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Raffi’s Braveheart

27/08/2018

Raffi is a 6 year old collie cross, he had been a fit, healthy and happy dog and had been seen for his routine vaccinations in May this year. On the evening of 18th July Raffi and his owners were in the garden enjoying the summer sunshine playing ball, an activity enjoyed by both parties.

Suddenly Raffi went to catch the ball let out a large scream and fell to the floor. His owners rushed to his side, where they discovered a distressed Raffi was unable to stand. They contacted the emergency veterinary surgeon immediately who performed a house visit to examine Raffi. On arrival at the house Raffi was obviously distressed and struggling to use his hind legs. The vet sedated Raffi to make him more comfortable and recommended taking him back to the surgery for x-rays and further investigations. That evening the vet x-rayed Raffi’s spine and hind limbs, there were no bony abnormalities detected. Raffi was given pain relief and anti- inflammatories and was made comfortable in a kennel with a padded mattress. The vet suspected either a severe soft tissue injury or worse case scenario a spinal injury. He was left to settle and allow the drugs to take effect overnight so the vet could reassess his progress the following morning.

Unfortunately although more comfortable the following morning Raffi still had no use of his hind quarters. He was finding it difficult to urinate, not to mention eating or drinking. The veterinary surgeon contacted Raffi’s owners and explained their worse fear was true, Raffi has suffered some kind of spinal injury.

The veterinary surgeon contacted Langford Veterinary Hospital at Bristol University for a second opinion, their veterinary surgeon confirmed from the signs and x-rays it looked as though Raffi had suffered a ‘Nucleus Pulposus Extrusion resulting in severe spinal shock.’ In basic terms he had herniated a spinal disc causing horrendous swelling and bruising which was stopping the nerve impulses getting through telling him he needed to move his legs. Langford were hopeful Raffi would make good progress given time, pain relief and nursing. Here began the long journey……..

Raffi was hospitalised for 6 hourly pain relief injections and nursing care suitable for a paraplegic patient. He required taking outside and encouraging to walk every few hours. This involved lifting him up and using a sling to support his hind quarters, once up he could move forward using his front legs. Raffi was spending most of his time in the kennel led on his side, so to prevent pressure sores and pneumonia he was turned every 2-3 hours. Eating and drinking was difficult for poor Raffi, we had to ensure he was offered water regularly as he wasn’t able to get up to get to the bowl. Regular massage and physiotherapy exercises were performed on his hind legs to encourage blood flow and the return of nervous impulses.

Each day from here we could see a gradual improvement in Raffi. By day 4 once out on the sling he was moving his right hind leg more normally and taking some body weight on this leg once in the standing position. Unfortunately his left leg was still limp and dragging behind him, he was completely unaware of where this leg was. Due to this he was developing sores on his foot and now required wearing a special rubber boot on this leg when out.  Raffi’s owners visited every day to keep his spirits up and spent time grooming him to encourage healthy circulation. However the future was still unsure…….

Seven days had passed and I was to arrive at 8.00am to find Raffi barking and standing in his kennel unaided!……. although his left hind was still limp he turned a massive corner and for the first time in 6 days had managed to get himself up from lying to standing with no sling. It was decided it was time to stop the pain relief and increase the rehabilitation.

Raffi was placed in our hydrotherapy treadmill, the water was filled to midway up raffi’s chest so he was basically floating with his feet just touching the floor. Amazingly in the water raffi could place all four feet in the correct position and hold his own weight without the harness. Raffi was placed in the water daily and encourage to use his hindquarters, daily sessions of massage and physiotherapy were used to encourage the ‘feeling’ and ‘sensation’ back into his left hind leg.

Gradually Raffi regained the use of his left hind leg, and although still weak and walking a little strangely following 2 weeks hospitalisation Raffi was up and about, toileting by himself and keen to go home. His relieved owners collected Raffi and are continuing his rehabilitation at home with special exercises, he is also attending the surgery twice weekly for hydrotherapy sessions.

During his stay with us at the surgery Raffi was always pleased to see us. He greeted us with a waggy tail and happy squeaks for any attention welcome. Despite being in  a scary situation – paralysed behind, away from home, all these people continuously man-handling him, physiotherapy and being put in a large tank with lots of water Raffi never grumbled or showed any malice towards us, being a pleasure to nurse.

Although he may never walk completely normally, we hope his progress continues and he lives a long and happy life.