1-8-06  Wagging her tail

My dog seems to be able to wag her tail, because she's done it a few times, but she basically never does it. She's done it maybe 4 times ever. It is the most adorable thing in the world when she does.

1-12-06  Stronger on one side

My dog is stronger on one side, too. Her physical therapist said it is not uncommon for one side to show improvement more quickly, and she also said (which I don't understand) that the sides can switch so the other side is the stronger one.

1-26-06  Latest accomplishments for my dog

The first week of January we drove to the school to go for our walk, and she was riding in a laundry basket on the floor of the passenger side. Being small, the passenger seat is about chin level for her in the basket. I parked at the school and walked around to open the passenger door, and SHE WAS UP ON THE SEAT!!! I didn't notice at first because I was kind of gazing off over the athletic field while opening the door, and when I opened the door I realized at the same time that she was there and that she had an impluse to jump out. Fortunately, she was kind of sliding around on a magazine lying on the seat and we both decided jumping wasn't a good idea. She still doesn't climb curbs, I help her up 3" bumps 95% of the time. I cannot begin to imagine how she got on the seat. She looked a little confused, too.

Last week when we were walking, she was standing on the curb sniffing something and her right back foot slipped off the curb and landed on a pile of leaves about 5" down. She remained standing with three feet up on the curb and one in the gutter, and continued sniffing without interruption.

I posted a number of months ago that my dog had managed to walk over a parking lot speed bump without falling. Just want to say, she did it even better this week, she pretty much sailed over it.

We are 28 months post-injury. :)))

1-29-06  Muscle tone

My dog was very badly injured. She had a spinal fracture in which the two parts of the spine separated and one part tried to leapfrog over the other, pinching the spinal cord in between. She had surgery to put the spine back together and she couldn't stand up for 9 months.  You can imagine how skinny her back legs got. But she is musclebound now, I can tell you.

2-10-06 Sunny Nap

Dog napping in the sun in the sunporch

2-23-06  Change over time                                          

It took her about 9 months to be able to walk a few steps, but now she can go-go-go!

3-16-06  Description of spinal walking

My dog does spinal walking and with her it's basically a little flutter kick of the back feet barely touching the ground, usually not in time with the front feet.

3-18-06  Walking posture

When I look at the picture you just posted, I see that he has his head down, kind of level with his back. My dog does the same thing. She's not an amputee but has a spinal injury so she's weak in the rear. She puts most of her weight on her front feet, and in order to do that she leans a little forward and sticks her head as far forward as possible to move her center of gravity forward over her front feet. Does that make sense? He's holding his neck in an unnatural position, and my dog gets neck strain from doing that. It explains how her front elbows bow out because she has all her weight in front. My dog does that, too, big time.

3-27-06  Split nails

My dog is very hard on her nails. The ones on her front feet split because she puts so much pressure on them and leans forward. It helps if I keep them short. Fortunately, they've never actually gotten infected, but I wonder if she can feel split nails?

4-9-06  Sore neck

My dog was getting a stiff neck, it brought tears to her eyes, and it wasn't just from the way she walked due to being paralyzed, it was also from the way I was handling her. I learned to do two things. I now cue my dog before picking her up. I say "up-up-up", or "down-down-down" when picking her up or putting her down. I also scoop my hand under her chest and push my fingertips through her front legs and brace the front of her neck with my fingers in kind of a "V". Her head gets lots of support when lifted. She's doing better.

4-21-06  Glucosamine

I have a dog with rear end paralysis who overuses her front legs for walking. I have her on a glucosamine joint supplement to help preserve the joints of her front legs since they get extra wear and tear.

4-30-06  Sore neck (second description)

My paralyzed dog gets a stiff neck because she overuses her front legs since her back legs are affected by the paralysis. There have been times when she did not want to be carried because it seems I bounce her a little when I carry her even though it isn't much. But I guess if you have a sore neck every little bounce hurts. However, if I am very careful about lifting her for two or three days it seems to get better.

