Toby Birks - fighting paralysis to walk again

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Toby - a 4 year old, male, labrador crossbred - came in as an emergency, collapsed and unable to walk, with limited reflexes and unable to blink. He was assessed by specialist neurologist Paul Freeman and was admitted for further investigation, intensive nursing and medical management.  Toby had a number of tests including blood samples, collection of spinal fluid and electro-muscular tests under anaesthetic, intravenous fluid therapy, immunosupressive drugs and his bladder was catheterised as he was unable to empty it himself.  Differentials such as botulism, lungworm, toxoplasmosis, neurospora or a brainstem condition were investigated.  Intensive nursing care, physiotherapy, regular progress assessments and treatment continued.   Toby was hospitilised for 10 days, by which time he was able to urinate and was discharge, with physiotherapy and nursing care to continue at home...
Here is Toby's history, in his own words!

'My name is Toby and one day in July Mum and Dad noticed I was getting very thin. They thought I might have worms but were concerned because it was only a few weeks since they had last given me my wormer. To be sure, Dad took me to see Millennium Vets. I saw a nice lady who agreed that my Mum and Dad were probably right. The nice lady gave Dad some horrible powders that I had to take for 3 days. I had my first dose on the Sunday morning (they were sneaky and hid it in my dinner and I didn’t notice) and the second on Monday 11th July before we went on our walk. 

Dad took me over the fields so I could run about and chase pheasants and rabbits. Dad gave me sausage as a treat when I went back to him. Well, he did call me so I don’t quite know what else he expected. Half way round the walk I started to feel a bit funny and was sick. Dad kept throwing me sausage, but it just came straight back. He stopped giving me sausage and I kept running in the fields. He thought it was probably the effect of the wormer. 

When we got home, Dad sat at his desk to start work. When he sits at the desk I know he won’t play with me so I curled up on the sofa and went to sleep. While I was asleep he phoned the vet to ask if this reaction was a normal side effect to the wormer. Soon he got up to get some lunch. I think it’s odd that I’m not allowed a lunch and he is, but I don’t make the rules!! I wandered around the dining room and kitchen and felt funny. I was a bit wobbly. Dad called Elliot down to sit with me for a while and we had a nice cuddle. 

When Mum came home I felt really wobbly and could hardly stand up. Dad phoned the vet again and explained that I had got worse. The next thing I knew he had picked me up and was putting me in the car to take me back to the vet. When we got there, lots of people were very worried about me. They used needles on me but I just didn’t care. I couldn’t stand up, but I could still wag my tail. Some people thought this was very funny and I was glad to make them laugh. I was scared because I was telling my limbs to do things and they weren’t doing what I wanted, but I like making people laugh so I was brave. 

Mum and Dad had to leave me at the vet’s so that they could work out what was wrong with me. They did lots of tests but none of them gave many answers. They also gave me antibiotics in the hope that it would help. Mum and Dad came to visit me every day and I was really pleased to see them. The nurses were lovely and took really good care of me but it is not like being at home. 

In the end a very clever vet called Paul Freeman worked out that I had got polyradiculoneuritis. The toxoplasmosis infection had attacked my spinal nerves and stopped them working, so it was no wonder I couldn’t move anything. He started the medicine and slowly I started to get better. They told me that when I learnt to wee by myself again then I could go home. This was such good news, but so hard to do!! I tried really hard and after being in the vets for 10 days I finally went by myself while someone held me up. I was going home!!! I still couldn’t stand properly or walk but I could shuffle myself about and I was going home!! Mum and Dad put me in the car and off we went. 

I got home and it was so good to be on my own bed in my own house. Everyone helped me to stand and move my legs into the right places. It was such hard work but I kept on trying. I had to keep taking nasty medicine, but Mum and Dad put it on bread with my favourite – peanut butter!!! I used to look forward to medicine time just for the peanut butter! Soon I started walking by myself. I was still wobbly, but at least I could get around on my own feet. As I slowly got stronger, Mum took me to do something that we hadn’t done for a long time – visit John at Waterhounds Hydrotherapy!! I love jumping in the pool for a swim!! I had to use a flotation vest at first otherwise I would have sunk to the bottom of the pool. After several weeks I was able to swim with just a harness – yippee!!!! I have slowly got better –so far it has taken three months and I am still not as I was before I fell ill. 

All the family and people at the vets are really pleased with my progress. It has been a lot of hard work and sometimes I still stumble a little, but it is rare. Mum and Dad both said that I have ‘got my trot back’. I still can’t do the long walks I love with Dad or go running with Mum, but I am up to about 2.5 miles – a long way from having to be carried! So it won’t be long…..! 

Mum and Dad and I would like to thank all the staff at Millennium Vets and for their advice, support and kindness ………..lots of woofs, licks and happy waggy tails 
Toby XXXX '

Toby's owner added, 'Toby is so much better now. All he really needs to work on now is his stamina – something that will come with time and exercise.   Thanks for everyone’s help with Toby, we certainly wouldn’t want to contemplate the outcome without their help and attention.'
 
Toby was presented with a MVP Pet Bravery Award, after being nominated by nurse Emma Ruggles, who said in the end Toby gradually improved to the point where he could walk unaided.  He was such a good patient whilst he was with us - a lovely boy, very brave and well behaved throughout his care.  We were all really pleased with Toby's continued progress.  

To see more pictures of Toby, visit our MVP Pet Bravery Winners 2016 image gallery, click here.


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