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Discospondylitis - Anyone with experiences?

29228 Views 77 Replies 25 Participants Last post by  gsdlovethemsomuch
Apologies in advance for the long story, and my grammar is not too good as I have not had much sleep due to this. Also please excuse the time difference, it is 8pm here in Aus. I've managed to convert celsius to fahrenheit for you.

My 8.5 month old entire male was fine yesterday morning before I left for work, but I got home last night and knew straight away something was wrong. He was clearly distressed and in pain, wouldn't eat or drink.

So that night, I took him to the emergency vet and he had a temperature of 104.7, his chest was a little noisy but heartbeat good, in pain and stiffness in movement, his back legs were a little less reactive when doing the reflex test. That vet suspected a bacterial infection, gave him a shot of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and pain relief and told me to follow up first thing in the morning with my vet as I had an appointment. (It was past midnight by now anyway) The vet though the shots she gave him would help bring his temperature down.

When I took him in this morning, his temperature had risen to 105.3. The vet discovered he was quite sore when pressing on his spine and he was in need of some IV fluids. So I left him there for a blood test, urine test and x-rays of his spine. I rang them in the afternoon and the vet thinks he has discospondylitis. The x-rays did not show any sign but she said that clinical signs often show before it does on the x-ray. His bloods showed a lot of inflammation. They couldn't get any urine from him as he had gone before he came in and hadn't drunk enough to make any urine.

He is back with me tonight and seems better but is still in pain. I have 6 weeks worth of antibiotics for him and pain relief meds. I have to go back in tomorrow morning to see how his temperature is. He is now eating and drinking with encouragement. In 4 weeks we go back for another set of x-rays. The vet thinks the cause is bacterial. I dont know how he got this, as my other two dogs are fine. Though he did go on an outing around a lot of other dogs that the other two did not.

Thanks for taking the time to read all of that.

So I guess what I am asking is - how serious is this condition? Do they recover fully? Any information/experiences you can give on this would be really appreciated. Of course I will be asking my vet tomorrow morning but I want to hear others experiences

Here's a photo of the patient taken tonight
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I had not heard of this disorder before but here is a good link that explains quite a bit, I hope it helps.

Unfortunately, yes. Cassidy had discospondylitis, and we battled it for 20 months before finally having to put her to sleep at just over 4 years old. It can be extremely painful, and also very difficult to treat. Knowing whether or not it's bacterial or fungal, and what kind of bacteria or fungus can help treatment, since some kinds respond better to one antibiotic or antifungal than to another. Sometimes a blood or urine culture will identify it, sometimes not. Your vet may recommend a needle aspiration of an active lesion, which would be the most accurate test. There is some indication that some lines of GSDs are vulnerable to a particular fungus, aspergillus, suggesting a genetic component to the disease:

Often it's a mystery how the infection travels to the spine and where it started initially. Cassidy was diagnosed through an MRI, but we were never able to identify if it was bacterial or fungal. I had taken her to a neurologist/neurosurgeon - as it turns out, one of the best in the country. When he called me after the MRI and told me she had numerous lesions all up and down her spine, dozens of them, my heart sank.

She was put on 6 months of antibiotics, and then 6 months of antifungals. Antifungals are very expensive, and carry serious side effects. She was also on Deramaxx for 7 months, but then had to be taken off because her kidney levels were rising. After that she was on Metacam (both are NSAIDs) until the end, and her blood work remained normal. NSAIDs also have serious side effects, including death, but the alternative was immediately euthanasia, so it was a risk we felt we had to take.

In addition to her regular vet, she saw a holistic vet. We tried homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine (herbs), acupuncture and chiropractic treatments, and she was on a dizzying quantity variety of supplements and nutraceuticals. The acupuncture and chiropractic helped temporarily, but the only thing that really helped the pain was NSAIDs. She would have periods of several months where she did very poorly, and then she'd bounce back and seem almost her normal self for a few months, only to take a dive again. It was very difficult to know if we were doing the right thing. We didn't want to give up on her if she might recover, but we didn't want her to suffer more than necessary either. Each time we thought it was time, she'd start getting better. And then when we started getting our hopes up that she'd be okay, she'd start to fail again. By the time we made the decision to put her to sleep her back end had sunk so low to the ground it was almost useless. By then she didn't appear to be in pain, but she was clearly distressed by her lack of mobility, and it was clear that she was failing fast. I'm not sure if the Metacam was helping control the pain, or that she'd had so much nerve damage by then that she couldn't feel anything anyway.

