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Dog on her Way to Recovery after Spinal Stroke
When Blitzen, a 9-year-old Border Collie/Australian Shepherd, returned to her house from outside dragging her hind legs, her owner immediately sought medical help from Foster Hospital.
April 11, 2018

Owner Grateful for Expert Emergency and Critical Care at Foster Hospital


For Lucie Woods, a resident of Westborough, MA, having quick access to Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center has certainly come in handy in recent years. In early August 2017, Blitzen, her 9-year-old Border Collie/Australian Shepherd returned to her house from outside dragging her hind legs. With a history of epilepsy, Lucie was concerned that she had a seizure. When, by 10:30 p.m., Blitzen could not use her legs at all, Lucie did not think it prudent to wait until morning to see her family veterinarian. Instead, she immediately sought medical help from the Emergency and Critical Care team at Foster Hospital.


From the time she arrived at Foster Hospital, Lucie knew she had come to the right place. After tests including lab work and an MRI were completed, and with input from veterinary specialists, Blitzen had a diagnosis. Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) is a specific type of spinal stroke in dogs, and in this case, the blood supply to a segment of the spinal cord controlling Blitzen’s back legs was blocked and left her without the ability to move those limbs. It often occurs during strenuous exercise, including running and jumping at speed.


Waiting for a diagnosis was stressful for Lucie, but she was relieved to speak directly with Dr. Miranda (Mimi) Gallo of the Neurology Service, who had evaluated Blitzen and determined an appropriate plan of care. Blitzen’s nerves were intact and Dr. Gallo explained that in cases like these, 80% of patients regain enough function to be able to walk again.


Lucie is thankful that she took quick action that evening to bring Blitzen to Foster Hospital since it has the advanced equipment and specialty services needed to make an accurate diagnosis. “Everyone was really helpful. They knew I was worried and answered all of my questions. Even though Dr. Gallo was out straight with many other clients, given it was a weekend, she made an effort to speak with me and she followed up on the phone,” recalls Lucie.


Since experiencing the FCE, Blitzen still has some weakness on both sides but continues to improve with physical therapy, including water therapy and exercises at home. Eight weeks later, Lucie breathed a sigh of relief that Blitzen is able to walk on her own and is on her way to recovery.