How One Brave Frenchie Faced IVDD on Two Front Paws

How One Brave Frenchie Faced IVDD on Two Front Paws

If you’re a pet owner, I’m sure you can relate: No pawrent ever wishes for any harm or tragedy to befall their beloved pets. When we introduce a new pet into our lives, they immediately become like family to us — so much so that some of us go to the extent of endearingly referring to them as our furbabies too.

Needless to say, when Denise first welcomed her new French Bulldog puppy into her life, the future looked warm, bright and full of licks and cuddles. Having owned dogs growing up, it made sense for her to continue being a dog owner as she entered adulthood.

A French Bulldog seemed like the perfect companion; with their rounded pointed ears, adorable wrinkly snout and charming smile, Denise named her new Frenchie, “Boo”.

It was a happy couple of years with Boo living her best life, attending numerous puppy playdates, cafe-hopping, dressing up in fun costumes and having amazing pup-ventures all around. Boo was enjoying her puppyhood days to the fullest until one day when something unexpected occurred.

One Fateful Day

The day when Boo started losing sensation in her hind legs
Source: Boo the Frenchie

What started off as a normal day like any other, quickly took a turn for the worst when afternoon came. Boo suddenly exhibited walking difficulties, struggling to walk properly on her hind legs. Undeniably, this immediately worried Denise who wasted no time bringing him to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.

Initially, Boo was subjected to an x-ray test to pinpoint the source of her mysterious leg ailment, but the vet couldn’t detect anything significant. As a result, Boo was sent home that morning with a bottle of painkillers and put under close observation by Denise.

However, by the next day, Denise still felt that something wasn’t quite right, so she sought a second opinion at other vets.

After a series of anxious visits to multiple vets, Boo was ultimately diagnosed with IVDD.

Denise recalls, “When the condition came, the first thing I suspected was actually [IVDD], but the issue was that, it was not like widely publicised or rather, widely known in the dog community in Singapore. Or maybe there is, but it’s just that people were not as active on social media back then.”

But what exactly is IVDD?

Source: handicappedpets.com

IVDD stands for intervertebral disc disease. It’s a disease caused when cushioning discs between the vertebrae of a dog’s spine hardens. Upon hardening, the spinal column would no longer have adequate shock absorbers between each vertebra.

This is when an accidental forceful movement like jumping suddenly causes a disc(s) to burst and pinches painfully onto the dog’s spinal nerves.

IVDD can manifest in a range of symptoms. In milder cases, dogs might simply experience slight pain but in the most severe cases, dogs could suffer from permanent paralysis.

Unfortunately, Boo’s condition would soon be revealed to fall under the latter.

She further comments, “I mean, if you go on forums and such, then obviously there are a lot of people in the US having this experience. But I think locally, there were not many dog owners sharing this experience, so it was very very difficult.”

“It’s a lot of ‘what ifs’, ‘it could be’, ‘might be’, you get what I mean?”

This led Denise to ruminate and emphasise the importance of seeking multiple medical opinions too.

“If you have a dog, I think it’s very important to go to a specialist that has the full range of procedures like the MRI.”

“Not all vets will have MRI, not all vets will have x-rays, not all vets have CT scans.”

“So imagine if that particular vet doesn’t have any of those tests, you’ll have to bring your pet from one vet to another vet. And then at that moment, imagine you’re already panicking and emotionally unstable, so it’s very difficult to bring [Boo] through that round.”

Needless to say, it was an utterly overwhelming ordeal for Denise and Boo. The entire situation was physically, emotionally and mentally draining overall.

“It took us about two days — just two days,” Denise sighs, “and everything went downhill.”

After the Diagnosis

Source: Boo the Frenchie

As with any huge, life-changing event, Boo’s battle with IVDD is no exception. While she could initially walk on the first day, her condition deteriorated rapidly by the afternoon of the second day.

