UF veterinarians treat dog after ‘spinal cord stroke’
By Sarah Carey
When Rory, a 5-year-old Australian shepherd, came inside after playing last fall, Jennifer Crock noticed the family dog was limping. At first, Crock suspected a sprain, but then noticed Rory was dragging her right front paw rather than holding it up. Rory was still able to use her other legs, so Crock, the mother of UF veterinary student Noelle Speiman, wrapped the front leg and the dog lay down in its bed to rest.
Within 20 minutes, Rory was unable to stand or walk.
After Crock’s local veterinarian, Mark Salzburg, D.V.M., suspected a type of “spinal-cord stroke” known as fibrocartilaginous embolism, or FCE. Salzburg contacted the UF Small Animal Hospital’s neurology service, which recommended Rory be seen at UF for further evaluation.
“We were told that FCE patients don’t usually get any worse, and usually make significant improvement in walking ability within days or weeks,” Crock said.
As part of her rehabilitation, Rory began receiving underwater treadmill therapy at the Small Animal Hospital. Carolina Medina, D.V.M., chief of UF’s acupuncture and rehabilitation service, said UF sees a few FCE cases a month, primarily in large dogs.
“Usually what happens is that a dog will be running fine, but then collapses, usually in obvious pain. Between 12 hours to 24 hours later, the dog is no longer in pain, but it is still paralyzed, similar to a person having a stroke,” she said. “It’s very traumatic, since you can’t prepare for it. Veterinarians will often tell clients to do range-of-motion exercises and massage, which helps, but to get full recovery, you need more aggressive therapy than that.”
After a month of rehabilitation therapy at UF, which included acupuncture, laser therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, range-of-motion exercises, massage and a Chinese herbal medicine, Rory quickly began to improve.
Soon, Rory could hop and hobble without falling.
“Rory now plays and enjoys life as if she had never had a spinal cord injury. She can keep up with the other two dogs racing around the yard, and you could never tell that her front leg was ever injured,” Crock said.
UF’s acupuncture and rehabilitation service, one of the most comprehensive in the state, is in the process of expanding to add a therapy pool. For more information, call 352-392-2235.