Spinal Cord Rehab in Pets

Many of us take the ability to walk, run, skip, jump, take the stairs or chase our favorite tennis ball around the yard for granted but for those families who have had a pet suffer a spinal cord injury they understand the miracle of their pet playing fetch or walking the couple miles to their favorite park.  Animal Neurology, Rehabilitation & ER Center in Commerce Twp, Mich. has been helping pets regain the ability to walk for more than nine years and is proud to honor survivors of spinal cord injury trauma by organizing a team of walkers in this year’s. The event ran from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday October 2 in Detroit’s Hart Plaza.

Since opening in 2002, the board-certified neurologists at Animal Neurology and MRI Center have been treating serious brain and spine conditions and injuries in dogs, cats and other pets referred from all over the midwest and Canada.   Animal Neurology & MRI Center Board-Certified Neurologists remain on call for emergencies and consultations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This year the center is celebrating pinal cord injury patients at the Michigan Humane Society Mega March for Animals with a team devoted to spinal cord injury survivors. The march is an annual charity walk through downtown Detroit benefitting the Michigan Humane Society. Its mission is to raise money for the homeless companion animals in Michigan.

Each member of the team ready to walk in Sunday’s event has experienced a traumatic spinal cord injury. All have undergone medical therapy, rehabilitation or spinal surgery due to a IVDD, disc disease ruptured or herniated disc. In some cases the pets arrived at the Animal Neurology, Rehabilitation & ER Center completely paralyzed unable to walk. Now these miracle pets are lining up to walk in a local charity event for homeless animals. They include the smallest of breeds such as miniature pinschers, bichon frises, dachshunds, beagles and Australian shepherds to larger breeds such as border collies, English pointers and great danes. Each one has its own inspiring recovery story.

Bailey, an 8-year-old Australian terrier walking with the team, arrived at the Animal Neurology, Rehabilitation & ER Center over 2 years ago with acute tetraplegia, paralysis in all four limbs. Her family brought her through the emergency center late unable to walk or stand using any of her limbs. Bailey was immediately transferred to the neurology department for an MRI that showed a severe spinal cord compression due to a herniated disk. Surgery was performed by one of the centers board-certified neurosurgeons to remove disk material and decompress the spinal cord. After surgery Bailey was initially unable to walk or urinate on her own but her prognosis was good due to present pain reflexes in all four limbs. Bailey and her family worked with the rehabilitation specialists to develop an at-home and in-hospital treatment program that returned Bailey to health. Two and half years later she is walking on her own in the Michigan Humane Society Mega March for Animals. Bailey walks 3 miles every day with her family. Many of the team members share stories similar to Bailey’s.

“We were able to provide the best possible care because we offer three centers, working together in one place to help our patients get back on their paws again,” said Dr. Michael Wolf, CEO of Animal Neurology, Rehabilitation & ER Center. “I’m so proud to see so many of the pets we’ve treated are healthy and willing to participate in an event like the Mega March for Animals that benefits such a great cause.”

Amongst the team members there are four dachshunds walking, a breed that has the highest instance of spinal cord injuries due to their elongated backs and short stature. The four dachshunds, Abby, Maestro, Daisy and Maizey were diagnosed with IVDD, intervertebral disc disease. This disease commonly affects small breeds with normal-sized bodies but abnormally short extremities. Symptoms of disc disease include reluctance to or guarded movement, jump, use stairs, hunched back, wobbly gait, dragging toes, crying in pain, weakness/paralysis to rear limbs or all limbs, loss of bladder/bowel control, muscle spasms, lameness in one or both front limbs.

Two great danes, Hutch and Romeo, are walking with the team from Animal Neurology, Rehabilitation & ER Center. Both pets required spinal surgery after a diagnosis of Wobblers Syndrome, a term encompassing several conditions that cause compression to the spinal cord in a dog’s lower neck leading to a disruption in the signals between the brain and legs causing an unsteady gait and a dog’s hind limbs to become “wobbly.” Hutch and Romeo suffered from this genetically inherited disease and underwent surgery to decompress the spinal cord.

Spring, a Border collie mix experienced a traumatic spinal cord injury and was treated using an at-home and in-hospital physical therapy program. Upon completion of rehabilitation Spring was able to rejoin her world championship flyball team. And Audrey, an 8 year old English pointer is working with our rehabilitation specialists to treat her mild disc compression in hopes of keeping it from becoming a disc rupture.