I wish I had better news for you, and it may be that it was caught early enough that he'll be okay, or that treatment options are better than they were a few years ago. There wasn't much info about the disease then - I think it went largely undiagnosed. This is how she looked exactly three months before she died:

I took this picture on the 4th of July, almost a month past her 4th birthday. You can see how she's all scrunched up like her spine had shrunk, and her neck has practically disappeared. She looks like a much older dog.
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Awwww....Cassidy...what a beautiful girl.

Have them check for Aspergillus I think it is-I just saw something about that.

I hope that it all works out for you. Please give your boy some XOXO from across the globe.
Originally Posted By: Cassidys MomThere is some indication that some lines of GSDs are vulnerable to a particular fungus, aspergillus, suggesting a genetic component to the disease:
Is aspergillus as a dog food ingredient bad?
Thank you for sharing your experience with me Cassidys Mom, I am really sorry that you and Cassidy had to go through it, and that she had to be put to sleep.

I went to the vet today and his temperature is down slightly, to 104.7. My vet seems fairly positive, but I'm not sure if she is experienced in the condition, I didn't ask. She said it will take at least 6 weeks of the antibiotic (Cephalexin), but may take longer for him to recover. She didn't mention to me that it would reoccur, and I really hope it doesn't. She did mention that GSDs are more susceptible to it than some other breeds.

His xray was clear, no narrowing of gaps between the vertebrae, no lesions or changes to bone structure. That is why we have to rexray in 4 weeks to check for changes. He is hunching his back slightly where the area of pain is. She seems to think it is bacterial rather than fungal but I have no idea what she is basing that on.

EastGSD - thanks for the link to the article.

JeanKBBMMMAAN - I will mention Aspergillus at our checkup in 4 days time, they will be doing more blood and urine tests if he hasn't improved by then
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Originally Posted By: LJsMom
Originally Posted By: Cassidys MomThere is some indication that some lines of GSDs are vulnerable to a particular fungus, aspergillus, suggesting a genetic component to the disease:
Is aspergillus as a dog food ingredient bad?

I am not sure if there is something that sounds like that as a dog food ingredient? Is it a probiotic? I get confused with all the different words and am not sure I get them right! Someone help!

I am glad his temp is going down. If it's not going down fast enough maybe IV antibiotics? But I am hoping he's doing much better each minute!
GSDs are prone to fungal infections like Aspergillus, and I suspect many more types of fungus. Many times nothing will show up on xrays.

Along with a fungal infection, there may also be a bacterial infection.

I do think that one of the first things that should be ruled out is the possibility of a tick disease, though I'm not that familiar with the ticks and the diseases in your part of the world.
Fingers crossed for Ashie. poor baby
In case anyone was wondering what progress Asher has made, it is not great news. Excuse the date differences, I'm trying to write as much in US style as possible to make it easier to read with dates and temps. It will read like a diary unfortunately as I am copying my messages from another site.

The hospitalisation I wrote in my first post was on Friday 4/25

The next day, Saturday 4/26
Asher temperature is now down to 104.7, still high but it's going in the right direction thankfully. I have to take him back in 4 days time to be rechecked, if he hasn't improved he will have to have more tests done. The vet said he will recover but it will take at least 6 weeks of the anti-biotics, and may take longer. When we got home from the vet he had a big drink. He ate all his breaky this morning, I added extra water to his dry food when I soaked it, added some chicken mince in and it turned into a nice gravy for him. After he ate he had another smaller drink. He is still very quiet and he is in pain, the pain relief the vet gave me does not get rid of it, just makes him more comfortable