Naturally, adjusting and accommodating to Boo’s new condition was difficult and challenging, forcing Denise to make many life changes instantly overnight. Apart from the obvious concerns like time, money and personal freedom forfeited caring for a newly disabled dog, there’s always a silver lining behind every dark cloud.

With gratitude and appreciation, Denise thanked her family for being her stable and constant support system throughout this tough period in time.

“[Family] provide the only time for you to free yourself, like when you need a day off. So yeah, I think family support is the next important thing that I have.”

Especially with the initial- and after-care that comes with attending to a handicapped dog, there are a lot of considerations to grapple with.

“The initial output for the operation is just a one-time payment. After that, you have the physiotherapy, the food, the pampers, you know, it’s like bringing a baby home.”

Boo at a physiotherapy session
Source: Boo the Frenchie

And by now, it’s no secret that owning a pet is not a cheap affair. In fact, it can amount to a hefty sum when it comes to medical bills. Overall, Denise paid close to $14,000 for the IVDD operation alone. Following that, Boo also had to attend about 20 physiotherapy sessions per month, accumulating an additional $3,600 too.

“Basically, anything that I earn from my salary goes to [Boo],” Denise reflects. “Previously, all the money I earned went to her clothes, bringing her out and all that; but now, it all goes to her medical and care.”

Learning to Live with IVDD: One Year On

Denise’s Perspective

Denise and Boo enjoying a cafe date together
Source: Boo the Frenchie

For Denise, the struggles and personal sacrifices she made for Boo were definitely commendable and inspiring — all to give her precious Frenchie a renewed chance at life.

“We mainly had to surround ourselves around [Boo] and her wellbeing,” surmises Denise.

She had to forego a lot of personal time, skipping most late-night hangouts with her friends and coming home at 11.30 pm instead. Due to Boo’s incontinence, a night routine was a must in order to clear Boo’s bladder and bowels and avoid a messy situation all around.

Going out with Boo was admittedly more tedious as well, requiring a more comprehensive preparation process before heading out the door. Numerous pee pads, wet and dry tissue packets, and water bottles were just some of the things to account for.

“It’s like bringing a baby out, you know,” Denise chuckles. “So you need to prepare a whole diaper bag, really.”

Even when it came to important life milestones like marriage, Denise had to put a pause on it too. Although desiring to get married and start a family with her boyfriend, Boo’s battle with IVDD introduced a barrage of tricky factors that were now part of the equation.

“Who’s going to take care of her? Are we going to hire a helper specifically for her?”

“A lot of my friends and those around me who refrain from marriage usually do so due to other concerns like money or parents and whatnot. But for us, we’re putting things on hold because we don’t know how to settle Boo.”

Boo’s Perspective

A happy Boo at the beach
Source: Boo the Frenchie

Physical Health

On the other hand, the energy and outlook that dogs possess for life are truly unmatched and remarkable. Regardless of her disease, Boo never saw herself as any different from other dogs nor from her previous life.

Despite all the challenges, Boo never lost her spunk and zest for life.

Even at home, Boo practised her sense of independence very well — refusing to rely on the doggy wheelchair and instead, opted to travel around the house on her two front legs and drag her hind legs behind like a seal. (Yes, a seal).

Yet simultaneously, the doggy wheelchair becomes a tool that empowers Boo to live her best life doing endless zoomies whenever Denise brings her out.

“We still want to make her feel normal. I think it all takes time.”

“We all accepted that she’s like that, so we just had to make her feel more like a normal dog to places that we used to go; that she’s not any different from (my other two) dogs at home.”

Boo posing proudly with her delicious Northwest Naturals munchies

Diet

Apart from adapting physically, one of the other most significant changes that Boo underwent was also her diet.

As a puppy, Denise had adopted a mixture of dry kibbles and yummy food for conducting training. Within six months, Boo was successfully transitioned out into a homecooked diet.

However, doubts soon crept up on Denise as she worried about her ability to retain the full nutritional benefits and vitamin supplements when cooking. After all, it’s a well-known fact that many essential nutrients are lost through the cooking process.

