Smudge the Spaniel - Recovering from Paralysis


Patient: Smudge Greengrass
Species: Canine 
Breed: English Springer Spaniel 
Age: 6 years old 
Sex: Male 

Condition: Tetraplegic, suspected as polyradiculoneuritis - a creeping paralysis due to acute inflammation of the nerves

History:   Smudge was referred to our Neurology Specialist, Paul Freeman after he couldn't walk. Smudge was diagnosed with a suspected acute polyradiculoneuritis with a differential diagnosis of botulism, toxoplasma or neurospora. He was admitted for a full investigation of his illness and nursing care. 

'Smudge is a very loving, lively, happy, energetic crazy Springer Spaniel who lives every day to the full and even goes to sleep with a ball in his mouth.   The weekend that he was struck down by this terrible illness shocked us all and left the whole family completely devastated seeing such a lively dog go from being full of life to a tetraplegic almost overnight.'   

Smudge was made comfortable and started on intravenous fluids but was unable to urinate normally and urinary catheterisation was necessary to empty his bladder safely.  Paul performed a full neurological examination and confirmed that although Smudge had some voluntary movement in all four legs he had severe non-ambulatory tetrapareses.   He went on to have blood and urine tests to rule out a number of conditions and tested negative for the parasite lungworm.  

Smudge was anaethetised a few hours later for an electromyograhy, to evaluate the electrical activity in Smudge's muscles, and nerve conduction tests.  A sample of spinal fluid was also collected for analysis.  He was hospitalised to encourage him to urinate and empty his bladder when necessary, start a physiotherapy program and further nursing care such as turning Smudge regularly and keeping him stimulated.  

As part of his treatment plan, Smudge was prescribed anti-inflammatory and pain relief medication, medication for his bladder and a course of antibiotics for bacterial cystitis and a precautionary measure for his urinary catheterisation.   

Three days of 24 hour critical care nursing followed.  Paul continued to be concerned by Smudge's inability to urinate and he developed a painful abdomen. Further pain relief was given , through he continued to eat.   

One week after Smudge was admitted he started to show signs of some improvement - being able to hold himself up and developing movement in his back legs.  Paul had a long discussion with Smudge's owners about the long term plan, including the likely outcome of recovery and issues such as bladder control. It was decided that Smudge's urinary catheter should be removed and that he would go home later that day.  Twice daily visits back to the practice would be needed to check and empty his bladder.

With continued nursing care at home, Smudge started to show further signs of improvement.  He was trying to move around his house and started to produce some urine himself.  He was referred to The Dogs Body Canine Hydrotherapy unit to build up his muscle strength.    It was a full three months before Smudge was signed off and Paul was happy he had returned to normal - full recovery and off all medication. 

'Going through this traumatic and worrying time we only had to look at Smudge to see that he wasn’t ready to give up and didn’t want us to give up on him either. After several weeks of Hydrotherapy, with the fantastic Paul and Maddie Ashworth at The Dogs Body Canine Hydrotherpy Centre and regular physio sessions at home Smudge started to show improvement on a daily basis. His love for life, his drive and determination showed us he wasn’t going to give up easily and encouraged us to keep faith and belief that one day he would return to a full and active life again. 

All of the family got their Christmas wish this year. When asked what they wanted for Christmas nobody wanted a present. We all wanted the same gift which was for Smudge to take his first steps again. That wish came true as he got back up on all four feet after three long months of paralysis just before Christmas Day. We believe that his three brothers, Snoop, Ube and Toffee all aided in his recovery by encouraging him to play and be a normal dog again. Although looking back he recovered so quickly from this terrible disease. During the time it seemed like forever but the whole family rallied round and showed their support and love. Throughout all of this Smudge remained a calm and placid dog. Twice daily catheters, numerous assessments, physio, injections, tablets being pushed down his throat ... nothing phased him or made him aggressive. Would we go through it all again? You bet we would. There were a lot of people that thought we were doing the wrong thing keeping Smudge alive but knowing he wasn’t in pain and knowing the prognosis was good we never gave up hope that we would come through it. 

Our special thanks goes out to the nurses at Millennium for their kindness and understanding with the passion for their job helped us tremendously. And of course Paul Freeman - his calming manner, his professionalism, his ability to advise and not talk down to us. He truly was Smudge's hero in all of this and without Paul who knows where we would have been. Without hesitation we have registered all four of our dogs at Millennium knowing they will always be in the best possible hands if ever they should need veterinary care in the future.

The staff at Millennium were both professional and caring and although the outlook was bleak for Smudge we knew that he was receiving the best possible care and treatment. We were delighted that Smudge was nominated for a Pet Bravery Award. His Certificate will be framed and put on the wall along with a lovely canvas picture of him.'

Smudge and his family had such a traumatic time and their time and dedication has been rewarded.  Smudge received a Millennium Veterinary Practice Pet Bravery Award.

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