VMC's November Patient of the Month

Simba's Story

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Simba had no history of any physical ailments. He was on a routine walk one afternoon when another dog got away from its owner and ran toward Simba. Simba turned his body and his neck quickly to move away from the other dog, and suddenly dropped to the ground. All four legs were stiff, he was breathing very heavily, panting hard, and his eyes were looking around panicked. He wouldn’t move, and then his tongue started to swell and turn purple. I quickly got him into the car and rushed to my vet, Lyncourt Veterinary Hospital.

There, Simba was given oxygen and examined for the cause of the problem. He still wasn’t moving, and was still very panicked. Simba couldn’t understand what was happening. In fact, he was so scared that he put himself into cardiac arrest and was not breathing at all for several minutes. The vet administered several shots of epinephrine in order to revive him, at which point he was transferred directly to the Veterinary Medical Center.

Dr. Luschini was able to stabilize Simba, although his heart rate was still very high and he still wasn’t moving at all. He couldn’t move his limbs or his tail, and he couldn’t even bark. But he was alive and breathing. He was placed into one of the beds at the Veterinary Medical Center, connected to an IV and a urinary catheter, and kept overnight for observation. Still not moving the next day, Dr. Fleckenstein evaluated Simba and began acupuncture treatment, while Lis Conarton assessed him and began physical therapy. Because Simba couldn’t move or stand on his own, Lis started him in a “cart” with harnesses that held him up in a standing position and moved on wheels to start exercising his legs. We also did “range of motion” exercises to prevent atrophy in his muscles.

After 3 days of stabilization at VMC, and still unsure of the exact cause of this ailment, we transferred Simba to Cornell University’s School of Veterinary Medicine for an MRI.   The MRI revealed that Simba had a disc degenerating in his spine in his neck, and a small piece of cartilage had likely broken off when he turn his neck away from the other dog.  This had  punctured his spinal cord – impacting his entire central nervous system and paralyzing him. No doctor could give us a clear prognosis for his recovery.

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Simba returned to the Veterinary Medical Center the next day, and remained hospitalized for nearly two weeks. It was days before he could eat on his own, and a week before he was able to urinate on his own. But he still couldn’t stand. All of the doctors and technicians continued their work and exercises with him multiple times throughout each day.

 

When Simba finally came home, we still had a lot of work to do. We purchased a “Help ‘Em Up” full-body harness that has handles at either end to help us lift Simba, so that we could carry him outside to go to the bathroom, and help him to get up and moving around for his at-home physical therapy exercises. We also brought him in to the VMC multiple times for acupuncture, PT with Lis, and evaluations by the doctors. Over the next three months, Simba slowly made progress.

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Simba is now miraculously up and walking, even running, and nearly 100% back to his old self. Throughout the entire experience, our family had to make tough decisions – but the team and support at VMC saved our dog’s life. ~Simba’s Family

Simba: 5 year old golden retriever mix

Diagnosis Spinal cord damage & temporary paralysis

Treatments Hospitalization MRI Acupuncture Laser Therapy Underwater Treadmill Home Exercise Program Pain Management Medications