To Paralysis and Back: a dog’s diary

February 1, 2012

Chester, a beloved ten year old mixed breed pup, became acutely paralyzed at his acreage home west of Edmonton. Chester had slipped a disc in his neck and become completgely quadriplegic within a couple of hours.

His owners, Sandra and Robert, were devastated. Chester had never been to see a veterinarian in his life, but Sandra and Robert knew enough to realize  an expensive major surgery would be advocated, and the recovery protracted.

Chester had never been off the farm in all those ten years. The idea that his first time away from his devoted family would be to undergo the stress of a major surgery seemed unthinkable. But what else could be done?

Sandra and Robert kept Chester comfortable while they racked their brains regarding their options. Then their daughter found the website of Edmonton Holistic Veterinary Clinic.

February 2, 2012

After a night of very little sleep, and feeling very uncertain about what Edmonton Holistic could do for them, but knowing they could not wait any longer to get help, Chester and his parents set out for the clinic.

The Farards were greeted by Christina that day, who immediately reassured Sandra and Robert with her kind and gentle manner. Dr. Karen Marsden was fortunately able to see Chester right away, having had one of her surgeries cancel.

Chester and his family were ushered into one of the exam rooms, all of which are comfortable and warm and decorated to help everyone feel at ease. Chester received his examination on a cosy couch.

Despite these initial favourable impressions, there was no question that Chester was in a bad way, and that Dr. Marsden had her work cut out for her. Radiographs (X rays) confirmed the diagnosis of disc slippage.  Chester was completely paralyzed in all four limbs, unable to urinate, had a distended bladder, and did not react when his toes were pinched – an ominous sign.

Nevertheless, you can’t be a holistic veterinarian without being an optimist. With kindness, compassion, and a positive attitude born of long clinical experience, Dr. Marsden laid out the protocol for Chester.

Edmonton Holistic Veterinary Clinic practises integrative medicine. That means judicious use of drugs and surgery when they fit the bill. If a paralyzed dog is seen within 24 hours of a spinal cord injury, corticosteroid injections can markedly help reduce inflammation and limit damage. After a couple of days, these drugs provide progressively less benefit. Fortunately, despite his wait to see a veterinarian, Chester was still within that ‘golden period’ of responsiveness to corticosteroids.

How about surgery? This is where ‘holistic’ enters into things. There was no question that surgery would have been deemed necessary by any conventional practitioner, given the X ray findings. Dr. Marsden has found, though, that integrating multiple modalities with cortisone can greatly speed complete healing of the disc and spinal cord.

Chester was put on a protocol tailor-made to his presentation, including:

  • Homeopathic Belladonna, which is toxic in high doses, but an acute anti-inflammatory for the nervous system in trace homeopathic doses
  • High frequency acupuncture treatments administered at key points for several hours at a time. The needles were placed in Chester’s neck
  • An ancient herbal formula from China known as Bupleurum and Kudzu. It’s anti-inflammatory effect on the spinal cord is testified to by the traditional sympom indications for the formula – severe acute neck pain and immobility
  • Gentle chiropractic adjustments with an Activator, to reduce strain on the affected disc by ensuring all other spinal segments are moving freely

Chester took up residence at the clinic and even Dr. Marsden’s home while she implemented his therapy.

February 4, 2012

After just two days of intensive therapy, Chester had made stunning progress, from being paralyzed in all four limbs to being able to stand and walk, albeit shakily. He could also now urinate on his own again. He had only needed two doses of cortisone, and had been off the drug completely for the last day or two. Chester went home with his owners where he was greeted with relief by his pal, Yodi. Robert and Sandra continued Dr. Marsden’s protocol, although the doses of even the herbal medication were also able to be reduced.

February 5, 2012

Chester woke up a little bit stiff, but ran to the door to go outside. He could now lift his hind leg to urinate without tipping over. Improvements continued to rack up on an hourly basis.

February 6, 2012

Chester was able to go for a short walk, was less stiff, and exhibited only mild incoordination.

February 7, 2012

Chester was now completely back into his normal routine. By the following day, his owners were scarcely able to believe that it was just a week ago that Chester was quadriplegic.

Chester, one week after starting treatment with herbs and acupuncture for quadriplegia due to a slipped disc in his neck
Chester’s case was exceptional in how quickly he responded. Even so, many dogs with paralysis from disc disease seem to be able to be put back on their feet within just a week or two using alternative therapies. Sometimes surgery and pharmaceuticals are needed, but not in Chester’s case. The Farards remain grateful to Drs. Marsden for Chester’s recovery, and pray they have many more happy healthy years ahead of them with their beloved canine companion.