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Dog with spinal cord problem and partially paralyzed

by Bonnie Riley
(Toledo, Ohio, USA)

Pia's therapy set-up

Pia's therapy set-up

Pia's therapy set-up
Here, you can see Pia's curled under left front and  splaying left rear as she squats.

On Monday, Dec 6th, my previously healthy Frenchie, Pia, who was doing nothing other than lying on the window seat, suddenly lost the use of her left front leg, her left rear was extremely weak, and her right limbs were weak.

She was to her regular vet within an hour. X-Rays were taken of left front and spine and all appeared negative. The vet guessed that it was a nerve paralysis and sent us home with Duramaxx and said to let her rest.

As the day progressed into evening, it was obvious that Pia was quite weak and was unable to sit, stand, eat or eliminate. We took her to a veterinary neurologist the next day, a 160 mile round trip. He encouraged us to have an MRI, which, at $3000, was financially out of the question.

If it had shown that surgery was needed, the $7000 probable expense was also not something we could have paid. Our Pia was not in any pain, which the neurologist seemed to feel ruled out most diagnoses that would be helped by surgery.

His original assessment included the following:

Clinical Diagnosis: Asymmetrical C6-T2 myelopathy

Neurological Exam:
-Mentation: Alert & responsive
-Gait/Posture: Non-ambulatory tetraparesis, flaccid paralysis left front, spastic paresis left rear, mild paresis right side
-Postural reactions: Absent left side, delayed right side
-Spinal reflexes: No flexor reflex left front, normal right front; exaggerated patellar reflexes normal flexor reflex in rear limbs, intact cutaneous trunci bilateral.
-Muscle tone - Decreased left front limb
-Cranial nerves: No CN deficit
-Spinal pain: No spinal hyperesthesia
-Neuroanatomic Localization: Asymmetrical C6 - T2 myelopathy

Assessment: Pia's examination is compatible with a low cervical spinal cord problem. A vascular injury (acute intramedullary bleed, embolus - FEC) is thought to be most likely based on acute onset, asymmetry of deficits and her not acting painful.

Other causes for a cervical myelopathy include a disk herniation and tumor and myelitis. An MRI of the cervical spine is needed to determine the cause of Pia's neurologic deficits. The owners elected to not proceed with the MRI and would like to treat Pia with nursing care and home exercises.

Unfortunately, there is no medical treatment for vascular spinal cord injuries. Treatment is limited to supportive/nursing care, and bladder management. A prognosis cannot be fiven since the cause of the neurologic deficits was not determined.

END OF FIRST ASSESSMENT

We brought Pia home and started home therapy - Range of Motion, strengthening exercises, balance work, and much love. We found that if we positioned and balanced her on all fours outside, she could urinate and defecate, so elimination has not been a problem.

There is snow on the ground which has been a good thing - she worked really hard at first to keep from falling over into the cold, cold snow, and when she decided it was time to hobble around, the snow protected her dragging left front leg.

As the two weeks have passed, Pia has continued to gain strength and balance, but has no purposeful abilities in her left front leg. She has use of the shoulder muscle, but nothing downward. She has good pain sensation in the left front, being able to feel (and respond with looking and twitching) light tickling of the fur between her toe pads.

She has a strong Babinski reflex when probed between her toes with my finger. Her left rear leg is definitely weak but has purposeful use. She is able to scratch her left ear with that leg and, if she absolutely has to, she'll push off with it.

Her pain/touch ability is diminished, and she is slow to respond to the foot/toe squeezes we use to encourage her to exercise that leg (along with small bites of turkey which really motivate her well!)

She has a decent appetite, in part because instead of her usual Iam's dry kibble, she's getting Mighty Dog which I've had to mix with water because up until yesterday afternoon, she has been unable/unwilling to drink water from a bowl. For about a week, I forced water into her with a syringe, and after about a week, she began to lick and lap at the syringe, but did not drink from a bowl, which was elevated. She was able to lap the thick slurry of dog food & water. Yesterday, for the first time, she lapped water from her raised water dish. We cheered and hugged her a lot.


The neurologist doesn't feel that there was any relationship between this inability to drink and her stroke. She has some minor choking with eating, especially if we don't give her pauses as she eats. She seems to swallow a lot of air - I actually pat her hard in mid-feeding, like burping a baby, and it helps a lot. She has much more rear end gas than before her stroke, too. I don't know if that's from change of diet or air swallowing. I also told him that her formerly mighty bark has become a whispery woof, even when the mailman is coming up the sidewalk. I beg to differ with the neurologist.

