Your pet has become paralyzed. You are now desperately trying to come to grips with a million queries in your head: why this has happened? What is to be done to cure your pet? Can your pet be normal again? How long will it take? What procedures are to be done to cure it? How much will all this cost? Where will your pet end up in the end? Do you have to consider euthanasia?
The cause of paralysis may be genetic – such as breed predisposed intervertebral diseases (IVDD) in Corgis, Dachsunds, Pekingnese, Shih Tzus, French Bull Terriers, Poodles and Schnauzers. Paralysis may be caused by a traumatic injury such as hit-by-car, falling from a height causing fracture or nerve damage. Congenital diseases of the nerve system including the brain and spinal cord may cause adult-onset paralysis. Last but not least, vascular stroke in the brain or at the terminal aorta in the cat can cause paralysis.
The possible causes of paralysis are plentiful therefore a proper diagnosis can help you determine your pet’s chance for a full recovery. It will give you a very rough estimation of the time and cost it will take to put your pet back together. Logically, traumatic injuries such as fracture, severe traumatic IVDD and congenital neurological malformation should best be remedied first by surgery followed by rehabilitative therapies including acupuncture, physiotherapy or hydrotherapy. What about paralysis that is less or not operable? What if your budget limits the option of surgery? What alternative methods can you turn to?
Let’s look a little deeper to understand what some of these common procedures can do for your pet. We shall focus on paralysis caused by spinal nerve compression or damage for the remainder of this post.
Surgery is extremely useful and is the ultimate treatment of choice when it comes to resolving paralysis that is due to spinal cord compression in animals. The decision to proceed with surgery is usually reinforced by initial physical examination followed by diagnostic imaging including radiographs, myelography or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
The purpose of surgery is to remove the offending material that is compressing on the spinal cord. The location and extent of this compression is best determined by an MRI. It can visually indicate the area of, size and extent of the compression.
Intervertebral disc herniation most frequently happens in two areas and surgery of each location carries its unique set of risks. Clinically, it is most common for herniation of intervertebral discs occur either at the neck or at the mid-back area. Surgery at the neck carries a much higher risk as that area has large bundles of major arteries, veins and nerves. Luckily, surgery at the mid-back is comparatively less risky.
There may be more than one disc herniation, which an MRI scan should pick up. An intervertebral disc is located between two spinal bones. The disc is a soft pad that act as a shock-absorbent pad between the two bones. In order to reach this disc, drilling of spinal bone must be done in order to access the offending disc. There is often more than one disc herniation in an animal, therefore more than one intervertebral space will need to be examined and the disc material scraped out. If multiple spaces have to be explored and herniated discs scraped out, the spinal column will become less stable (as a result of drilling of bone to expose herniated discs).
A spinal surgery involves an animal to be put under anesthesia, then a sizeable incision made over the trouble area in order to expose the spinal column and the herniated material. Sometimes, discs can be herniated at the neck and at the mid-back at the same time.
Surgery is not 100% curative, but no treatment could ever boast 100% success rate. Surgery is indicated if diagnostic scans show problems such as fracture, dislocation, multiple disc herniation, clot in spinal cord or even spinal neoplasia (cancer). This method will mend a fracture, stabilize a dislocation and physically remove a cancer from the spine. Just like any other therapies, the success rate of a surgical procedure is increased when the problem is recognized early and treatment instituted promptly. As a result, there is talk of the “Golden 48 hours”
The “Golden 48 hours” denotes the very important first 48 hours of injury – where instituting any form of treatment especially surgery – is likely to yield the best result. That means, it is most likely a pet will regain its ability to walk if treatment were initiated within this period. By doing so, spinal compression (in the case of IVDD) can be removed therefore there is no further physical compression on the spine. Early intervention stops further inflammation as a result of the traumatic compression. The degree of trauma depends on the severity of the incident. That means, when a pet gradually becomes paralyzed over several weeks or months – the rate of progression of spinal compression is reasonably slow, which is vastly different to an acute disc herniation or sudden clot formation. The degree of inflammation surrounding the affected spine is more chronic inflammation which will take a longer to subside. In the case of a traumatic injury yielding blood clot formation against the spine or an acute herniation of one or more discs – spinal trauma is much more severe. As a result, inflammation surrounding the trauma area is significantly stronger and more concentrated.
Pets that undergo decompression surgery should not be considered pain-free. Suitable medications may be prescribed but should not be relied on long term. Other supportive therapies such as physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and acupuncture can be helpful in your pet’s rehabilitation.
Non-Surgical Management (Conservative / Alternative/ Integrative)
Some may say that surgery is expensive, risky and may not yield a perfect outcome and that person will not be wrong to say so. Human medical intervention is never perfect and neither will surgery be. That said, you as the owner may be burdened with a rather hefty surgical (and medical) bill after the aggressive procedure and be saddled with a pet that remains non-ambulatory and possibly be in a whole new level of pain.
If you fear surgery, anesthesia and a potentially exorbitant bill yet cannot be bear to stand by and watch your pet suffer the humiliation and inconvenience of immobility, incontinence, pain and demoralization – then it’s time to begin research on those detested “alternative” therapies.
Alternative therapies are anything other than mainstay western medical treatments. You can perhaps begin to imagine the wide scope of possibilities laid in front of you. Some methods pride itself with an ancient history background while some are more contemporary or simply modernized. These therapies can be varied in their method of “attack” but usually more nebulous compared to mainstay western medical therapy. As most of us are used to solving a problem with a specific focus mainstay western therapies are most familiar. It provides us with a sense of real purpose which is to fix the problem that we see. “Alternative” modalities commonly look at a bigger picture for which the illness in front you may just be a part of a larger problem. One may have heard alternative therapies take longer to “work” – well, if such a therapy were to tackle a larger and more general problem in the body – won’t results take longer to become obvious?
In the event you are faced with the terrible reality of an immobile pet while surgery is not the most desired treatment option – you may consider methods introduced below. That said, mainstay therapy including surgery and diagnostic imaging is invaluable and your ability to make a quick and well-informed decision will greatly benefit your pet in the end. Electing surgery is not necessarily a “daring” choice nor is choosing alternative methods “wimpy”. You must be well-informed of your pet’s condition and all if the illness’ subsequent effects on it. Serious consideration into your tolerance, patience, financial staying-power is as paramount as the well-being of your pet. Pets can live well despite being paralyzed if only it receives encouragement, kindness and care throughout its life. The “wish” of your pet can only best be interpreted by you as its owner and guardian, so be informed and read widely.
Acupuncture is the insertion of specialized needles into specific points on various parts of the body called acupuncture points. Some acupuncture points are “related” to each other and are found along a meridian which is similar to a stations along railway line.
Amongst the many complex functions achieved by acupuncture, anti-inflammation and pain relief are two of the more superficially prominent features of this mode of therapy. Acupuncture is not a surgical treatment therefore does not involve the physical correction of a defect. Instead this mode of therapy restores balance to the body when it is unbalanced, relieves inflammation, pain and promotes proper circulation.
In an acute case of IVDD, we at the clinic may recommend an intensive course of therapy where a patient is treated daily using acupuncture. The patient is required to be “bed-rested” or “cage-confined” full time in order to allow for the body to heal itself and find stabilization. Patients are often in acute pain when encountering an episode of IVDD. Pain management can come in many forms including medications, acupuncture, laser therapy, light therapy and PEMF therapy to name a few. As it is believed that pain is brought on by “blockages” in the body’s circulation (and indeed the abnormal displacement of an intervertebral disc does pose as a blockage to the spine), acupuncture serves to unblock the affected points and meridians thereby relieving pain.
We can achieve quite amazing results without the need for surgery in many cases. The earlier you pick up your pet’s discomfort, the higher the chance of managing by this treatment only. If you wait and observe too long, we may recommend you to seek surgical referral instead.
