Fix Napoleon’s Spine

Napoleon has had a rough life. His entire litter was positive for parvovirus (a serious and often deadly disease) at 2 weeks old, and somehow this little fighter survived. He had an obstruction in his GI tract as a puppy that required hospitalization. In 2016 he had surgery for ruptured anal glands (a serious surgery but a frequent source of jokes about his “butt surgery”). Last year he had a bout of pancreatitis that landed him in the hospital for a few days. Through all of these hardships, he has always been the sweetest, happiest dog, and he has been a wonderful patient for all of the doctors and nurses who have helped him recover from his illnesses and surgeries.

For the last year and a half, Napoleon has been in rehabilitation for ataxia (a wobbly gait that makes him walk like a new puppy), and weakness and muscle loss in his rear legs. Rehab had been helping him regain muscle mass and strength for a long time, but at his last exam a few weeks ago he had actually lost a lot of the progress he had made over the last year. This made me think something more serious than old age could be causing these symptoms, so I took him to a neurologist at my work.

Without doing an expensive MRI, it is hard to know for sure exactly what’s wrong, but she has a strong suspicion that Napoleon has Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) and Wobbler’s Disease (a similar disc disease affecting his neck and front limbs). Essentially, the discs in between his vertebrae are bulging and inflamed, causing compression of his spinal cord. This would explain his weakness, muscle loss, and abnormal gait. It does cause him a significant amount of pain that I was unaware of, which is heartbreaking for me to think about.

If left untreated, these diseases will only progress, causing incontinence, further pain, and even paralysis. Mild cases can use rehabilitation and medications, but severe cases require surgical correction. Without an MRI, we don’t know the best way to treat, or if we could be wrong and he has a mass (cancer) or an inflammatory disease. This leaves us to treat him non-specifically with medications that may or may not help since we don’t know what we’re treating. He will also likely need rehab for the rest of his life, no matter how we end up treating him.

Up until now, Philip and I have been so fortunate to be able to provide the care he needed, no matter the cost. We have another dog, Dexter, that has also been a neuro and rehab patient that we have been financing as well. I am so lucky to work in a place where I can provide the care they need at a discounted cost. But even with my discount, the costs have added up significantly for both dogs over the last year, and we are unable to provide Napoleon with an MRI. At this point, all of these issues would be considered “preexisting conditions” so insurance is not an option for him.

So we are asking for your help. With your donation, we’ll be able to get his MRI to confirm a diagnosis and begin a more targeted treatment, leading to a better prognosis. He’ll be able to continue rehabilitation to control his pain and hopefully regain his strength. We thank you so much for reading his story, and would so appreciate any amount you can give, large or small. Please share this fundraiser with your friends, family, and dog friendly groups. All we want is for Napoleon to have a happy, healthy, pain free life.
  • Phil Garofalo 
    • 10 $ 
    • 50 mos
  • Aunt Chele 
    • 25 $ 
    • 51 mos
  • courtney kirkham 
    • 10 $ 
    • 51 mos
  • Christine Kayser 
    • 10 $ 
    • 51 mos
  • Kim Correa 
    • 5 $ 
    • 51 mos
See all


Lauren Tibitoski 
Chicago, IL

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