Mr Darcy’s condition

My name is Arndane Platinum Duco! But my call name is Mr Darcy.

I am a mantle Great Dane living in Australia. I love my hoomans most of all, but I also enjoy playing tug and cuddling. I also very much love doggies, kitty cats, birds and horses…..

Mr Darcy went to heaven on the 6th October 2009 at 14 months of age.
the vertebra in his neck were compressing his spinal cord – he was born with this condition; but obvious signs only developed around 11 months of age. This is because that at this age the compression had started to cause damage to his spinal cord and a condition known as Syringomyelia.

What Happened, Chronologically
One weekend, when Mr Darcy was 11 months old his back legs gave out on him. He was having trouble walking and running and every now and then would just fall over. The previous week I had noticed that when he ran his back legs hopped forward together.
I suspected Wobblers disease and so did Mr Darcy’s vet. Mr Darcy spent the day at the vet’s being x-rayed. The Vets found nothing out of the ordinary, although they did find one of Mr Darcy’s hips was a bit dodgy and likely to become dysplastic later on.
Mr Darcy was then referred to a specialist at the university vet hospital.

After talking to Jacob we decided to go ahead with a procedure known as a Myelogram, in which dye is injected into the spinal cord. The dye spreads throughout the cord and reveals any compression. The pictures of Mr Darcy’s spine showed that in one place no dye was getting through at all.

Jacob sent the myelogram images off to Vet radiologists around the world. Some of these radiologists suspected that instead of Wobblers, a cyst may be present and that is what is compressing the spine. This was good news as the operation to fix the cyst is relatively simple.
We booked Mr Darcy in to have an MRI to confirm whether their was a cyst.
We weighed him on the horse scales – he had lost 8 kilograms in a month (about 15 pounds). But the MRI did not reveal a cyst. I showed a ligament that was rubbing against the spine and that one of his cervical vertebra was compressing the spine (“Cervical Vertebral Malformations”). Jacob told us that prognosis without surgery was not good: Mr Darcy had about 6 months left.
We agreed for Mr Darcy to be operated on the next day.
Mr Darcy had a very long operation, over 6 hours. At the moment the spinal cord was decompressed he went into difficulty: blood pressure dropped, hear rate fell. But they managed to keep him going.

Day two after surgery, Jacob called me and asked me to come out. Mr Darcy was not doing well.
There he was with a wound from the back of his head to the top of his shoulders, swollen, and gasping for breath. Jacob said this is not how its meant to be, he was meant to be up by now, he was not meant to be having trouble with breathing, or swelling and he was meant to be eating. They thought maybe his spine had swollen. He was given a drug to get the swelling down and one to make him breath better, as well as oxygen and methadone.

The next day when I came to visit, Mr Darcy looked at me – and I knew what that look meant. He was saying goodbye, he was saying he had had enough. I told him “no way!” I was adamant. I told him he was going to get better. It was obvious though that the drug to stop his spine from swelling had not worked.

Day 6 Jacob called me. He said that Mr Darcy had started to go down hill and asked me to come out. Darcy’s dad came off work. I told him that I thought we should say goodbye to Mr Darcy, and not let him linger any longer. I told the kids that Mr Darcy was not going to get better and that he looked very sick and that they would probably feel very upset to see him. Then I told them that they could come and say goodbye or they could stay with a friend of ours, and that either doing either was ok. Our little boy decided to come and our little girl decided to stay. I think they both made the right decision.

The Last Goodbye
Mr Darcy had been moved into his own area. Under his blankets he was completely emaciated, but his eyes looked a little more alert than they had for a couple of days. He was bleeding a lot from the jowls he had bitten off.
I asked Jacob to put him to sleep for us. Our little boy stroked his ear the way he loved. Darcy’s dad laid his face next to Darcy and breathed on his nose. Mr Darcy blew the air back, the way he had always done – he always loved smelling breath. I cuddled him and kissed his head and told him how much I loved him and thanked him for being our dog.

post mortem
Jacob conducted a post mortem and found that at the time the spinal cord was decompressed Mr Darcy suffered a bleed into the cord (stroke). The blood vessels had been damaged from compression and when the blood flow returned to them they broke.
Jacob said it was likely he was in a fair amount of pain his whole life. And that without the operation Mr Darcy would have only had had a few weeks left as he had already begun deteriorating when we brought him in for the MRI. The post mortem also revealed the Mr Darcy had developed a devastatingly painful condition known as Syringomyelia.

What Mr Darcy had was not Wobblers (cervical vertebral instability) although the clinical signs were similar. He was born with his condition and as he grew it became gradually but subtly worse until 11 months when it began to really affect him.

It is hard to say how many other Great Danes have this same condition. As it presents as Wobblers and requires Myelogram and MRI by a specialist to diagnose. I would say the majority of owners do not go down the track of doing these tests and accept the initial Wobblers diagnosis. This is understandable as these tests are expensive and do not offer any therapeutic benefit in themselves.

follow these links to learn more about syringomyelia:
Video on syringomyelia

Diagnosis and treatment of Syringomyelia


5 comments on “Mr Darcy’s condition

  1. Hi Mr Darcy’s family,
    I was trying to see if there was a way to contact you because I had questions about the research you had done on Wobbler’s when that was what it seemed like Mr Darcy had.
    We’re facing a similar situation where our 13month old dane girl Darwin may have Wobbler’s and I’m trying to do some research on it.
    I was wondering if you had found anything interesting or useful that you wouldn’t mind passing along?
    I think about Mr Darcy often and I hope your family is doing well!
    Brooke and Darwin

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