Sunday 4/27
Asher seemed to have improved a little again, he was back to chasing the cats in the morning. That night he threw up his dinner in his crate, and he has loose stools

Monday 4/28
This morning I discovered his eye is swollen So today I begged my manager to let me go home and I took him to the vet. He now has more pills to pop, to counteract the nausea and diarrhea from his antibiotics. His temp is down a little but still high, at 103.6. I have to take him back again on Friday for another checkup. His eye isn't scratched thankfully, but must have been stung or bitten by something as it looks horrid and is quite painful. No meds for that, as he is on enough already. It should improve a little in the next 24 hours. Poor boy is quite miserable looking, has gone back to not drinking, and not showing much interest in food, although he did eat a carrot earlier today. He has been inside most of the day and just slept and slept.

Tuesday 4/29
No improvement today, sleeping a lot

Wednesday 4/30
Asher is now on 3 different kinds of drugs, they added another one as he took a sudden downfall in his recovery, the original drugs he was taking was not doing the job. His temp was up to 105.4 today, so he was hospitalised, put on a drip, and had a couple of antibiotic shots. His eyes are also affected by this infection. Thankfully tonight his temperature has dropped to 103.6 from being on the fluids, but obviously it is still high and I decided the best thing for him was to stay where he is, on the drip.

Today really was heartbreaking. Just to give you an insight into how what he is normally like, normally he is very fit, active, boucing off the walls sort of dog, always on the go, never sleeps in, up with the birds and loves the chase the cats.

Well he slept all morning before his vet appointment with 4 layers of blankets. The cat fell on him from the cat gym and he barely lifted his head. When I went to get him up he half got up then just flopped back down again, it was too much effort for him. I finally got him up to his feet and he could barely walk, each step was like a big effort for him and caused him pain. His back was hunched up from the pain and he definitely did not want to get in the car. Thankfully I have a wagon so I had a heap of blankets in the back and when I lifted him up he just lay straight back down again.

We got to the vet, I weighed him, he had lost nearly a pound in two days. A testament to his lovely nature, he still wagged his tail and gave kisses to another customer in the vet office. We got in to see the vet, he stood for the vet while she took his temperature, gave her kisses when she was checking his heartbeat. Held still for her when the dye went in his eyes to check for ulceration (thankfully there was none). While she went to get him a lead to take him to be put on a drip, he leant against me, swaying slightly. I gave him the biggest hug and kissed his forehead. Watching him walk, you would have thought you were looking at an old arthritic dog, instead of a nearly 9 month old pup.

Tonight will be the first night he has not slept at home in our bedroom and the house feels empty without him. My two other dogs are great comfort though, they give lovely cuddles but it's not the same without him, he is well and truly my heart dog. I miss my shadow, miss my foot warmer, I even miss the snuffling sounds under the toilet door when he checks to see where I am

Today, Thursday 5/1

morning - Ashers temp has not come down overnight, it is still 103.6. He has eaten small amount last night and this morning. He is staying in hospital today for more fluids and antibiotics. He said he is still acting unaware of his limbs, and you can see a marked neuro impact on his left side. I asked about recovery and he said it depends on the amount of compression and cause of compression, and obviously whether the drugs work. He said the effects can be permanent but it is to hard to say at this point in time. When we re-xray in 3 weeks time we should see the damage then

late afternoon
He has shown no improvement today. His temperature has gone up to 103.8 which is not a good sign. He still isn't showing full awareness of his limbs and his back legs are weak. He also didn't eat much this morning. They are taking another xray of his spine to check for change and for prolapsed disc

The xrays came back clear. Which is good but not good in that it doesn't give us any answers. His temperature has gone up again, to 104.2, despite being on the drip and having antibiotic shots. The vet has recommended we do a blood test to count the number of each blood cell type present, and the type of inflammatory response. This will also show us if there is any organ damage, eg kidney and liver functions. These are being taken tonight and sent off tonight, hopefully with results tomorrow.

