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Fetch pets: a paralyzed dog walks again after therapy and surgery

There was only a 50% chance that Birdie would walk again.

As pet parents, we fill our days with our dog’s favorite things — like daily runs through the backyard. And although these moments are engrained in our pet's routines, accidents can occur.

Take Birdie, a 4-year-old miniature dachshund from Georgia, whose favorite activity is running through the field at her grandparents’ farm. She’d often run circles around her older brother Dash.

“Birdie was this kind of feisty little girl who ran full tilt and just lived every day like everything in the world was the best thing she'd ever discovered,” Christi, Birdie’s pet parent, said. “The grass was amazing, and the water was amazing. She wanted to roll around in the sunshine.”

And on a beautiful Saturday in early February of this year, Birdie was doing what she loved to do best: running through the yard as Christi watched nearby. But seemingly out of nowhere, the pup let out an awful scream and couldn't move. 

“Birdie was obviously in a tremendous amount of distress, and I didn't know what happened,” Christi explained. “My first thought was something bit her or she broke her leg. And I started screaming for my parents to come help.”

Luckily, Christi’s dad was nearby, and since they’d always been a dachshund family, he immediately knew that the pup had injured her back. Knowing that getting her immediate help was crucial, the pair raced Birdie to the University of Georgia’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. 

The veterinarians determined that Birdie had experienced intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), which is an emergency condition where the discs along the backbone are pushed from their normal position. Christi was told that the pup had a 50% chance of ever walking again but that surgery could help. 

“You do what you have to do at the moment. You have these crazy thoughts about, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ But you have as much chance of a happy ending as a sad ending,” Christi said. “So I put all my hope in it, and we moved forward with surgery.”

But surgery was just the start of Birdie’s recovery. “She wasn’t able to stand or move very well. They kept telling me what life would be like now with a paralyzed dog who would only have function in the front limbs. So you start to ready yourself for what that might look like,” Christi shared. “But these little dogs have other plans.”

RELATED: A wheelchair helps Reuben the Chihuahua mix walk again

Birdie started rehabilitation, including acupuncture, hydrotherapy and physical and laser therapy. Even though these treatments were necessary, the overall costs quickly increased — but luckily, when Birdie was young, Christi signed up for Fetch Pet Insurance

“When I stood in front of this neuro team at the University of Georgia talking about her prognosis, I didn't blink. I didn't have to think about all the costs that would come with it,” Christi shared. “That gave me the ability to have hope in a very dark moment and know that I had this resource that I could use to try to give her the best life that I could despite what had happened to her.”

And Christi was thankful for making that decision. To her, Fetch Pet Insurance provided more than she ever imagined it would. It allowed her to agree to treatments beyond the surgery (like rehabilitation and physical therapy) that encouraged Birdie’s recovery. So far, Fetch has covered around $10,000 of the pup’s vet bills and allowed Christi to focus on how she can make her dog comfortable. 

“I spent most nights on the floor with her because once you go through that back surgery, you have to stay crated for a very extended period of time,” Christi said. 

Because Birdie is a natural born trooper, along with the extra TLC and necessary treatments, she was able to walk again. So now, just a couple of months later, she’s back in her happy place, running through the fields at her grandparents’ farm. 

“I'll take her to the farm, even today, to visit my parents,” Christi explained. “And I just have to let her go. She's still running in the yard and rolling in the grass. I’m literally sprinting behind my paralyzed dog, trying to catch her. It's phenomenal. I literally just can't believe that we're here because I didn't think we'd get here.”

Do you have a story about your Fetch pet you want to share? Email us at [email protected].

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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Photo by Christi

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