Meet Winston - a 4-year-old French Bulldog living his best life in New York City. He takes pride in showing off his fabulous sense of style on Instagram and TikTok and loves nothing more than spending quality time with his paw-rents.
Winston is also an IVDD Survivor.
In April 2022, Winston suddenly began losing mobility in his front legs and after a visit to the emergency vet, he underwent cervical spine surgery for a herniated disc.
Fortunately, with lots of rest, check-ups, and love, Winston has made an incredible recovery.
Today, we’ve teamed up with his Momager and paw-rent, Misha, to share Winston’s journey in hopes of raising awareness about IVDD and what we can do as pet owners to help reduce the chances of IVDD episodes in Frenchies and other susceptible breeds.
Before diving into Winston’s story, we want to address "what exactly is IVDD?" and why it’s important for dog owners to be aware of this back condition:
Intervertebral Disc Disease, frequently shortened to IVDD, is a degenerative spinal disease that commonly affects breeds with short legs and longer bodies (formally known as chondrodystrophic breeds). While IVDD impacts nearly 25% of Dachshunds, other breeds, such as Corgis, Basset Hounds, French Bulldogs, and Yorkshire Terriers, are also prone to developing this back condition.
Like human spines, dogs also have discs between their vertebrae. IVDD occurs when the outer layers of these discs harden over time - making it easier for them to bulge or burst. When a disc bulges or bursts, it can compress a dog’s spinal cord and lead to extreme pain, weakened legs, and even paralysis. Treating Intervertebral Disc Disease also involves intensive and expensive surgeries and/or months of rehabilitation/recovery.
IVDD can often go undetected until a disc ruptures, which can be triggered by a hard impact or injury sustained from an everyday activity such as using stairs, wrestling, or jumping as shown below:
That’s why it’s essential for dogs prone to IVDD to avoid too many hard and repetitive landings and have access to an impact-free alternative to jumping if they enjoy spending time on couches and beds.
Before showing any signs of IVDD, Winston would run to the door with excitement whenever his paw-rents would come home and show nothing but enthusiasm when heading out for a walk.
One day near the end of April 2022, Winston’s behavior suddenly changed and he stopped showing any interest in his favorite routines. When taken outdoors, he refused to walk, and once home, he appeared extremely uncomfortable and had difficulty finding a sitting or laying position.
Due to the discomfort he was experiencing, Winston kept shifting and turning in an attempt to find a sitting or laying position that would allow him to rest.
At that time, Winston was still eating normally and was capable of taking care of his business, but his paw-rent, Misha, had a feeling that something serious was going on. She quickly took her pup to see the vet.
Initially, Winston was diagnosed with a sprained neck and given medication to treat the pain.
Unfortunately, later that evening, his mobility worsened, he became very stiff, and began swaying from side to side.
The following morning, Misha took Winston to the emergency vet and at that point, his balance had gotten worse and he was experiencing difficulty holding himself up with his front legs. It was heartbreaking for Misha to see her pup in such discomfort and pain.
The vet had Winston see a neurologist and had the Frenchie stay at the clinic overnight so that they could ease his discomfort and keep an eye on his mobility. After having an MRI the next day, he was immediately admitted for emergency surgery to treat a herniated disc in his cervical spine.
Winston the day after his surgery. In order to operate on his cervical spine, the veterinary team had to make the incision down his upper chest.
A day later, Winston was reunited with his paw-rents. While the surgery had been a success, the Frenchie would still have a long and demanding recovery ahead of him.
After returning home, Winston was required to be on crate rest for the following 3 weeks. He needed help from his paw-rents in order to eat and had to follow a strict medication schedule. 6 days after his surgery, he could only manage a few steps before his front legs would give out.
Winston's paw-rents would support his body with a sling so that he could eat his meals.
The 4-year-old Frenchie would spend his days resting and receiving lots of love from his paw-rents. After 3 weeks, he was finally cleared by his vet to start taking 10-minute walks outdoors.
Winston during one of his first walks after his surgery.
With lots of patience, care, and practice, Winston has made an amazing recovery from his herniated disc and spinal surgery. Today, he is back to enjoying his favorite activities and giving his fans tons of laughs with his latest TikToks and Instagram Reels.
While a disc that's been corrected through surgery should not pose any further issues, as a degenerative disease, it’s still possible for dogs to experience another IVDD episode from a different disc down the road. Therefore, Winston’s paw-rents have taken action and “Frenchie-proofed” their apartment in order to reduce the risk of future IVDD flare-ups.
As a genetic condition, there’s no concrete way of preventing Intervertebral Disc Disease in French Bulldogs or other chondrodystrophic breeds. However, there are precautions pet owners can take to help minimize the risk of their dog experiencing a bulging or burst disc.
One of the most important ways of helping to protect a dog’s spine is by reducing the amount of impact they experience in day-to-day life.
If your Frenchie enjoys spending time on the couch, bed, or another piece of furniture, providing them with an alternative to jumping is key. Dog ramps are a simple and effective way of giving dogs impact-free access to and from their favorite hangout spots.
In order to "Frenchie-proof" their home and keep their pup safe, Winston’s paw-rents have set up indoor dog ramps leading up to their couch (one of Winston’s preferred napping spots) and their bed.
Winston has also already found more than one way to enjoy his couch ramp and chooses to use it as a bed too!
There’s no such thing as having too many napping spots!
When it comes to their DoggoRamps Couch Ramp, Misha and Winston love how the Coastal Grey finish is the perfect match for their furniture and are big fans of the ramp’s anti-slip PAWGRIP surface. Misha reports that it’s gentle enough for Winston’s paw pads yet provides a sturdy grip and does not rip.
Moving forward, Winston and Misha hope to continue raising awareness about IVDD in French Bulldogs so that other Frenchie paw-rents don’t have to go through such heart-wrenching experiences due to the back disease.
The DoggoRamps Team wants to extend a big thank you to Misha, Winston's paw-rent, for giving us the opportunity to share her pup’s story.
And to find the perfect dog ramp for your pup, check out:
Comments will be approved before showing up.