[Note: she had a sore neck several times. I think it was partly because of her walking posture, with her neck extended in order to shift her center of gravity forward over her front feet. This created a situation where if I picked her up, there was additional stress on her neck because of the way she was already holding her head. If I picked her up suddenly, for example because a car was coming or a stray dog, the quick lifting motion with no warning was hard on her neck. This is why verbal cues to warn her I was about to scoop her up were helpful.

I wonder now if it would have helped if we would have continued scarf walks for a few minutes every day. That would have given her some daily exercise with her head up in a more normal position.

This pretty much put an end to carry-walk exercises, which we had continued as part of her daily walks. The two where I held her out in front bothered her. The one where she was held on the side in a football carry and I passed my left hand around behind my back to bring it up under her feet did not seem to bother her as much. We continued doing that one when standing around in waiting rooms.

I had always closed the lid of the carrier for our drive to and from PT, but I started letting her ride with the top open so she could sit with her head up and not have to endure the bouncy car ride with the carrier closed and her head down.]

5-24-06  The other part of spinal walking

[Note: this is something I wrote after my dog had been walking nearly two years and I'd had plenty of time to think about it. It is in response to someone whose dog had a spinal fracture similar to my dog's, and was demonstrating ability after 7 months but still not walking.]

They talk about something called "learned non-use". I'm not sure that is the term that applies to my dog, but I applied it for lack of a better one. Basically, it took her about 9 months to be able to walk a distance of 4 feet. You'd think, "Great, she's walking now, she will soon be walking longer distances." It wasn't that simple. There were mental roadblocks. Her ability was coming back, like your dog who is able to stand and take a few steps, but after 9 months of not walking, it simply did not occur to her that she could. She wasn't stubborn. She wasn't wanting to be babied. She just simply had fully accepted that she could not walk and was now logically living her life on that premise.

I ***think*** but do not know, or I guess you could say I am ***guessing*** that since her initial walking at the 9-month point was spinal walking, it somehow did not trigger the area of her brain that said "Hooray, I can walk again!" As far as her brain was concerned, she still couldn't walk, regardless of what her legs were doing through the use of a reflexive brain of their own. Even though her legs were moving, they were not giving the biofeedback to her brain that they used to give with normal walking. As far as the "walking" part of her brain was concerned, nothing was happening. The conscious observing part of her brain couldn't help but see that she had been sitting in one place before, and now she had physically moved herself to another place, and that must have been puzzling without the customary biofeedback from her legs.

So we had to learn. We had to have a series of experiences and repetitions where she (almost as a third-person observer) was able to see that she had mobilized herself from one place to another. The very first time she walked 4 feet outdoors was on a sloping sidewalk. She went 4 feet and sat down bewildered. It happened unexpectedly and surprised both of us. When it did happen, I took her back up the slope and let her toddle down again so she did it twice. That time she walked again and sat again, looking just as bewildered. Then I picked her up and we continued our usual, non-walking exercise and went home and I guess she processed it a bit overnight. The next day I was so excited I took her back to the same spot. She had enough of a memory that she walked down it again, and we repeated a few times. But when I took her to another section of sloping sidewalk 100 yards away and set her down, she had no notion whatsoever that she could walk down it. Not a *clue*. She made no connection that over there was a slope she had walked down, and here was a slope and she could walk down this one, too. With encouragement and assistance she had to discover that she could go down that slope. Then we repeated it a few times. Now we had two places she was consciously aware that she could walk down. And so it developed from there. Her first conscious knowledge was she could go down one certain slope. Her second conscious knowledge was she could go down two slopes. Eventually she broadened her assumption to "I can go down slopes!" After that she could always go down slopes.

To give her credit, *she* is the one who figured out she could jump off of curbs. :)

It has been a long process of letting her build up her mental concept of what she can do. She is not negative. I think it is simply that since she is not using the original wiring that produced walking, once she began "spinal walking" with her reflexive/spinal wiring, it did not give the same feedback to her brain that she would have gotten from regular walking.