He is still showing neuro deficit in terms of his lack of awareness of his limbs and the weakness in the back legs, he also still has a sore spine and I imagine soreness all over really having such a high temperature. The results of the blood test will take one or two days to come back. Hopefully we will hear something tomorrow. They are going to trial him off the fluids to see if he will drink on his own, I imagine this will take place tomorrow while they are there to supervise.

I asked if he could give me a prognosis, but he said until we know if the baytril has taken effect or not, he cant give a proper prognosis, and the drug may take up to a week to show a positive response. He said he would give me a guarded prognosis, that whilst he is not about to 'keel over' as he put it, he is concerned about him. I asked if it could shorten his life and he said it will not necessarily shorten his life, but that he really cant answer that right now, until we know if the baytril will work. He said some dogs with discospondylitis will have problems throught their life, others will recover and go on to lead a normal life
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Here are some more photos of the patient, including some taken yesterday before he was admitted

This is the last photo I have of my boy before he went in to hospital
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Poor Asher. I'm praying for him. Big hugs.
Oh, that poor baby, just reading your messages is breaking my heart. Hopefully they'll have a diagnosis soon.

He's so beautiful, but you can tell from a couple of his pictures he doesn't seem to feel good.

My prayers are with you and please give Asher some extra big hugs and kisses from the Hooligans and me.
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What a handsome puppy he is. I'm sorry you have to go through this and I really hope he gets over the hump and starts feeling better soon. *Long-distance hugs.*
I am sorry. Hang in there Asher. Your mom and the Vet are trying really hard they just need you to hang in there.

I did a google:

Here is another link:
Asher update
I dropped off his meds this morning at the vets and they had him out to go to the toilet so I got to see him. He looks horrible, much worse than when I left him there. He is very, very unstable on his feet. They left me to get him to go to the toilet and while I was walking him he fell over before I could stop him poor boy. I had to lift him to get him back up.
We got back inside alright, very slow going as his paws keep flipping over onto themselves and he was swaying a lot. I must say his pen is a little better than I expected, its a corner of the room which has a cage across it, so he is able to move around freely and stand up without bumping his head, I expected one of those cages with barely enough room to move around in. He has a blanket and food and water, but because he is not eating, they are going to give him some chicken for lunch, so I know he is being well taken care of.
His temperature has risen again, to 40.4. His catheter has been taken out as his leg is swollen from it, which they said isn't uncommon when they have an infection already and have the catheter in for a while. He is drinking on his own which is good, and no longer has loose stools. He has lost more weight and condition, and his eyes have not really improved, in fact the gunky one, which was clean when I went there, seems to have swollen a little as well.
I have to ring back again at 4pm to see how he is, and the results of the blood test should be back by then.
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Thanks all for the well wishes, it means a lot
Oh my gosh-I read this morning before I left and was truly hoping he would be doing better. Is that his baby pic in your avatar? He is a beautiful boy then and now.

I can't give you the science behind it but I am going to recommend a supplement I swear by (used in race horses initially in animals, Eastern block athletes before that) that supposedly has no negative effect if it doesn't work. It is called DMG and I am convinced that it helped in the healing process for my 15 year old dog after emergency bloat/stomach tacking/liver tumor removal and my 11 year old from a GIANT abcess/infection that she had. I trust VetriScience by name. Now, I may be crazy (yes) and maybe they would have healed at the same rate without it. they also have a new formula for liver support.

I think part of it was that I felt like I was doing something. I know how hard it is when you have to just sit back and wait and hope. I am hoping that he is donig much better soon.
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I am so sorry to hear Asher isn't doing. I teared up reading about him. My 4 leggeds and I are sending him healing energy. I hope it can make it all the way down there.

And I second Jean's suggestion. Supplements could help; there's certainly nothing to lose at this point.
Thanks Jean & Ruth

Yes Jean, that is his puppy pic in my avatar, he was 6 weeks old there. I will ask my vet about the DMG, as he is on a few different drugs at the moment and I dont want to affect them by adding a supplement. It will also depend if I can get DMG in Aus, but I had a read of the link and it looks good. I think he will be in hospital for a while yet until the drugs start to take effect and he improves. Fingers crossed for good news from the blood test, I find out in 2 hours
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