Spud, A Dog Story – by Dr. Ava Frick
Many of the animals I see are presented to me by their owners as a “last hope.” Because of the longevity in which I have practiced, not only as a traditional veterinarian but also in the arena of physiotherapy and rehabilitation, I can say my track record of being able to help and restore their hope is well above average. But then there are the times when even I am skeptical.
So, it was on October 24, 2017 when I see Spud for the first time. His folks had driven two hours with a desire to at least give him a shot at getting better. Their vet had suggested euthanasia because of his situation. Spud was only two years old and had recently suffered a T12-13 fibrocartilagineous embolism. FCE for short, at his 12-13th vertebral area. This is basically a stroke to the spine. The stroke happens fast leaving a dog unable to walk. Initially there is pain, but within a few days that dissipates and the dog does not worsen. They either start getting better, or they don’t. Often the injury is one-sided. In Spud’s case however, a 117 pound (not obese) energetic red Labrador mix, he was totally unable to use either rear leg.
He came into the clinic in burrito mode on a big blanket. His eyes were bright and he displayed a smile that went from ear to ear, but only half of his body would permit him to make a greeting common to this fella. Spud’s mere size presented a challenge not only to himself, but also to the ones needing to lift and shuttle him around. Fortunately, his Dad was in his forties and strong with a good back and we were hoping it would continue that way.
My focus was 2-fold:
- Get circulation directly to the traumatized area, reduce inflammation occurring to the nervous system, and help the body resorb or break up the fibrous tissue obstructing normal nerve function. My “secret weapon” for this, based on published research and my twenty years of using it, is Alpha-Stim® microcurrent therapy.
- There are not enough specific nutrients in any food these days to support organ and system function in the presence of stress, disease, injury, or toxins. Supporting the body and nervous system nutritionally becomes a key component to my success over the years with similar cases. Also, as Alpha-Stim microcurrent therapy is applied to the body, physiological changes will occur at the cellular level, and I want to be certain his cells can respond appropriately and with gusto, enabling optimal healing.
His folks agree to my recommended treatment plan. My technician shows them a video on how to do the Alpha-Stim treatment to his back and legs, then demonstrates while doing therapy and instructs them exactly how they will be applying this at home. Yes, Spud’s best chance to every walk again is with twice a day home treatments. An hour later they are leaving with a new plan and hope.
Nine days later I see them again. His improvements are minimal. Now I am a bit disappointed, but I remind them that we have not hit the 14-day ramp up time with the microcurrent. Everyone agrees to stay the course another fourteen days. Added to what they were already doing is an exercise program to stimulate peripheral awareness, tone, and paw extension in order to prevent the dreaded flexor tendon contraction that can happen when the feet are not being utilized.
I see them November 17th and now there is strength appearing and some effort to move the legs, especially the left one. They elect to do more home exercises but not continue the microcurrent treatments. When he returns December 22nd it is an early Christmas present. He was walking (of sorts) and could actually position his legs under his body to sit! The persistence of his folks to do what was prescribed along with their disagreement to believe that he could not get better and should be euthanized had paid off. They were ready to advance to a new exercise program and continue his road to recovery.
I did not see them again. But last week, 3 years later, I had a phone call from them regarding something else with Spud. I asked how he did navigating. Her reply was that he walks normally and the only time they are reminded of his early injury is if he gets really tired from a long weekend of play. There is always hope. And when you don’t give up you often find the answer you were looking for, “Yes, I can make him better.”