A 10-year-old Cocker Spaniel named Sugar was recently found paralyzed in a drainage ditch a few blocks from her owners’ tornado-leveled home. After a local humane agency referred her owners to the University of Missouri Veterinary Hospital and receiving extensive medical care, Sugar is on her way to recovery.
Following the May 22 incident, Sugar initially received radiographs and an MRI at the hospital. Fred Wininger, VMD, MS, an assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery in the college of veterinary medicine, examined the dog and noted that while she had no use of her hind legs, she retained pain sensation in her paws. Dr. Wininger determined she had sustained a traumatic T12-13 intervertebral disc rupture.
“The intervertebral disc is like a jelly donut that is soft at its core and harder on the outside,” Wininger says. “Its function is to cushion the vertebral bones around the spinal cord. With severe enough injury, the jelly center, also known as the nucleus pulposus, can extrude out of the shell and compress the spinal cord.”
The rupture caused severe bruising to Sugar’s spinal cord and mild subluxation or malalignment of the bones. With pain sensation intact, immediate surgical intervention typically allows more than 80 percent of dogs to regain function in their legs, Wininger says.
Wininger performed a hemilaminectomy, which created a window in the vertebral bone allowing him to decompress the disc and hemorrhage that was pushing on the cord. The bruising that already occurred would require time and physical therapy to heal.
Two days after surgery, Sugar received electrical stimulation rehabilitation once a day for seven days on her hind limbs to help prevent muscle atrophy. Underwater treadmill therapy was also provided once a day to find signs of movement in the dog’s hind limbs.
On June 6, two weeks after the injury occurred, Sugar began to show movement in her hind legs.
The Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital’s Silent Partners Fund and college of veterinary medicine absorbed the cost of Sugar’s treatment and therapy. Orscheln Farm and Home in Columbia also helped by donating food and toys to help with Sugar’s care.
On June 14, Sugar went home to continue rebuilding muscle in her legs. She is expected to have a full recovery.