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The Specials: Adopting a Dog with Autoimmune Issues

Justine knew she wanted a miniature Dachshund. Growing up, her family had always had doxies and she loved their spunk and big, sparkling personalities. Although she was living in Chicago, she applied to adopt a four year old male miniature Dachshund through Save A Stray, a rescue in southwest Michigan near her hometown. Unfortunately for Justine, the dog was adopted before she had a chance to meet him.

Adopting a dog with meningomyelitis and autoimmune issues

Adopting A Dog With Meningomyelitis and Autoimmune Issues

A few week later, the rescue emailed her about another available miniature Dachshund. This dog was older, had some health issues, and the rescue wasn’t sure Justine (or anyone) would be interested. Justine immediately made the 90 minute drive from Chicago to Michigan and met Lilly at the local adoption center at PetSmart. Lilly was eight years old had a bad case of fleas, rotting teeth, and patches of hair loss with crusty, bloody skin. In spite of her poor condition, Justine knew the moment she held her for the first time that she would never let Lilly go.

Lilly had clearly been neglected. Her teeth and gums were so infected that there was a large abscess on the side of her face, which led to three consecutive dentals and 24 teeth pulled in total. She also continued to suffer from extreme itchy skin and discomfort. Assuming the cause was allergy related, Lilly spent her first year and a half undergoing testing to determine the source. But again and again, testing revealed no known allergies.

Meningomyelitis in dogs

Easter 2014, Lilly’s condition took a frightening turn for the worse: she began limping which quickly led to complete paralysis. Justine rushed her to an emergency veterinarian assuming it was a slipped disc, a condition to which dachshunds are prone. But treatment didn’t help and her pain and paralysis continued. The emergency vet recommended transferring her to a neurologist for an MRI. After four days in the hospital, an MRI, and a spinal tap, she finally received her diagnosis of Meningomyelitis.

Meningomyelitis refers to the inflammation of the sheath covering the nerves of the central nervous system, differing from meningitis in that the nerve itself also shows signs of inflammation. This condition may arise from either infection, autoimmune reaction, or trauma.

After three years, Lilly finally had a diagnosis and treatment began immediately. Lilly’s condition is autoimmune in nature and she now follows a daily regime of steroids including Prednisone and Atopica. Additionally, she requires careful monitoring and blood work every three or four months to check her kidney levels. Her skin issues have healed and she is pain free and comfortable.

Adopting a senior dog with autoimmune issues and Meningomyelitis

Lilly enjoys walks and playing with her toys; she even played fetch with me when I visited. She also loves the park where like all doxies, she assumes her natural leadership position, bossing around dogs three times her size. Her only limitations are stairs and jumping. Fortunately, Justine is around to help her on and off the couch.

Although Lilly’s diagnosis and treatment have been stressful and expensive, Justine has never doubted her decision to adopt her and provide her with the unconditional love and supportive care she needed to heal and now thrive. Justine is a shining example of responsible and compassionate adoption and pet guardianship. May she and Lilly have many more beautiful years together.

Lilly is part of The Specials, an award-winning blog series focusing on special needs pet adoption. Senior pets, those with chronic medical issues, behavioral or temperament concerns as well as overlooked or misunderstood breeds like Pits and black cats. If not for the courage and compassion of their adopters, many of these animals might have been euthanized in shelters or died alone and hungry on the streets. You can read more special needs adoption posts here.

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  1. Mitch and Molly
    February 29, 2016 / 10:07 am

    Lilly is a doll. Bless Justine for taking such good care of her♥

  2. Marg
    February 29, 2016 / 11:07 am

    Oh what a great story. Justine is such a great person to do all that she did for this cute little dog. We sure do thank her from the bottom of our hearts.

  3. Mark Muller
    February 29, 2016 / 11:16 am

    A giant hug for Justine for rescuing Lilly… I bet every day they spend together is super special… thanks for a wonderful story about true love :o)

  4. Gattina
    February 29, 2016 / 1:42 pm

    I can only admire people like Justine ! What a sad story with fortunately a happy end !

  5. Sandra
    February 29, 2016 / 2:15 pm

    Lily is beautiful and i Happy endings are not just for fairy tales. so glad she found her mama and that they now know how to treat her.

  6. The Menagerie Mom
    February 29, 2016 / 3:24 pm

    I'm so happy for both Lilly and Justine. Lilly is beautiful, and I'm glad she found her happy ending with Justine. Many kudos to Justine for adopting Lilly, and for staying by her side even when times got rough. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us!

  7. Groovy Goldendoodles
    February 29, 2016 / 3:32 pm

    What an inspirational story. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  8. Casey
    February 29, 2016 / 3:59 pm

    Lilly is so lovely, and she and Justine were so lucky to find each other!

