One of our clients has written us this lovely piece about her dog Jake's emergency spinal surgery, and subsequent recovery, including rehabilitation in our hydro treadmill with Becky in Fishguard. Thank you Pip for your article.
"We spotted Jake when he was 4yrs old, on the Many Tears Dog Rescue website in late October 2011. He was with the same fosterer in Northamptonshire as another of our boys had been and seemed to say ‘it just has to be’. He came home to us in Leicestershire on 11th November 2011.
Though he had had a very bad start to life, on the whole he was very healthy. A typical Cocker Spaniel in his love for food & we certainly have to watch his weight.
Fast forward to May 2017. Jake had been absolutely fine, no issues, ill health, pain or signs of what was to come. On the evening of 23 May he and his brothers had their supper & he came back into the lounge & lay down on his bed. He went to sleep. About 30 minutes later I got up to go to the kitchen & normally he would be up and in the kitchen with me, in case there was any food. I got to the kitchen & no Jake. I called him, but nothing. Went back into the lounge and quickly realised that he just couldn’t get up. He was trying but his back legs were just not working. There had been no sound, cry or yelp. He’d just lay down & that was it.
We thought perhaps he’d tweaked his back, so after a sleepless night with my husband Nigel sleeping downstairs with Jake, we went off to the vets. He had eaten a bit of breakfast and we had carried him outside for a wee, but he could not stand on his back legs at all. He dragged himself around using his front legs but that was it. Luckily, in true Cocker style, his little tail was still wagging.
The vets did various tests looking for reactions, sensation loss, pain. They wondered if he’d trapped a nerve, tweaked something, had inflammation of nerves and/or a disc in his spine. We agreed to treat with anti-inflammatories and pain killers and to observe closely.
We quickly realised that it was far more serious and our vets did a referral to The Willows Veterinary Centre & Referral Services in Solihull. We drove over: one of the longest 50 minute drive ever. We were quickly seen and various tests were completed. The vet was confident that Jake had ruptured a disc or discs in his spine, (an 'intervertebral disc protrusion') thus causing pressure onto the spinal cord, leading to the paralysis. A CT scan was required to confirm. If this was the case he’d be immediately operated on.
We left him at 12noon & by 5.30pm the vet was on the phone saying this had been confirmed, operated on & Jake was in recovery.
We collected him only 48hrs later. Jake looked so much brighter when we saw him. The wound site was incredible, so much smaller than we were expecting. He was walking but fully supported with a harness and a sling supporting his back legs. His legs were moving but very sluggishly and his back paws were dragging along the floor. He was on crate rest except to relieve himself, for 4 weeks when he would be reviewed by The Willows. After the review by Willows, they were extremely pleased with his progress. He was prescribed another 4 weeks of crate rest, toilet breaks but we could start to walk him (still fully supported) for 5 minutes, increasing by 5 minutes every 7 days.
After 12 weeks we were walking on lead or harness but not using the sling unless he was very tired. Jake made steady progress but after about 6 months he seemed to get to a certain stage but was not progressing any further. In fact, our new vets, The Oak Veterinary Practice, Haverfordwest (we’d since relocated to Pembrokeshire) commented that his muscle tone was very poor, causing quite a hunched back and no beautiful round Cocker Spaniel bottom😁.
The Oak were planning a hydrotherapy treadmill at their new practice in Fishguard but it was going to be a little while so they suggested Katharine at West Wales Canine Hydrotherapy. They completed the referral and off we went to Carmarthen for 18 weeks. Jake was not overly keen on the hydrotherapy pool. He doesn’t ‘do’ swimming - a bit too energetic for him. However, he complied with Katharine and gradually his buttock muscles really started to develop & his movement & stamina really improved.
When the treadmill opened at The Oak we were referred there & Jake has been going ever since. Initially we attended weekly but are now going fortnightly. Jake loves his session there, mainly because Becky is so kind & supportive and feeds him treats for the work he does.
The difference in Jake is terrific. He’s so much more confident on his back legs. He’s fitter & his stamina has increased. We cannot thank everyone involved in his recovery enough.
The treadmill works by allowing controlled exercise, in a normal 'position' (compared to swimming where limbs are used differently) using the water to provide buoyancy, taking the weight off Jake's back legs so they could move more effectively. By altering the height of the water, the speed of the treadmill and the incline, different joints and muscle groups can be targeted. The treadmill is perfect for getting dogs back on their feet after surgery, or for older dogs with arthritis or other mobility problems."