mini tala update
For any of you who are following the Tala saga in detail, I now have a clearer picture of the diagnosis. (I certainly don't expect the majority of wmtc readers to follow this closely, but since some friends are, it's easier to post it here.)
Tala does not have canine degenerative disc disease. She has a more specific condition - also chronic, progressive, and degenerative - called cauda equina syndrome, or lumbrosacral disease.
German Shepherds are prone to this. Although Tala's personality and her size run much more to her Husky side, she clearly has strong Shepherd genetics, too. Apparently her disinclination to climb stairs was a huge clue.
Our regular vets agree that our conservative approach is wise, at least for now. There are several different types of drugs we can try, which can be used in combination, with a possibly positive synergistic effect.
The folks at OVC in Guelph are incredibly skilled, caring, and thorough, and it's a state of the art facility. But they are often lacking in two areas.
One, like many specialists, they fail to see the whole dog. For example, after Cody's tumour was removed, they recommended chemotherapy. Cody was 13 years old, with arthritis, creeping dementia, and severe hip displaysia. No way we were taking her to Guleph every three weeks for chemotherapy! But they really pushed it. We had to use our own judgment and consult with our regular vet to chart a more rational and humane course. So when it comes to surgery, I wouldn't necessarily accept their guidance.
The other area where they are not always stellar is communication. The orthopedist we saw (Tala's first and second OVC appointments) was exceptional, and we came away understanding Tala's condition was probably a compressed nerve caused by cauda equina syndrome. But after meeting with the neurologist (the third appointment), I was dazed and confused. Now, however, he's given his report to our regular vet, and I had a long chat with her. And only now do I really understand what's going on.
Our vet also suggested we get a second opinion. There's an experienced person at the Mississauga-Oakville Animal Hospital. I think we should go for that, too.
It still sucks. But I'm now at least I feel I have a better handle on what's happening. Small comfort, but it helps me cope.