Bian Shi Therapy
Bian shi (砭石) is a stone that can come in various shapes. Upon rigorous rubbing of this stone over the body, far infrared signals can be produced which serves to reduce inflammation. We harness this ability of the bian shi then further strengthen this by adding far infra-red signals and a warming mechanism.
This “super powered” electrically charged bian shi is then used to rub over the sore areas of your pet’s body. This will usually be the neck and the back. By doing so, peripheral blood circulation is enhanced, inflammation is locally reduced and the warmth of the stone will also serve to reduce uncomfortable muscle twitching. Sometimes, the pet with a sore neck or back will just fall asleep!
This is a gentle medical treatment (but not traditional western medication) based on the principle of “like-cures-like”. Remedies are chosen based on your pet’s presenting signs (that’s right – it is not “one treatment fits all”). Spinal pain around the neck receives different remedies compared to pain around the back or the rump. These remedies are uniquely selected for your pet after a thorough examination.
Homotoxic remedies are very mild and side effects are minimal. We rarely need to worry about kidney failure / liver failure and stomach ulcers as we usually do if regular western medications are prescribed. These remedies (and traditional homeopathic remedies) are mild but their effects can be far-reaching. The earlier you pick up the problem, the better the results. In fact, in our experience – often as good as if not better than using standard western medications.
Like acupuncture – homotoxicology can be applied to just about any situation and any patients. This type of therapy can act rapidly by giving as an injection and can be given easily by mouth as it is rarely bitter. Injections are given in consultation with owners present and is rarely “traumatic” because the treatment itself does not sting (again, unlike some standard western medications).
Homotoxicology + Pet’s unique ID imprint
Homotoxicology remedies can be potentiated (strengthened) by mixing with just a drop of the pet’s blood. This way, the remedies make an immediate connection with the pet such that when the mixture is injected back into the pet – the remedies starts to work right away!
We use this therapy in the first few visits – where your pet’s problems are most severe. Sometimes, we require you to bring your pet back a few times a week in the early stages in order to gain control of the illness.
Homotoxicology + Medical Ozone therapy
A very flexible class of remedies – homotoxic remedies can be mixed with medical ozone gas and utilized as above. Injured areas of the body are deprived of oxygen which is essential to maintaining vitality. An injury heals faster and better with extra provision of oxygen which is delivered efficiently by the incorporation of medical ozone.
Areas of treatment are individualized as each case is unique. General infiltration into the troubled area(s) may be done as can treatment be applied onto acupuncture points. We use the smallest needles when delivering these treatments so patients rarely object. Sessions are performed as frequently as possible in the initial stage and weaned down to manageable revisits thereafter.
Animal Physiotherapy and Hydrotherapy
Learning to walk again is no easy task. After the initial barrage of treatments all aimed to remove and repair the damage (by surgery), reduce inflammation (medications, alternative therapies), relief pain (medications, alternative therapies) and promote healing, your pet needs to get those wobbly legs moving once more. This is where animal physiotherapy and hydrotherapy comes in and you should be relieved to know that there are good people here in Hong Kong to provide just that.
Animal Physiotherapy can continue the principle of pain management without the reliance of medications as can hydrotherapy. These modalities are instrumental in rebuilding your pet’s recovered nervous system, re-introducing it to the musculoskeletal system which physically supports the body. These should be factored in as an integral part of the healing program for your paralyzed pet.
Immobility due to paralysis or quadraparalysis is a debilitating but rarely deadly medical problem. It brings great deal of pain
, frustration, inconvenience and long-term physical troubles such as decubital ulcers and chronic bladder infection (which will be discussed in future posts). Demoralization amongst owners can easily be expected as treatment outcomes do not match their expectations. At the same time one must never ignore the mental health of the pet as they clearly have pride too.
This post acts as part of your research into the realm of pet immobility. Now that you are faced with the inevitable reality that your beloved pet can no longer move itself you most certainly are presented with some medical options to consider. This article provides only a brief idea of some options available but since no two cases are identical therefore no two treatments are the same. It is best to consult a veterinarian face to face to discuss your concerns.
Call us on 2915-2095 for a in-person consultation!