Every Pet Deserves A Good Home…

Spinal Cord Stroke: Would You Know What to Do?

Story at-a-glance

  • 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 | 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 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Deer Fun… or Pup Folly??

Apachi's 5th B-Day 03.28.11 Fun - Deer in the Yard - 2a

Apachi's 5th B-Day 03.28.11 Fun - Deer in the Yard - Better Than Cake

Apachi's 5th B-Day 03.28.11 Fun - Deer in the Yard  - Gang Stand-off 2

Tim and Angel Heaing Back From Deer Encounter 2

Our pups… Chihuahuas and Chiweenies accompanied by their friend Pepper, as Aussie, had an encounter with deer in the backyard last week, as everyone headed out during the short break in the storm.  Luckily everyone remained calm…

Ask Marion – Photos by the UCLA Shutterbug

April 21, 2011 Posted by | animal behavior, animals, Chihuahua, Chiweenie, Dogs, Pets, Wild Animals | , , , , | Leave a comment

Monitor Your Pet


Monitor Your PetNow you can snoop on your pooch around the clock.  Cameras set up tomonitor pets online are becoming a staple at kennels nationwide, and animal lovers are using them at home too.

“No other tool or feedback could provide our customers with the instant gratification and satisfaction of seeing their dogs playing and having fun as video can,” says Greg Powers of Camp Bow Wow, a nationwide chain of dog daycare and overnight boarding facilities.

Dog owner Susana Trujillo, 52, agrees. “A lot of people my age are as neurotic about their pets as I am, and it gives you a good degree of comfort knowing that your dogs are in a safe environment,” she says.  She keeps tabs on Sadie Dogg, her Australian shepherd, who attends doggie daycare at Denver’s Mile High Mutts.

Pet cams also give vacationers visual access to their kennel-bound friends. “If clients call from overseas and can’t see their dog playing, we move him or her in front of the camera,” says Penni Phillips of Urban Tails in Houston.

Although dogs are the pet cam stars at most kennels, you can set up your own webcam for any home-bound pet. Buy a camera for upwards of $80, then use an Internet broadcast service like MyPetSitterCam.com while you’re away.

September 11, 2008 Posted by | Just One More Pet, Pet Abuse, Pets, Unusual Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doggie ‘doctors’ diagnose their owners’ ills

Canines’ keen sense of smell & intuition helps them detect people’s disease

Morgan, a Yorkshire terrier, jumped at owner Pamela Plante’s leg so incessantly that she that she finally inspected it in the mirror, and realized it was red up to her knee. She was diagnosed with an  infection that had spread throughout her body and she spent a week in the hospital.“After she jumped on my leg, she would sit and look at me and shake or shiver,” says the Smithfield, R.I., woman. (Photo by Pamela Plante)

“From past experience, I knew she would shake like that when she was in pain, so I picked her up and checked her all over trying to find out what was wrong and couldn’t find anything. When I put her down she would jump on my leg again.”

Finally, Plante inspected her leg in a mirror and discovered it was red up to the knee.

Plante called her doctor who told her to get checked immediately. She was diagnosed with sepsis and spent a week in the hospital recovering from the infection that started in her leg and spread through her body.

Sensitive dogs, such as Morgan, are proving that besides being man’s best friend, some canines also have a lifesaving sixth sense. Dogs’ keen ability to differentiate smells enables some of them to know we’re sick long before we might ourselves. Combine that with their 24/7 observation of us and some pets have proven to be skilled diagnosticians, even if we’re not always sure what they’re trying to tell us.

In the past few years, studies have shown that dogs can sniff out both early and late stage lung and breast cancers. The Pine Street Foundation, a non-profit cancer education and research organization, in San Anselmo, Calif., is even training dogs to recognize ovarian cancer.

Some dogs have also been shown capable of detecting skin cancer.

Riker, a 9-year-old Australian Shepherd who lives with Liz and Paul Palika in Oceanside, Calif., poked insistently at Liz’s father’s chest. “Dad, did you leave some of your dinner on your shirt?” Liz teased him. But Riker wouldn’t stop. To satisfy him, Liz and her mother took a closer look. There was a lump on her father’s chest. A trip to the doctor revealed a melanoma that had spread beneath the skin.

Other dogs have been taught to catch when diabetics’ blood sugar levels drop. And for about the past 20 years, “seizure dogs” have been used to alert their owners to a pending seizure and assist them to a safe place until it’s over.

Lifesaving cat
It’s not just dogs who have proven to have life-saving noses. Ardis Matson of Brookings, S.D., credits a gray tomcat named Tuffy with keeping her mother alive and able to live on her own for several years. “My mother was elderly and had insulin-dependent diabetes,” Matson says. “Often, her blood sugar would go dangerously low during the night and if left unchecked it could have caused her to go into a coma and die. Tuffy always slept with her, and when her blood sugar started slipping really low during the night, he would nudge her and walk across her body and keep aggravating her until she would get up and take glucose to make her blood sugar levels rise. When she was in control again, Tuffy would go back to sleep.”

And then there’s Oscar, a cat who lives at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I. He alerts staff to the impending death of patients, a gift that allows families to be notified in time to say their good-byes.

The answer to how animals know something is wrong may be up in the air — literally. Dogs and cats have a keener sense of smell than humans, and that may enable them to detect subtle changes in body odor caused by such things as cancer cells or lowered blood sugar.

In the case of Oscar, for instance, veterinarian Margie Scherk, president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, notes that he may be picking up a variety of clues that people are too busy to notice or don’t have the sensory capacity to detect.

“Cats live in a world of smells; their olfactory sense is a lot more acute than that of a human,” Scherk says. “People who are dying, as well as those who aren’t eating, emit ketotic odors, which might be one cue that cats like Oscar detect. There could easily be other odors that a dying individual produces that our noses are unable to note.”

In addition to being able to pick up certain odors, dogs and cats also seem to be able to recognize that it means there’s a problem their owners need to know about.

“There is reason to believe that some odors do have an ‘intrinsic’ value to the animal, that evolution has led to the development of neural pathways that specialize in detecting and processing relevant categories of smell,” says Timothy E. Holy, assistant professor of anatomy and neurobiology at Washington University in St. Louis. “Experience, too, plays a big role. You can train a dog to react in particular ways to relatively arbitrary smells.”

Those smells might include the breath of a person with lung cancer or the urine of a person with bladder cancer.

So the next time your dog or cat is nagging you, don’t ignore him. He might have something important to say. Just ask Joan Beck of Cottage Grove, Minn.

“One morning I woke up in the throes of a severe asthma attack. My husband was already awake and taking a shower. I was having so much trouble breathing that I couldn’t call for help. Our English springer spaniel, Sam, suddenly appeared, nosed me for a moment, then turned around and left the room. My husband said later that Sam pushed the bathroom door open and insisted that he follow Sam back to our bedroom. ‘Who needs Lassie when we have Sam?’ my husband says.”

By:  Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning author who has written many articles and more than a dozen books about dogs and cats. She belongs to the Dog Writers Association of America and is past president of the Cat Writers Association. She shares her home in California with three Cavalier King Charles spaniels and one African ringneck parakeet.

© 2008 MSNBC Interactive

August 29, 2008 Posted by | Animal Rights And Awareness, Just One More Pet, Pets, Success Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment