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Zeke is our mascot, CEO, and Emotional Support Beast. We absolutely couldn't do it without him! He is smart, adorable, clever, funny, and such a good boy. Scroll down to read Zeke's IVDD story and how he overcame full paralysis!

I was paralyzed, now I'm not! My story with IVDD

My name is Zeke and I'm a French bulldog. I'm also the CEO and official ESB (Emotional Support Beast) of Sanville Real Estate in Irasburg, Vermont. I love nothing more than showing properties with my mom, going to closings, and just networking with clients and customers!


If you don't know, French bulldogs, or "Frenchies," are prone to a plethora of genetic health problems, and I'm no exception. I've had my fair share of trips to the emergency vet. One time I got into some compost and became very ill due to all the mycotoxins I ingested. My sensitive stomach and body couldn't handle it and I had to spend the night at the ER. I was NOT happy, and my mom was distraught! Another time I overheated quickly on a short walk and nearly died! My mom has to take extra precautions with me so I don't overheat, like keeping me cool with wet sun shirts and lots of shade in the summer. It's a constant battle. We are also very susceptible to spine problems, and recently I was diagnosed with a ruptured disc in my neck that left me paralyzed for a while. I want to share my story with you so you can see what I had to go through, how far I've come, and what my future entails, in hopes that you'll heed the warning signs and that your dog never has to go through what I did. Here goes....


It was August in Vermont, and I was enjoying the warmth and sunshine, being outside playing with my parents and toys, and visiting my neighbor friends next door. I was zooming around the yard, flew over a knoll, and landed a bit hard but kept going. I was having a blast! 

French bulldog waiting at vet office

Me and BroMan (Dad) waiting our turn at BEVS in the middle of the night.

French bulldog at vet office

Monday night, I jumped down from the bed and yelped and stiffened up. My parents knew I was in obvious pain, and rushed me to BEVS in Burlington, Vermont, in the middle of the night. We had to wait a very long time, so I just sat there, very still. Because I didn't look like I was going to die, they kept bumping me down the line for other, sicker patients. Eventually the staff recommended we go home and see our normal vet first thing in the morning, so we went home and tried to get a little sleep. I was okay, but still stiff. 


Tuesday morning, I went to LVVS in Hyde Park, my normal vet. I walked in, still a little stiff, and patiently waited until the doctor could see me. Suddenly I heard another dog bark, and I quickly snapped my head to the side to see who it was. Extreme pain shot through my neck and back, all the way down to my toes. I screamed and flailed around. I was so scared and in pain that I pooped everywhere (I'm so embarrassed). My mom yelled for help, and nurses rushed to me. They knew something major was happening, and said I needed an MRI immediately. Unfortunately, doggie MRI machines are few and far between, and the closest one that had an available opening was in Woburn, Massachusetts, the following afternoon, so Mom made the appointment, and we were sent on our way. By then I couldn't walk or really move at all and had to be carried out. I couldn't feel anything from my neck down. 

My parents were so worried. They spent that night on the floor of the living room with me. I still couldn't move. That appointment in Massachusetts couldn't come fast enough!

Me the next morning at LVVS, just minutes before I became paralyzed.

Wednesday morning, we took the four-hour drive to Woburn and I had my MRI. I remember Mom saying it was extremely expensive, but I don't know what that means. The news was not good. I had ruptured a disc in my neck, and it was putting major pressure on my spine, causing full paralysis. The term they used was Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) and mentioned how my breed is a prime candidate for that. They said to my mom, "With Frenchies and IVDD, it's not a matter of 'if.' It's a matter of 'when.' Once there is any evidence of paralysis there is a period of about 24 hours during which emergency surgery may be fully curative, beyond that it is far less effective." We were just over that 24-hour window. Still, she said with emergency surgery there was a 98 percent chance I would walk again, so my mom gave them the go-ahead (and more money) and I was rushed into surgery. I would need to stay in the hospital for at least three days, so my parents headed home. I know it was extremely hard for them to leave me there, but I was in the best hands possible.

Living room floor bedding mess

The living room floor campsite on the night before my MRI.

French bulldog after surgery

Out of surgery with my new fox friend.

My surgery went well, and I was in a recovery kennel when I woke up. Nurses bustled around and there were lots of unfamiliar noises and smells. I was very scared and didn't see my mom anywhere. The nurses and doctor kept coming in to check me, flip me over periodically, and do other unmentionable and embarrassing things like put in catheters. I was getting mad. Sometimes I would snap at them to express my disapproval. It's all I could do as I still couldn't move. They were so kind and patient with me though. The doctor would come in a few times a day and pinch my toes. I could barely feel it. Apparently, they do this to check for reaction and feeling, and to see if my spine is sending signals to my limbs. They said I could feel my toes, but I still couldn't move, and I wasn't progressing as fast as they had hoped. That meant I had to stay even longer in the hospital. Still no sign of my mom, and I was losing hope I'd ever see her again. The nurses did give me a stuffed animal, a fox, and that made me feel a little better.

French bulldog at vet office

So ready to go home.