I wanted to try other therapies for my dog beyond our home attempts and found a veterinarian in my area with hydrotherapy and laser treatments which Pia is getting twice a week. The neurologist does not feel that laser is of any benefit, and he had no issues with the hydrotherapy. Pia loves the laser treatments. She has muscle spasms, especially with her ROM, and she is totally relaxed after her laser treatments. She does not like the hydrotherapy, but she perseveres. She can swim for 5 minutes, of course, wearing a life jacket. She's not able to coordinate movement to walk on the underwater treadmill as yet, but she's never been the most energetic dog in the world.

She limps, hobbles, bunny-hops around outside, looking for the Perfect Potty Place. Indoors, she mostly likes her spot on the window seat (protected from falling by a sofa pushed up against it). She manages to get around on the carpeted areas. She's become interested in toys again and thoroughly engages in games of tug-of war. We're gentle with her and we use this modality to work in some balance reinforcement. She wants to play rough, but we keep it more low key.

Pia returned to the neurologist yesterday. His notes read as follows:

Current Status: Pia is here for recheck. Still drags left front limb, however seems sensitive to the touch, rapidly kicks leg away. Is also still weak in left rear, will splay out on slick flooring. Owner concerned she has difficulty drinking water, and when eats laying down acts as though she is choking. Owner also concerned about her barking, bark seems to be "weaker" than previously. Is currently doing hydrotherapy and laser therapy at Sylvania. Is on medication for chronic otitis, no other meds.

Neurological Examination:
- Gait: Ambulatory with no motor to LF distal to elbow and spastic paresis LR, normal motor on right side.
- Postural reactions: Absent in left limbs
- Spinal reflexes: No flexor withdraw in left thoracic limbs, exaggerated patellar reflex left rear, normal
reflexes right side
- Spinal pain: No spinal hyperesthesia
- Pain perception: Intact pain perception in all limbs

Assessment: Pia's neurologic status has improved some. Neurologic improvement is encouraging but the prognosis for continued functional improvement is guarded for the left front and fair for the left rear leg.

END OF CURRENT VETERINARY NOTES

What else do you suggest? Any thoughts as to whether or not Pia could benefit from acupuncture, chiropractics, other non-traditional veterinary care? There is no one in our area who does this, so we would be unable to do twice-a-week or even weekly visits, but if it's within 100 miles or so, it would be feasible for us to see someone once or twice a month.

She will continue with her twice weekly hydrotherapy and laser treatments. The neurologist suggested electrical stim to her left front leg. I plan to check with the place where she gets hydrotherapy to see if they have it available.

Pia has mild allergies - chews her feet, though not to a state of rawness. We have tried many different diets, including raw diet and given each one a4-6 week trial, with no change. She has near-chronic ear infections and is currently on Surolan ear drops.

Several years ago, she did get some allergy relief from steroid shots, but we felt that the potential side effects outweighed any benefits, so we live with the foot nibbling. She hasn't had steroids for about 3 years.

Thank you, Bonnie

Comments for Dog with spinal cord problem and partially paralyzed

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Dec 23, 2010
My Online Vet Response for Dog with spinal cord problem and Partially paralyzed
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Bonnie,
Yes, Pia can be helped by acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, and Chinese Herbs. The laser therapy and hydrotherapy can also be beneficial, but I believe that for various types of neuropathy, or neuromyelopathy, acute and chronic, that acupuncture is the best treatment. In certain breeds, acupuncture is the only treatment!

I checked the Chi Institute for veterinarians trained in acupuncture, and there are 3 pages of vets in Ohio. (None were in Toledo, but perhaps there is a town listed that is closer to you.) IVAS and Colorado State also train veterinarians in acupuncture, so you can check those sites.

See our page on Alternative Medicine for Dogs, and click on the Acupuncture topic for more info.
To find a holistic veterinarian in your area click on the link below
find a holistic veterinarian in your area

Diet and Nutrition is also an important tool in helping her heal. Dry food is not very healthy. In Chinese medicine, foods are considered to be 'hot' or 'cold'. If the Chinese diagnosis is Yin deficiency, meaning she is hot, panting, body is hot, tongue color indicates heat, pulse is fast rapid and superficial, then a 'cold or cool' food is prescribed. (such as fish, turkey, barley, brown rice and bananas). If the Chinese diagnosis is a Yang deficiency, Chi deficiency, or blood deficiency, then a warm or hot food may be prescribed, (such as chicken, lamb, oats, white rice, or sweet potato). Therefore, the diagnosis is based on the color and coating of the tongue, and on the quality, strength and speed of the pulses, along with her other problems, such as her skin allergy, and ear problems.

From your detailed question and the neurology report, conventional veterinarians are very limited in what they can offer for treatments. I would strongly suggest finding a holistic veterinarian trained in acupuncture to treat Pia.

Please keep us posted by coming back to this page and clicking the 'click here to add your own comments' link below.

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

DISCLAIMER: This educational advice is based on the depth of your question and the picture you submitted. The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.




Dec 23, 2010
Care for Pia - spinal cord problem
by: Bonnie - Toledo, OH, USA

Thank you for your input. Through your suggestion of the Chi Institute's list of veterinarians, I was able to locate a practice within 50 miles of my home that has two veterinarians who are certified veterinary acupuncturists. I've contacted them through their online form and will hopefully hear back from them shortly.

Dec 23, 2010
My Online Vet Response for Dog with Spinal cord problem and partially paralyzed
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Bonnie,
Wonderful! Please keep us posted.

Take care,and Happy Holidays,
Dr. Tillman

Dec 28, 2010
Update on Pia
by: Bonnie, Toledo, OH

We're going to Ann Arbor tomorrow, to the Washtenaw Veterinary Hospital, for evaluation and acupuncture. Their practice motto is, " Where East Meets West In Veterinary Care." We're open to other therapies, too. This practice also offers Chinese herbals and has electrical stim, which the veterinarian from Washtenaw (in our phone conversation) thought could be of value. The neurologist had suggested it on our last visit, too, and Pia's hydrotherapist concurred, but they don't have e-stim at the place where we get hydrotherapy. Today, we're off to hydrotherapy.

Pia has been very busy because three of our children are home for the holidays. She's excited to see them, and they're excited to see her. She wants to play (mostly tug-of-war, but it's obvious that she tires easily, so we try to strike a happy medium of rest and play. I don't know if it's good or bad, but her left front leg, the one that really doesn't work, has a Babinski reflex that seems to get easier and easier to elicit. I'll ask the veterinarian tomorrow.


Dec 31, 2010
Pia's first acupuncture treatment
by: Bonnie - Toledo, OH, USA

The visit to the vet/acupuncturist was all that I could have hoped for and more. The exam room was as cozy as a living room - a comfy sofa, side chairs, thick carpet, and an extra mat on the floor for Pia. The vet got right down on the floor for the exam. She was gentle and patient with Pia. She did a "western" exam on Pia while getting a history from us. After that, she did a separate Chinese exam. Things that the neurologist had found insignificant were, to her way of thinking, quite important. The weak bark, the pale tongue - all indications of a decline in energy in Chinese medicine.

After thorough examinations and discussions with us, acupuncture proceeded. For Pia's first treatment the vet said she wouldn't place too many needles because she didn't want to over-do. She placed between 15 & 20 needles and hooked 9 of them up for some electro-acupuncture. The only time any of this really bothered Pia was when the vet inserted three needles into her left front foot. This is the leg that's been most affected and is still essentially limp below the elbow and weak in the elbow. The shoulder is strong. She placed a majority of the needles on the left, as the rear leg is also pretty spastic, but did balance those out with some needles on the right. Pia and I sat on the floor so I could keep her from trying to wander with needles and wires attached. After 10 minutes, the vet came back into the room, made a few adjustments, and Pia got another 15 minutes of treatment.

We discussed herbals and diet, and the vet said she preferred to give some thought to the whole of Pia and come up with a plan after more time and reflection. We're going back next week for more acupuncture and an herbal and diet plan.

Since Wednesday, Pia has shown small but continuing improvement. Last night she completely surprised my husband by suddenly appearing on the second floor. Before that, she'd made it up the two shallow front steps from the yard, but certainly not an entire staircase. I am grateful that she made it to the top without falling.


Dec 31, 2010
My Online Vet Response for Dog with Spinal Cord Problem and Partially paralyzed
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Bonnie,
Thank you for your detailed description of Pia's visit to a holistic vet for electro-acupuncture. It really sounds like Pia is on the path to recovery and better health.

Please keep us updated with her progress by coming back to this page and clicking the 'click here to add your own comments' link below.

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

DISCLAIMER: This educational advice is based on the depth of your question and the picture you submitted. The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.

Jan 05, 2011
Pia's second acupuncture treatment and diet/herbal therapy
by: Bonnie, Toledo, Ohio

Pia had her second acupuncture treatment today. She had more needles placed and a higher dose of current applied. She tolerated everything well and fell asleep draped across my leg during the treatment. She slept all the way home (50 miles). When she got home, she jumped up onto the sofa - I was amazed! It wasn't elegant or graceful, but it was done by choice, without prompting or encouragement. And she made it!

After our first visit, the veterinarian spent time considering the whole of Pia and consulted with her Chinese veterinary medicine colleagues to come up with a starting plan for Pia's diet and herbals. Pia will take a four day course of 0.5gm Bu Yang Huan Wu capsules (three capsules every 12 hours). After that, she'll start on 0.5gm Double P II capsules, one every 12 hours for 3 days and then an increase to 2 capsules every 12 hours. I'm to watch her for side effects, mostly for vomiting and/or diarrhea. If that happens, or if anything else seems unusual, I'm to call the vet right away. It sounds like this is pretty potent stuff.