Eventually, this led Denise to turn to Northwest Naturals, a nutritious freeze-dried, frozen and raw diet, made in the USA, and beloved by many pets all over the world.

“Boo was on a raw diet for about three, almost four years. I think a raw diet was one of the better [diets] actually. Boo has a lot of allergies, so we streamlined it down, and felt that raw or rather lamb protein, was one of the better ones.”

Denise went on to elaborate, “There’s really a difference you can tell between homecooked food and raw food diet.”

“Boo’s coat is actually much nicer [with raw food]. Because Boo’s coat is black, her fur becomes shinier and really nice and soft. So actually raw diet was really very good for Boo, you can notice the difference in her — both in her appearance and wellbeing.”

Furthermore, Northwest Naturals has also been great for Boo’s bout of allergies. Since Northwest Naturals tend to separate single protein ingredients within each flavour, it was much easier to monitor and isolate specific ingredients in Boo’s diet.

Source: Northwest Naturals

“Basically, if you need turkey, everything is turkey. If you need lamb, everything is lamb,” Denise remarked. “So it’s easy to eliminate unnecessary or undesired ingredients, essentially giving me control over Boo’s diet.”

“I won’t have to worry about a mixture of different proteins like lamb meat and chicken organs.”

Moreover, this is supported by the fact that Northwest Naturals doesn’t use any artificial ingredients, colours or fillers. Variations in meat colour, texture and size all depended on factors like age and species of the livestock used, to name a few.

All of Northwest Naturals food is also certified in food safety, with all their raw pet food undergoing a freeze-dried manufacturing process known as High-Pressure Processing (HPP).

A macro overview of the HPP procedure
Source: Northwest Naturals

HPP involves applying immense water pressure on a packaged food product for a short duration of time until a defined chilled water pressure of approximately 87,000 PSI or 6,000 bars is achieved.

The uniformly high pressure targets microscopic cell walls without compromising molecular structures of essential nutritious food components (e.g. proteins, minerals, vitamins and enzymes) and beneficial bacteria.

Once the cell walls are fractured, harmful food-borne pathogens are inactivated whilst continually preserving good bacteria by maintaining water pressure level and hold time accordingly.

In a nutshell, Northwest Naturals has the seal of approval for nutritious yet completely safe raw food perfect for your beloved furpal’s next meal.

Other benefits of the impressive HPP process includes:

  • zero chances of any food re-contamination,
  • the original flavours and food textures being retained for maximum freshness and deliciousness!

It’s no wonder Denise swears by the brand to be her go-to for raw pet food diets, especially for a handicapped dog with a sensitive digestive system such as Boo.

A Lifelong Condition-Turned-Life Lessons

Source: Boo the Frenchie

At the end of the day, pet ownership is never a guaranteed smooth-sailing journey. As much as it’s filled with joy, laughter and adoration, it’s also filled with lots of challenges and adversities.

To Denise, she never expected to become a pawrent to a handicapped dog, yet five years on, she didn’t regret one bit of the journey as long as she could provide Boo with the best life she deserved. The in-between moments were what mattered to her the most.

Life happens, and one cannot simply expect the best just because they gave their best. Instead, Denise and Boo boldly transformed their hardships into a pillar of support for others through Boo’s social media presence to raise awareness for IVDD dogs in Singapore.

She wanted to use Boo’s platform to champion a safe community for other dog owners caring for IVDD dogs to come forward and share their experiences to uplift one another. A true misfortune-turned-blessing tale, Boo and Denise are a dynamic duo, a strong force to be reckoned with that won’t go down easily without a fight.

If you want to continue following Denise’s and Boo’s story, find them at @boo._thefrenchie on Instagram.

For more details on Northwest Naturals, you can also check them out here, or browse through a wide selection of flavours available and secure your first bag of raw pet food from our Clubpets E-store!

Special thanks to Magicdow Photography for the photoshoot.