By the following Monday morning, five days after my surgery, the hospital told my mom that they did everything they could do for me, and the rest of my healing would need to be at home. A few hours later, I saw some familiar and very welcome faces - Mom and BroMan! I still couldn't move but I was so, so happy to see her, and they were so happy to see me! Even though I had to be carried out on a stretcher, I was so happy to leave that place and be with my parents again. 

My parents got me home and settled in. Learning how to take care of a fully paralyzed dog was a huge learning curve for everyone. There were routine flippings every 2 hours to keep me from getting bed sores and stiff joints. They had to learn how to insert a catheter because I still couldn't pee on my own (how humiliating!!!). I remember them saying it was just like taking care of a newborn baby. I couldn't be left alone, had to be kept as still as possible because of my surgery, and required 24/7 care. My mom never once gave up on me though. 

As each day passed, I was able to move a little more. It started with my toes, then my feet, then my legs. I still couldn't stand or sit up on my own, but I could at least move my legs a tiny bit, which was HUGE progress. 


Then, we had a setback. My mom noticed that one of my eyes appeared cloudy, and like it had a hole in it. She was on the phone with vet offices all morning and was given a referral to PEAK Veterinary Referral Service in Burlington. They had an on-site canine ophthalmologist*, so they loaded me up on the makeshift stretcher, and we took the 2-hour drive to Burlington yet again. When I realized I was at another vet's office, I was terrified and started shaking. I didn't want my mom to leave me again! The doctor shined a bright light in my face and gave me three different (and expensive) medications for what she called an eye ulcer. Yet one more genetic issue Frenchies are prone to!

Starting to twitch my legs a little. I'm sick of lying down!

French bulldog at vet office

Oh no.... I'm back at a different vet's office! Mom, please don't leave me here! (Thankfully she didn't have to.)

French bulldog eye ulcer

Now my eye has a hole in it!

Dog in baby crib

They bought me a crib so I'd be safe as I continued to move a little more and more each day. I hated the crib and I let them know it!

The next few days and weeks consisted of numerous checkups at both Woburn and the eye vet, physical therapy and water therapy. I was finally able to pee on my own, even if I couldn't stand up, so that meant no more catheters! About a month after my surgery, I could stand, but I was very shaky and weak, like a newborn foal. I had come so far and wasn't about to give up! I was supposed to be on strict bed rest, but I just wanted to go! I had been down long enough. Shaky standing turned into wobbly steps. Just walking about five feet was enough for me before I'd fall and be exhausted, but I kept at it. My mom had ordered me a custom wheelchair but had to cancel the order because I was progressing quickly and wasn't going to need it! I was anxious and determined to get my life back. My mom and BroMan had worked so hard for me, now it was my turn to work hard.

French bulldog physical therapy

Physical therapy at BEVS. I had to do a lot of work at home as well.

French bulldog at pond

Water therapy with my BroMan at Hartwell Pond.

French bulldog swimming

The heated pool at Gray & Christine's was nice, too!

Two months after my injury, I'm able to walk and even run. Overall, I'm 90% back to normal. Sometimes I still club and drag my right front foot if I'm not concentrating, and I'm still a little wobbly. I also must be super careful and SLOW on stairs. My parents built me numerous ramps around the house and yard. I'm forbidden from jumping up on or down from furniture, or into and out of the truck. No more flying over knolls! I don't like to be carried, but I deal with it. I certainly CAN do these things now, but my parents are terrified of me getting another injury, and I can understand. I wouldn't want to go through that again and wouldn't wish it on anyone! 

Finally feeling up for a little play with BroMan!

This is HUGE! I'm actually standing a little! Such major progress! (The playpen is so I don't roll down the hill into the pond!)

Learning to walk all over again. 

Wobbly but definitely getting better at it!

Hard work and dedication pays off, people! Just look at me go. This is just two months after my injury. I'm living proof that things can get better so don't ever give up!

I'm only four years old and still have a lot of life to live and work to do, but I'll have to take it easy. Frenchies are a fragile breed, although we don't like to admit it! I hope my story can shed some light on the health problems Frenchies face as well as the solutions. Do your research on this breed, buy from a reputable and notable breeder, and overall, just be prepared because the worst can and does happen, but thankfully there are some wonderful vets and facilities out there that go above and beyond. Although I certainly didn't care for it at the time, I must give a barkout to the awesome staff at BEVS and PEAK in Burlington, Vermont, and Woburn Animal Hospital in Woburn, Massachusetts, for their outstanding care and attention. I wouldn't be alive today if not for them, and my awesome and dedicated parents and support team at home!  I'm happy to report I'm back to work full time and ready to resume my duties as official Emotional Support Beast! 


French bulldog hiking in Vermont

BroMan, me, and Mom on a hike in Westmore, Vermont, just two months after my paralysis and surgery.

Thanks for all the well wishes, prayers, cards, and support during this crazy and stressful time. My parents and I are so thankful and grateful! If you'd like to learn more about IVDD in French Bulldogs, here's an informative article.


-Zeke the Beast from the Northeast

*Dr. Sarah Hoy, my canine ophthalmologist at PEAK, has since relocated to BEVS.

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