Diet-wise, I have three lists of foods from which I'm to feed Pia. I need to include some from each list in her meals. The three lists are "Blood Tonic", "Qi(Chi)Tonic", and Phlegm Resolve".

I truly feel that this is the best treatment for Pia. Not a day goes by without at least a small sign of progress. Four weeks ago, she was laying on a blanket, unable to do more than lift her head. A few days ago, she quietly climbed the staircase and surprised my husband who had gone upstairs to take a nap. Pia still doesn't have the ability to move her lower left front leg, but she's learning how to plant it on the floor using the upper leg. Her left rear is still pretty wonky, but it's improving, too.

I know in my heart that an MRI and surgery was not the answer. Dr. Tillman, I can't thank you enough for helping us. Without you, I'd never have found these therapies for my sweet Pia.


Jan 06, 2011
My Online Vet Response for Dog with Spinal Cord Problem and Partilally Paralyzed
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Bonnie,
That is wonderful news. I am glad I was able to help! Usually 3-6 acupuncture sessions are scheduled, either 1-2 weeks apart to start, then as needed.

That is very nice that Pia responded so well to the first 2 treatments.

Please keep us posted by coming back to this page and clicking the 'click here to add your own comments' link below.

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

DISCLAIMER: This educational advice is based on the depth of your question and the picture you submitted. The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.

Jan 28, 2011
Pia's Progress
by: Bonnie, Toledo, Ohio

Pia continues weekly acupuncture sessions, and we see improvements with every visit. She's much more mobile and is able to go up the staircase solo. She can go down if we hold onto her collar and give her a little support. She manages the two steps to the yard with no assistance.

Her left rear leg is still a little weak and wonky, but she does very well on non-slippery surfaces. Her left front, which was completely limp in the lowest joint and weak in the middle joint is coming around.

This past week, we've seen purposeful movement in that lower leg. At first, we weren't sure she was actually moving it or just maneuvering her shoulder to flip it out, but yesterday, I watched her closely and it was obvious that she was moving that lowest joint. I don't think we ever really expected her to be able to do this.

Pia is still going to hydrotherapy and laser treatment twice a week. She takes her Chinese herbal medicine morning and night, along with her Chinese medicine based diet.

The veterinarian who does her acupuncture said she thinks that Pia is possibly ready to move on from weekly to bi-weekly sessions. We're going to evaluate her progress again next Wednesday. It's hard to think about it because I feel like she has become Pia's lifeline.

Jan 30, 2011
My Online Ver Response for Dog with spinal cord problem and partially paralyzed
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Bonnie,
That is wonderful news that Pia has responded so well to acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and Chinese herbs! I know that you have been driving long distances to take her to all of these sessions, so you should be relieved to make it every 2 weeks instead of weekly!

Ask your veterinarian about Tuina, the Chinese method of massage that follows the meridians and acupuncture points. It is something that you can do at home to help 'prolong' the acupuncture sessions.

You might also want to check out these books, '
The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure
' by Nancy Zidonis and Amy Snow, and also a book by Dr. Cheryl Schwartz, called '
Four Paws Five Directions
', with excellent photos on where the acupuncture points and meridians are located.

Please keep us posted by coming back to this page and clicking the 'click here to add your own comments' link below.

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

P.S. If you've found this service or our web site helpful, please "Like" us by clicking the like button at the top of the left margin. Thank you!

DISCLAIMER: This educational advice is based on the depth of your question and the picture you submitted. The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.

Related Pages:
- Dog Acupuncture

Jul 30, 2011
at home care
by: Anonymous

i have found a books that could be helpful to you the complete holistic dog book it has charts for acupressure that can be done at home and herbs that can be used to stregthen her muscles.

Jul 30, 2011
My Online Vet Response for spinal cord problem and partially paralyze
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Dear Anonymous,
I am not familiar with the book you mentioned, The Complete Holistic Dog Book: Home Health Care for Our Canine Companions [Paperback].
Jan Allegretti (Author), Katy Sommers (Author)
I will have to check it out!

For instructing clients in acupressure, I usually
recommend Acu-Dog, A Guide to Canine Acupressure.

Another great book by veterinarian, Dr. Cheryl Swartz, is Four Paws, Five Directions.

But it is best to seek the help of a holistic veterinarian to guide you in individual cases.

To find a holistic veterinarian in your area click on the link below
find a holistic veterinarian in your area

Please keep us posted by coming back to this page and clicking the 'click here to add your own comments' link below.

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

DISCLAIMER: This educational advice is based on the depth of your question and the picture you submitted. The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.

Click here to add your own comments

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