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The astonishing recovery of a tetraplegic retriever

A young golden Retriever, struck down by a rare disease that caused her to lose the use of her limbs overnight, has made a full recovery thanks to the dedication of her devoted owners, the skills of veterinary physiotherapist Brian Sharp and the expertise of DVS’s veterinary and nursing teams.

Nat Whitley, internal medicine specialist at DVS, reports:

“Florence was 18 months old when she was first referred to me at DVS. Usually a lively outdoor dog, she had been lethargic for three days and had a fever that was not responding to antibiotics. Routine blood tests and X-rays of her chest and abdomen had not provided a diagnosis so she was referred to DVS to determine if an infection or immune mediated problem (or in the worst case, a cancer) was manifesting as fever.

“Urinalysis and culture and an ultrasound scan of the abdomen and heart were carried out and then Florence was anaesthetised to obtain samples of spinal and joint fluid. She recovered well from these procedures and, initially, seemed brighter but, early the next morning she took a turn for the worse. Within the space of a few hours she developed a flaccid paralysis of all four legs and was completely unable to walk. Her breathing muscles had also become weak and she had lost her bark. She still had normal sensation and was mentally alert, but had lost all muscle tone and flexor withdrawal reflexes. Initially we were concerned that her breathing muscles could fail completely, and that she would have to be put on a ventilator to be kept alive.

A rare diagnosis

“Following internal consultation with Dr Laurent Garosi, neurology specialist, Florence was diagnosed with polyradiculoneuritis. This rare and devastating condition is similar to Guillain-Barré syndrome in man and is poorly understood, but believed to be caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking components of the nervous system because the molecular structure is similar to those in bacteria or viruses recently present in the dog. “Cases of polyradiculoneuritis may not survive because of respiratory paralysis or complications such as aspiration pneumonia. If they do recover, it can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to months, with physiotherapy and owner compliance playing vital roles in the outcome. The longest time from onset of the condition to a successful recovery that I had previously experienced was 71 days.”

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