way. Then the technician began to look length wise to see if there was any malformation that would cause either a protruding edge or subluxation, and with terror and fascination wrapped up together, I could see with crystal clarity the malformation that was pinching the spinal cord causing myelomalicia.

After seeing the M.R.I’s of the other dogs I began to feel relief in knowing that Electra’s condition was at the onset, and that there was a high chance of a positive recovery for her. Afterwards I took her back to the hotel room and with trepidation I waited for the next meeting with Dr. Luttgen.

The following morning I took her back to Dr. Luttgen’s office to discuss the results of the M.R.I. She took her time to go over each view taken and explained the process she would use to remove the protruding edge that was causing the chronic pressure on her spinal cord. After talking about her treatment, Electra’s potential for recovery and the after care needed, I decided to let Dr. Luttgen perform the surgery.

So, I left my heart in the care of Dr. Luttgen and her staff. The rest of the day was a kind of numb blur. Although I do remember going to watch the opening of Lord of the Ring: Fellowship of the Ring. The movie lasted three hours, and the escape was needed. I was emotionally drained and I could see the end of this crazy roller coaster ride. Although in the back of my mind I knew the seriousness of this surgery and was attempting to prepare myself for the mortification of something going wrong. Yet praying this journey’s door would soon be closed and all would be well.

Shortly after, Dr. Luttgen called to inform me that the surgery went well, and knowing that I was from out of town, I could pick her up. I told her I preferred her to keep Electra overnight, and shaking with relief I immediately called her breeders to let them know all went well. That night I slept in a restless yet dead sleep. I had made it to this point and my soul was withered and tired. As sad as it sounds, I did not want to face the responsibility tomorrow would bring. Had I made the right choice? Little by little, as I drifted off, I wondered if I should of taken the path traveled all to often and just put her down.  This was going to be hell and I haven’t seen my dog yet.

I awoke the next morning not rested, and before I knew it I was sitting in the surgeon’s office, absorbing a different role of caregiver. I needn’t worry about antibiotics or painkillers, a patch took care of that, but three months in a crate…my god she’ll get fat! I had to keep her grossly thin so she wouldn’t need to support the extra weight. She needed Pepto Bismal before her feedings. She was only allowed to potty on a leash. After the three-week period, she could only come out of the crate with her on leash and tied to someone. This would last for a week, then she could be in a small open area only, all the while still pottying on leash only. Finally after 5 weeks I could let her free if she were monitored, and I could gradually get her to normal activity. 

So they took me outside and around back. It was a dismal, though bright winter day, and as I now look back, winter took on a new meaning of death and decay. As I approached the door, it opened and to my astonishment my puppy (on leash) walked to me without the slightest hint she might fall. As she came close I knelt and gratefully took my kisses. Then I left with a sense of rebirth, and to be honest, the aftercare was easy.

Now she is four years old, alpha of my household, manipulator of us all. Surprisingly she doesn’t show a sign of being a wobbler. She’ll run and play with the rest of the household, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t thank Dr. Luttgen for saving my little girl.


Editor's note-
I have seen this bitch in person, and with many years of experience and a cultured eye, I was unable to detect even the slightest sign of abnormality regarding the mobility of this Great Dane.  It's quite amazing.

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