Something that fascinated me was that after maybe a year (don't know exactly how long--a long time) I realized she was learning to know how to get around a territory in the large sense. For so long she focussed on getting from here to a spot 6 feet from here, or here to that spot over there by the fence, or she would walk a long way but only focussed on what was in front of her while following a scent trail. But she was never forming a mental map in her mind, like you do when you know every inch of your territory. One day we were in a large outdoor patio over at the school and I saw that she suddenly realized that there was a place she wanted to go to that was not within her line of sight, and she knew how to get there. I had carried her throughout the patio many times, but I think it's like being a passenger in the car. You might be a passenger on a trip several times, but that doesn't mean you know the way. It was a huge advance for her to be mentally mapping the place in such large geographic terms and connect to it the concept of her own ability to navigate anywhere within it.

It's as if there are two parts to spinal walking. We spend so much time on the reflexive part, the muscle movements and strength and flexibility. You've got that. You see your dog standing, maybe taking a few steps. Obviously the physical ability is there. But she doesn't KNOW it. It doesn't compute in the part of her brain that originally handled walking. So then you have to work on developing the concept in her of what she can do, build it up step by step. Then she will be able to use the physical ability she already has.

They give us lists of exercises to build muscle, increase flexibility, improve balance, encourage reflexive movement. Then they assume the dog will connect the dots as far as using these abilities we help them develop. The dog might connect the dots faster if we could give them a set of learning experiences designed to show them consciously what can be done with this unconscious (reflexive) ability they have. If my dog had not accidentally gone careening down that slope that one day, I don't know where we'd be now. I had no knowledge that there was a lack of mental concept.

I once dated a guy who'd purchased a secondhand foreign sports car and had been driving it for over a year. Then one day he discovered it had a fifth gear! If you don't know it's there, you won't use it.

5-29-06  Spinal walking and "real" walking

Dogs can learn to do something variously called "spinal walking" or "reflex walking". It takes advantage of the crossed extensor reflexes. The fact that the front feet move sends signals to the back feet. With physical therapy, some dogs will learn to use their back feet enough to be mobile. My dog first learned to do spinal walking and later began doing some regular walking as well. Now she does both depending on the conditions.

6-06  Another first

My dog was injured 9/03 and I express her bladder and bowel. 6/06 she went Number Two standing up for the first time since before her accident. She had eaten PetGuard Vegetarian dog food and it seems to go through her system faster. She was sitting by the dumpster at the dental lab and suddenly started moving her back feet and looking around at her tail in a panic. (She doesn't want to move her bowels if she's sitting, she would be sitting in it.) So I quick helped her to her feet and she started to walk but I went along behind bracing her so she wouldn't lose her balance and she managed part of it. But my back gave out so I had to let go and she continued walking and dropped one more plop. I was so proud of her. It was like running along beside a kid learning to ride a bike, and then you let go of the seat and watch as they ride away.

8-20-06  Constipation and walking

My dog is mainly a spinal walker and I'm amazed at how much difference little things can make in her walking. Seems like the littlest thing can be a make or break situation. If my dog is constipated, she can't walk nearly as well, and will drag a lot. It is hard to see what the connection is between constipation and walking, it makes no sense, but there seems to be one. UTI is another thing that can affect my dog's walking.

9-28-06  Loves PT

As far as the treadmill, my dog hated it at first, too. They had to acclimate her to it. 5 minutes the first session, 10 minutes the second, etc. At one point she started panting with fright and we had to take her out and calm her down. But after she got used to it, she loved it, and now when we go to PT you should hear her squealing in her carrier when we pull into their parking lot and park. She is so excited.

10-29-06  Wearing her cape

dog wearing plaid fleece cape

12-12-06  Lactulose

My dog, who has rear end paralysis and is mostly a spinal walker, has much more trouble walking when she is constipated. She is on lactulose to keep things moving.

12-12-06  Nerves continue to heal

I'm sure she tried a number of times to stand up and walk in the weeks following her injury, and when it didn't happen she accepted it and quit trying. We did crate rest like we were supposed to, and we did PT like we were supposed to anyway. She began to recover very slowly and eventually could walk again. But even when she began to regain the ability to walk (because the nerves healed to a certain point), she didn't realize she could. She had to be shown she could through physical therapy.

Fortunately, nerves continue to slowly heal no matter what your dog is thinking. My dog was not supposed to be able to walk again but she surprised all of us, including herself.