Spinal Cord Stroke: Would You Know What to Do?
- Chuck is an 11-year-old Australian Shepherd mix who wound up in his local veterinarian’s office one day when he suddenly couldn’t stand or walk.
- Chuck’s vet suspected he’d suffered a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE), also known as a spinal cord stroke, which is caused by an obstruction in a blood vessel in the spinal cord.
- A neurologist agreed with Chuck’s veterinarian, and together they developed a treatment plan than included rehabilitation therapy. Chuck began doing range-of-motion exercises at home, received laser therapy at his local vet’s office, and came to Therapaw, Dr. Becker’s rehab clinic, for hydrotherapy sessions on an underwater treadmill.
- After his very first hydrotherapy session with Teri Baughman, a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Assistant, Chuck’s improvement was so dramatic that he was able to walk into the clinic the following week for his second session on the underwater treadmill! And we are delighted to report that Chuck has continued to make good progress week-by-week.
- Chuck’s story is a wonderful example of the importance of an early intervention and therapy plan, collaboration among the various members of a pet’s health care team, and an owner’s desire to see her dog regain good quality of life.
By Teri Baughman, Certified Canine Rehabilitation Assistant At Dr. Becker
The handsome fellow enjoying a cup of doggy yogurt in the picture to my right is Chuck, an 11-year-old Australian Shepherd mix.
Chuck’s owner brought him to his local veterinarian in June because the dog was suddenly unable to stand or walk, but didn’t seem to be in any pain. Chuck’s vet performed a neurologic exam and diagnosed him with a probable fibrocartilaginous embolism, or FCE.
Chuck Suffered a ‘Spinal Cord Stroke’
An FCE is a blockage in a blood vessel in the spinal cord. It’s often referred to as a spinal cord stroke.
The vertebral column is made up of small bones called vertebrae that are joined together by intervertebral discs. The discs function as cushions between the vertebrae and allow the spine to flex. They are round in shape, fibrous on the outside, and contain a gel-like substance on the inside called the nucleus pulposus.
One of the jobs of the vertebral column is to protect the spinal cord inside it. The spinal cord is similar to a long cable of nerves that sends messages to and from the brain and regulates the body’s reflexes. The spinal cord is fed by a system of blood vessels.
A fibrocartilaginous embolism occurs when a fragment of the nucleus pulposus inside an intervertebral disc escapes into the blood vessel of the spinal cord and causes an obstruction. This affected area of the spinal cord then dies.
Unfortunately, neurologic loss that occurs within the first 24 hours is usually permanent. The good news is the condition isn’t progressive. Any pain usually resolves within 12 to 24 hours. And with immediate treatment, primarily involving very intensive physical therapy, most dogs experience significant recovery.
Signs of a fibrocartilaginous embolism usually appear suddenly and follow a period of exercise or what otherwise seems like a mild injury or trauma. In Chuck’s case, his FCE appeared entirely out of the blue, with no precipitating event.
Chuck’s Treatment Plan
Chuck’s local vet consulted with a neurologist. Unfortunately, without an expensive MRI, a confirming diagnosis couldn’t be made. But based on the classic symptoms he was experiencing, it was agreed an FCE was the most likely cause of Chuck’s paralysis.
Chuck’s vet and the neurologist put together a treatment plan that included an oral steroid to reduce inflammation in the central nervous system, an antibiotic to address a possible acute infection affecting Chuck’s central nervous system, and physical rehabilitation.
Chuck began his rehab program with range-of-motion exercises he did at home, and laser therapy at his local veterinary clinic. Then he came to Therapaw, Dr. Becker’s rehab clinic, to have hydrotherapy sessions with me.
During his first session, I noted that Chuck’s most significant neurologic deficits were in his left front foot. He wasn’t able to flip his foot into a normal position from a knuckled position. I also fitted Chuck with one of my favorite assistance harnesses, the Help Em Up harness, at his first visit.
Chuck in the hydrotherapy tank
Chuck Makes Amazing Progress Right Away
Astonishingly, Chuck’s first session of hydrotherapy made such a dramatic difference in his mobility that he was able to walk into Therapaw for his second session! He was also able to flip his knuckled front left foot to a normal position during his second underwater treadmill session, although he couldn’t yet do it outside the water tank.
Chuck completed a total of eight underwater treadmill therapy sessions and has continued to make impressive progress in his strength, reflexes and endurance with each visit. Chuck is about 80 percent recovered from the effects of the fibrocartilaginous embolism and continues to improve each week.
Chuck’s story demonstrates the tremendous benefit of an early intervention and therapy plan, a collective veterinary effort, and an owner’s desire to do everything possible to improve her dog’s quality of life.
Not only is Chuck still with his family, he’s improving physically and feeling better week-by-week. He’s enjoying each moment of every day… something we’re all thankful for!
November 1, 2013 - Posted by justonemorepet | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets | Austrailian Shepherd, Dr. Becker, FCE, fibrocartilaginous embolism, JOMP, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Spinal Cord Stroke
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Save a Life…Adopt Just One More…Pet!
Everyday we read or hear another story about pets and other animals being abandoned in record numbers while at the same time we regularly hear about crazy new rules and laws being passed limiting the amount of pets that people may have, even down to one or two… or worse yet, none.
Nobody is promoting hoarding pets or animals, but at a time when there are more pets and animals of all types being abandoned or being taken to shelters already bursting at the seams, there is nothing crazier than legislating away the ability of willing adoptive families to take in just one more pet!!
Our goal is to raise awareness and help find homes for all pets and animals that need one by helping to match them with loving families and positive situations. Our goal is also to help fight the trend of unfavorable legislation and rules in an attempt to stop unnecessary Euthenization!!
“All over the world, major universities are researching the therapeutic value of pets in our society and the number of hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and mental institutions which are employing full-time pet therapists and animals is increasing daily.” ~ Betty White, American Actress, Animal Activist, and Author of Pet Love
So if you have the room in your home and the love in your heart… Adopt Just One More Pet or consider becoming a Foster parent for pets… Also check out: Little Critter: Just One More Pet
Photos By: Marion Algier – The UCLA Shutterbug
There is always room for Just One More Pet. So if you have room in your home and room in your heart… Adopt Just One More! If you live in an area that promotes unreasonable limitations on pets… fight the good fight and help change the rules and legislation…
Save the Life of Just One More…Animal!
Recent and Seasonal Shots
As I have been fighting Cancer… A battle I am gratefully winning, my furkids have not left my side. They have been a large part of my recovery!! Ask Marion
Photos by the UCLA Shutterbug are protected by copyright, Please email at JustOneMorePet@gmail.com or find us on twitter @JustOneMorePet for permission to duplicate for commerical purposes or to purchase photos.
If you can adopt or foster just one more pet, you could be saving a life, while adding joy to your own! Our shelters are over-flowing… Please join the fight to make them all ‘NO-Kill’ facilities.
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If You Were Stranded On An Island…A recent national survey revealed just how much Americans love their companion animals. When respondents were asked whether they’d like to spend life stranded on a deserted island with either their spouse or their pet, over 60% said they would prefer their dog or cat for companionship!
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