Imagine if one day your beloved pet dog was a healthy and energetic member of the family, and the next day he was completely paralyzed in all four limbs, with no apparent cause.
This is what happened to George and Jill Carter’s five-year-old Labrador Retriever, Magnum. “He could not stand, or even pee,” says Jill.
They rushed him to VCA Northwest Veterinary Specialists where neurologist Sophie Peterson ran tests. An MRI revealed hypersensitivity in the spinal cord at the level of C5-C7 but showed no compression. Dr. Peterson diagnosed Magnum with a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) and referred him to the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) for rehabilitation.
An FCE is caused when debris from a degenerating spinal disk obstructs a spinal cord vessel causing stroke-like symptoms. It is fairly common in Schnauzers, Labs, and Boxers, and the best treatment is intensive physical therapy to restore the damaged neural pathways.
“It usually doesn’t recur,” says Dr. Wendy Baltzer, head of the VTH Rehabilitation unit, “and prognosis is good if physical therapy is started as soon as the diagnosis is made.” The Carter’s had the diagnosis on Saturday and brought him to OSU on Monday. “He could not move,” says Jill Carter,” except to thump his tail when students petted him.”
Magnum spent a week in the hospital, receiving physical therapy treatments four times per day including walks in a wheelchair, ultrasound therapy, deep muscle massage, and passive motion exercises. By the end of the week, he was able to walk on the underwater treadmill.
Now a month into his treatment, Magnum goes to rehab weekly and continues with at-home exercises. He does not have full coordination back but is now able to walk independently. “It proves you should never give up on your beloved pet,” says Jill Carter.
There are few full-scale veterinary rehabilitation units in the U.S. and Dr. Baltzer is grateful to all the donors, large and small, who have helped make the OSU unit a top-notch facility. “The wheelchair and hydraulic lift were donated,” she says, “and the new underwater treadmill.”
There is also a shortage of board-certified rehabilitation specialists in veterinary medicine, and Dr. Baltzer would like to raise enough money to offer a residency scholarship at OSU. “We are so busy and a resident would help us treat more animals,” she says. “There are only four residencies in Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine in the country.”
The Carters feel lucky to be within driving distance from OSU, and really appreciate all the care Magnum received from the doctors and staff. “The students were so attentive and aware of his emotions and needs; that is something you don’t get unless your pet is being treated at a teaching hospital,” says Jill.
You can donate online to the rehabilitation unit at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.