When Eddie and I started Eddie’s Wheels, we thought all the dogs we’d build carts for would eventually rehabilitate out of their wheels. That’s because our first dog, Buddha, used her wheels for less than 6 months before she started being able to walk again without a cart. Sure, it was “spinal walking” – a phrase that indicates that an animal with no deep pain sensation is walking by using its intact reflexes – but Buddha made no such distinctions. She was up on her own two feet and walking without that darn cart getting stuck in the woods by our house.
Twenty four years have passed since Buddha got her wheels. We’ve cared for a succession of dogs with spinal cord disabilities since then – but it’s Daisy, our disabled dachsund, whose progression from total paralysis to spinal walking that I am thinking about now. Daisy had 4 herniated discs and did not have the benefit of surgery. She had severely spastic reflexes when you tickled her toes. In the cart, she either dragged her feet or moved them restlessly against the rolling stirrups. However, after a short time, she began to take her feet off the stirrups and there was nothing I could do to keep her toes elevated. Then I noticed that when she was walking up the steep incline to our house, she slowed down enough to use her rear legs to help her climb up the hill.
This past weekend we had the opportunity to work with Duchess, a similarly disabled dachshund who has spastic reflexes but has not progressed to spinal walking in her wheelchair. Our resident rehab person, Erika McElwey, (www.changeyourrange.com) worked with Duchess on the DogTread and noted that as she fatigued, her spasticity calmed down and she was able to re-pattern her gait. Here are two videos showing her progress in only one session.
A recent study of humans with spinal cord injuries bears out this thesis: that calming spasticity can help improve function and gait. Visit this link to learn more: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/feb2013/ninds-05.htm Good news for humans and dogs!
UPDATE: One week later and one rehab session, see how well Duchess is gaiting on the treadmill with just a little assistance from Erika!