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You’ve all heard of the Big Mac well this is a tale about a little Mac, although his will and determination sure is something to admire. Mac is a Jack Russel X Chihuahua who unexpectedly seemed in pain at home and lost the ability to walk on his front limbs at first then his back legs.  On further investigation and a referral to Liverpool University Veterinary Hospital it was discovered that he had suffered from a spinal extrusion and contusion in his cervical vertebra in his neck. All dogs just like humans are at risk of this occurring and sometimes only a slip or a jump can cause this to happen and it is not always a traumatic event, as in Mac’s case. The best option for Mac was to operate and he underwent ventral slot surgery of the cervical vertebra C3-4. The aim of this procedure is to remove any herniated disc material that is now present in the spinal canal. This relieves the pressure and hopes to return neurological sensation back to his toes.
Fortunately for Mac his surgery was a success.  He was booked in to Mochdre to start his rehabilitation days after his surgery. After spinal injuries it is difficult to know how quickly a dog will recover and often during their first assessment you have to judge their abilities on the day. On arrival for his physiotherapy assessment, just days after surgery, he was already able to stand and walk. Although he was wobbly and tired quickly we were at a great starting point.
Our aims were to:
  • Regain proprioceptive feeling
  • Avoid muscle loss
  • Build on core stability
  • Reeducate his gait
  • Ease tension
We worked on some weight shifting exercises and balance with our wobble boards. Tackled his sense of feeling with our electric toothbrush – which definitely tickled his toes. Luckily for us he was already walking, which reduced the risk of muscle loss greatly. The longer an animal is recumbent the more muscle loss will occur and unfortunately the longer it will take to rebuild. We also managed to perform some massage along his spine to break down any tense muscle that built up, encourage circulation and provide different feeling to stimulate his mind and nervous system.
However, after his first physiotherapy session it was clear he had progressed quicker than we could have imagined. Therefore, to get him back to normal as soon as possible we moved onto the underwater treadmill.
Benefits include:
  • Gait re-education
  • Heat therapy with the water
  • Buoyancy for support
  • Hydro static pressure for circulation
  • Resistance for muscle build up
We started off slow as his injuries were still only recent. Mac has been attending twice weekly sessions for 6 weeks. His muscle tone has greatly improved and his walking is getting better each session. Mac was still wobbly when walking slowly on land or when he was tired. Before coming back to physiotherapy sessions and discussing with Sarah what we should do next we tried him out in the pool.  Although he needed support our main aim was to build up his core strength and stability. Swimming provided the perfect conditions that would test Mac encouraging him to use his core strength.
Mac at the beginning of his treadmill treatment
And six weeks later
We’re now at a point where Mac is close to being back to normal. He’s still attending alternate sessions between swimming and the treadmill every week but we hope he’ll improve more and more and soon be back to his old ways.

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