Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Are Our Cardis Really So Fragile???

It was with great sadness that I read of yet another Cardigan that has gone down in the back. This comes not so very long after Kip's troubles. Having spent plenty of time on the internet cruising through various Cardigan blogs and websites, reading Corgi-L posts, etc., these two examples are certainly not the only ones I have found. Some of the dogs make wonderful recoveries, some don't. It also seems these dogs were not engaged in some strenuous activity. Often it is as simple as hopping down a couple of stairs or jumping off the sofa. When I read about them, it makes the "mother hen" in me want lock my boys away in a crate. No wrestling, no ball retrieving, certainly no agility, sheep?Heck,no!.....But of course that's not fair to them. They deserve to live an active dog's life. How do you balance the fear of traumatic injury with just letting a dog be a dog? My first Cardi lived until almost 17. He played frisbee until nearly 14, and kept going until well past 16. He went down in the back for his last 6 months due to accumulated IVDD damage. I'd say that's a pretty fair life. But when young and healthy Cardis go down in their prime, how does one deal with it?

My first experiences with long-backed dogs were Dachshunds. I heard frequent stories of back troubles leading to paralysis. I wondered why anyone would even risk getting a Doxie if that's what you were in store for. Are Cardigans pretty much the same risk?

I know this isn't the usual happy-go-lucky post about having fun with my dogs, or a pretty picture on a beautiful day. I am sure this is not a pleasant topic for any of us. But I get deeply saddened and disturbed when I read about a Cardigan whose back just gave out.

Are our Cardigans really so fragile???


  1. This bothers me a lot, too. How do we prevent this? Breed shorter-backed dogs, in spite of how beautiful that long flowing outline is? (I would say so.) How do we predict it? I like using older dogs, to see how they have held up into old age, but we don't have that option for bitches, and by the time they go down they may have brought several litters into the world. Is keeping them lean and fit a preventative? I HOPE SO!!! Mine are all dead fit, but I get the impression that some of the dogs that have gone down were as well.

    I wonder if the length of the loin plays a part. From what vets have told me, damage doesn't occur along the length of the ribs, as that has a support structure. Are long loins more vulnerable?

  2. I simply don't know. It seems that Oliver had some underlying issues-fused vertabrae, scolosis and hip dysplasia, but that doesn't make what happened to him any less terrifying or tragic. Bobby has hurt his back on one occasion, but the vets and I believe that his injury was soft tissue, caused by jumping in and out of a stock tank after a herding lesson. Bobby's xrays revealed that he had some congential abnormality in his spine-bascially no disc between two of his vertabrae. Bobby is shorter backed and longer legged that many cardis, but I am not convinced that those features completely immunize him from future back troubles. I worry about this a lot.

    I struggle to keep him off the furniture (especially the bed) and will not allow him to jump out of the car. Of course, I lift him in and out of the stock tank now, as well. I take him to a chiro every month and give him supplements, but mostly I pray.

  3. Dr. Neff at UC Davis was conducting an IVDD study, trying to identify a genetic marker -- often several closely related dogs will go down -- so perhaps there is a genetic component. Alas! The funding ran dry. Dr. Neff is now at Michigan State conducting the study on Clumber Spaniels. Hopefully, he will identify a genetic marker, and then there will be some money for him to use all the Cardigan samples that were submitted. Just as DM was initially studied in Pems and a test was then developed for Cardis, the IVDD study could move from Clumbers to Cardis.

    It is so sad to see one of our companions unable to use his hindquarters when he is only 4-1/2 years old. I cannot measure the quantity of tears I shed over Kip. Kip is one of the fortunate ones. The surgery was successful, He is improving daily with therapy -- up and walking, wagging his tail. However, if there was a way to avoid the heartache and the cost, I would jump on it.

    I will add that Kip also had hip dysplasia, but I do not think there is a reliable link between HD and IVDD.

  4. I struggle with this myself. Sam was a wonderful dog and I still miss him. i worry a lot about Wicca's health especially with all the agility.

    i think that these dogs were bred for rough and tumble, running all day type of work. There should be no reason that jumping off the bed, or stair restrictions should be in effect. Obviously somewhere along the line things have changed for the breed.

    I will most likely not be getting another cardigan as an agility dog. It just worries me so much.

  5. I had a whole long post written out and then blogger ate it. But the short answer is that no, it's not a function of short or long backs. It's a fault in the disc material that is a direct (and inevitable) consequence of dwarfism. You can't have a dwarfed dog without the danger of IVDD. The dachshund study was trying to target EARLY IVDD, or spectacularly common (familial) IVDD; it was not trying to eliminate the entire disease - or if it was, it would have failed, because every dwarfed dog has crappy cartilage and that includes disc material.

    I also don't think there's any reason to restrict activity, because when a disc is going to go it's going to go if the dog rolls over; it doesn't take a traumatic injury or a fall. And I have misgivings about Cardigans in agility but it's honestly not because of the backs; it's because of the inelasticity in the carpal ligaments and what lifelong-agility Cardi fronts end up looking like.

    The only way to reliably eliminate IVDD is to breed them to a long-legged dog and turn the breed into an undwarfed one. That would work. Otherwise we are playing the hand we are dealt, which is of cartilage that ages and dies quickly.

  6. I see examples of many breeds going down early in my internet travels. A friend just lost a Greyhound to an injury sustained while running. We have to let them be dogs, and that comes with inherent risk. We run a greater risk of not coming home to them every time we jump in the car...

  7. What Joanna said makes sense, but could we be casuing further issue as we continue to breed bigger boned, heavier, yet shorter cardigans? If the injuries are due to the cartilage issues, wouldnt the larger/heavier size cause more pressure on those ligaments, discs and joints? Just something I have wondered about.

  8. I have been worrying about this a lot lately - before I even heard about Garrett's dog. I have very steep stairs in my house and we are looking to move to a ranch. But you simply can't prevent a dog from living. What do you do, put them in a bubble? Very timely post.

  9. I know of 2 German Shepherds that had IVDD - one was an active agility dog and injured his back in an agility accident. The other was my own dog. Beo went out to play in the morning and came in dragging a leg... by the time we got to the vet, he had no use of his rear. He turned 6 two weeks prior to the incident and he was is spectacular condition.

    It is scary how it just appears.

  10. am so glad i found this site. my eight year old boy just had disc surgery. he is doing really well thank goodness.it was very scary to say the least. the challenge now is keeping him resting -easier said....he is supposed to have 6-8 weeks of crate rest. can you hear the barking?he is doing PT-treadmill in the water etc and is enjoying the extra attention. as if he doesn't get enough:) i hope he never has to have another surgery.we'll do our best for him.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...