  9. Yamini MacLean
    February 29, 2016 / 4:05 pm

    Hari OMAs ever, I sit in awe of the Love at work!!! Hugs and wags, YAM-aunty xxx

  10. Two French Bulldogs
    February 29, 2016 / 4:15 pm

    What a sweetheart Lily & Edward

  11. Inger
    February 29, 2016 / 4:21 pm

    I'm so glad for the happy ending.

  12. Sweet William The Scot
    February 29, 2016 / 5:12 pm

    Well if Lilly lives as long as Lee's fathers doxy which was nineteen years they will have a long time together. Lilly has a very inquisitive look.We love your specials.Thanks for being a friendSweet William The Scot

  13. Bocci
    February 29, 2016 / 5:52 pm

    Yes, we love your "Specials", too! Lilly is just adorable, and Justine is a shining example of a wonderful parental unit to a dog with special needs.

  14. Bouncing Bertie
    February 29, 2016 / 6:15 pm

    What a wonderful thing Justine has done, making such a difference to this dear little dachshund. Hoping Lilly has many more happy and pain free years with her caring and loving family. Cheers, Gail.

  15. Bailey
    February 29, 2016 / 6:19 pm

    Beautiful story. Hope they have a long time together.

  16. Sketching with Dogs
    February 29, 2016 / 6:30 pm

    How wonderful for Justine to adopt a dog with such serious medical needs, she is a true dog lover.So glad to hear Lilly is happy and pain free now.Lynne x

  17. Denise Gruzensky
    February 29, 2016 / 6:46 pm

    We love our specials! Justine has an amazing heart, she and Lilly are lucky to find each other! I'm sure she would say it would be difficult to decide who rescued who. We definitely feel that way about our our Diabetes & Cushing's boys!!

  18. Murphy
    February 29, 2016 / 7:35 pm

    We just love these happy endings!Keep Calm & Bark On!Murphy & Stanley

  19. Madi and Mom
    February 29, 2016 / 8:34 pm


  20. tubby3pug
    February 29, 2016 / 9:36 pm

    Lily is gorgeous. My husbands family has doxies abs I've always loved them

  21. Foley Monster, Pocket and River Song
    February 29, 2016 / 9:54 pm

    We do love these stories. So happy Lily found the right home and I am sure she has filled it with joy

  22. Idaho PugRanch
    February 29, 2016 / 9:55 pm

    Lilly is such a beauty, and her mom is an angel on earthhugsMr Bailey, hazel & Mabel

  23. Anonymous
    February 29, 2016 / 10:36 pm

    Aaaaaaw Lily is very purretty and such a gweat story. Fanks fur sharin'.Luv ya'Dezi and Lexi

  24. Tenacious Little Terrier
    February 29, 2016 / 11:51 pm

    I'm glad Lilly found her happy ending! It's a shame how neglected she was before.

  25. Brian
    March 1, 2016 / 12:59 am

    Lilly is so darn cute and we are so glad she found her happy!

  26. Hailey and Zaphod and their Lady
    March 1, 2016 / 1:52 am

    This story really touched my heart. I wish them all the best. Our first dog Loki had an autoimmune disorder. We didn't know that when we got him. It was a long road and in the end his immune mediated hepatitis caused cirrhosis of the liver and we had to say goodbye. I would do it again for the love!

  27. M. K. Clinton
    March 1, 2016 / 2:16 am

    There is a special place in heaven for people that save dogs with a lifetime of problems. Bless both of their hearts. ♥

  28. The Island Cats
    March 1, 2016 / 2:22 am

    We're so glad Lilly found a home with Justine.

  29. Tweedles -- that's me
    March 1, 2016 / 5:57 am

    Ohhh Lilly is beautifullovetweedles

  30. Jean Dion
    March 2, 2016 / 1:14 am

    I absolutely adore doxies. I've had two canine "sister" doxies, and they were both absolutely wonderful. Reading up on this sweetie makes me miss them all the more. I wish Lilly nothing but the best!Jean from Welcome to the Menagerie

  31. Lola The Rescued Cat
    March 2, 2016 / 2:05 am

    Lilly is adorable! She hit the jackpot with a fantastic mom. Paws up to her for loving Lilly so much.

  32. sprinkles
    March 7, 2016 / 3:27 am

    Lilly is just adorable!

  33. Brandon Stoner
    July 19, 2020 / 1:24 pm

    This is a wonderful story. Our dog maizey is 5 and has just been diagnosed with meningomyelitis. We are hoping for a miracle as well. Shes only 5 years old and we need her to pull through!

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