By Ellie Goldstein
I recall the incident as though it happened yesterday and it’s as frightening to me in retrospect as it was when it occurred some 30 or more years ago.
I had a wonderful hound/shepherd cross at the time, a very athletic dog, who one day came dragging himself across the yard to me using only his front legs. I looked in horror to see that his hind end was totally useless. A friend and I carried him on a blanket to the car and had him at the vet hospital in record time. It was with some degree of relief that I placed him in the hands of the veterinarian on duty and headed for home with instructions to call in a few hours when the vet had made an assessment of Cord’s condition.
The news was not good. There was no name applied to what had happened but Cord was paralyzed behind. The vet assured me he was not in pain but he was, at that point, totally unable to use his hind end. Naturally this happened on a Sunday morning. Is there any other time for an emergency?
A call to the hospital on Monday morning brought pretty much the same results. It was the veterinarian’s statement that no improvement had taken place, in fact this man was somewhat concerned that the paralysis was “creeping” forward. But I was reassured Cord was comfortable and he had wagged his tail.
With that last statement, lights went on; bells sounded. How could this dog be totally paralyzed behind yet be able to wag his tail? Maybe it WAS possible but it was at this point, that my attitude changed – forever. I realized the necessity of being informed, of knowing at least to some degree what was happening to my animals. It wasn’t enough for me to hand my dog to a veterinarian and say, “Fix him!”
With that dawning, I became involved. I called the veterinarian friend who owned the hospital (at his home), told him my buddy, Cord, was there and in need. He said he was on the way, would look in on Cord, whom he knew, and would call me. I told him, “I’m on my way, Harm. I’ll meet you there.”
Cord was a heart dog. He’d never been separated from me in the eight years I’d had him. He wasn’t going to get up and make any effort to live unless he knew I was there with him. Do you know, when Harm and I walked back to where Cord was crated, that dog took one look at me, started to whine and cry and very feebly stood up! Harm smiled benevolently down at me; I smiled up at him with tears streaming down my face and Cord came home right then and there. He made a wonderful recovery with only a slight deficit in one hind leg.
So what’s the point of my story? Well, let me ask you a few questions. Who knows your animals best? Who sees the most subtle changes that your animal doesn’t show the attending veterinarian? At the hospital he’s had an adrenaline rush and looks for all the world to be just fine. How many times have you seen that happen? Yet you know something’s going on; something’s not right.
In looking back to that day so long ago, I’d say Cord probably had FCE (fibrocartilaginous emboli). He threw a clot or vertebral debris that lodged in his spine temporarily paralyzing him. Who knew FCE at the time? Certainly not I. But since that episode, I’ve made a point of being as informed as I can be about the health of my animals. I want to be able to discuss my dogs’ problems with my vet and I want to know enough so I can understand what’s happening and how to best help make my animal better.
With internet access and books such as Care of the Racing and Retired Greyhound, each of us has the opportunity to learn so much about our greyhounds’ health. For the sake of your dog (or dogs) well being, take an active part. Veterinarians welcome the input of informed owners. It makes their job easier. We don’t overstep our bounds by informing a veterinarian of what we’re seeing; we’re helping our dogs live healthier lives.
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