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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 18150
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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I am looking . My GSD has recently had spinal

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Hello I am looking for advice. My GSD has recently had spinal surgery where (two weeks today) 3 discs were damaged. She appeared to be making progress in the sense that a week ago when I tickled her feet she had slight reflex action. Over last weekend we had a call from the vet to say she had been left for 5 mins and in that time she had chewed at her toes and nails and caused acute damage. I had incidentally brought this to their attention and they had noticed excessive licking to her back feet and had shaved the area concerned. They have sedated her and attended to the foot and have had to put a buster collar on her which caused her distress and to reduce the distress the are administering diazepam. I visited her on Monday and subsequently but now she is not reacting on her back end and they are saying there is not the improvement they would like to see and therefore they are suggesting that "I let her go" with an appointment this evening. I feel angry and frustrated as I would always like to do the best thing for my animals but now it seems that with a heavy heart I have no way out. I would be grateful for any advice.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I am so sorry to hear about the things that are going on with Ruby and I'd like to help.
I can understand your sadness and frustration with doing everything you could to get her well and now having her in this condition. Unfortunately there are patients that have surgery and do not regain function, and some even worsen after surgery. There isn't a good way to predict which dogs that will be and it is through no fault of the surgeon, we simply see continued deterioration even with relieving pressure. The only thing that we know for sure is that the sooner surgery is done the better chance that we have to stop damage from pressure on the spinal cord and regain function.
Her increased licking and attention to her feet probably was a sign that she was experiencing "phantom pain", a feeling of tingling of the feet even when true sensation is lost. It is natural and normal for a dog to lick an area that is itchy or painful. The problem arises when they cannot feel the degree of damage they are doing because they have lost pain sensation. The less the feel the more vigorously they lick, and there are dogs that chew off toes or down to bone because there is no negative feedback (pain) to make them stop. When that occurs we know that pain sensation is gone, and in all probability won't return. Once a pup starts licking and aggressively chewing it is almost impossible to get them to stop.
I know that it is so difficult to think of letting her go, but if you think of what her quality of life will be with a constant urge to lick or chew at her feet, but be unable to do so because she will severely damage them, and the risk of deep infections from trauma because she cannot feel her rear feet and legs that may make your decision a little easier.
You did all the right things and gave her the best opportunity to get well that you could by having surgery. In some cases though no matter what we do the damage is too great and then we must choose to think of their quality of life above our want to have them with us.I am so sorry that you and she are going through this.
Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hello Dr Kara

Thank you for your prompt response. I know what you are saying and I do agree that her quality of life is the most important thing. I think I just needed reassurance for an impartial viewpoint that I am doing the right thing by Ruby for her wellbeing. She was a rescue and has been in our home for 6 years had has been a real asset and such a sweet natured dog who will be greatly missed, especially by our other Shepherd Dax.

Once again thank you this had greatly helped with my decision as the regarding her chewing has not been explained to me. The vet said in all his years he had not experienced this in his surgery and it came as a great shock.



Ange, I am so sorry, this is heartbreaking for you and Ruby both.
I've only ever see this happen once personally. It was in a young shepherd puppy that had been hit by a car and sustained nerve damage to a front leg. Being young we thought that she might come along in time. But like your girl one day she simply started licking and chewing at the paw and damaged herself quite badly in a matter of minutes.
The decision to let a beloved friend go is never an easy one when they are so sweet natured and loved by all, and you Ruby and Dax will be in my thoughts today. I hope it is of some comfort that she had heaven with you for 6 years, and being a rescue she realized her great good fortune. I hope for a peaceful end for all, please take care, Dr. Kara.
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