Dog regains use of her legs in time for Christmas

Lupina is back on the move!
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
AVC interns Dr. Marika Wagner (left) and Dr. Shelly Shamir (right) with Larry and Lisa Walsh, and Lupina

Christmas came early for Larry and Lisa Walsh, of Second North River, New Brunswick, when their dog, Lupina, recovered the use of her legs after suffering a severe neck injury seven weeks ago.

Lupina, a two-and-a-half-year-old FS Brussels Griffon, fell down the stairs at her home on October 28 and, over the next couple of days, progressively lost her ability to walk. When Larry and Lisa brought their tiny dog to the Atlantic Veterinary College on October 30, she was almost completely paralyzed. She could still feel and move her toes, but she was in a lot of pain and could not walk or even stand.

A CT scan revealed that the first two vertebral segments in her neck were dislocated, causing very severe compression of her spinal cord and, in fact, almost transecting it. Small dogs like Lupina can be affected by a condition called “atlantoaxial subluxation,” which predisposes them to dislocation of these bones in the neck. Severely affected dogs can become permanently paralyzed. Surgery is the only treatment that is reliably effective, but it also carries significant risk.

On October 31, Dr. James Dundas, a board-certified small animal surgeon at AVC, performed a difficult surgical procedure on Lupina. He used two loops of a heavy suture line to “lasso” the two vertebrae together and bring them back into position, easing the pressure on the dog’s spinal cord and allowing it to heal. The operation was difficult because the surgery site was very near the spinal cord. Too much manipulation of the spinal cord could make the transection complete, or could even be fatal.

Lupina spent almost two weeks in the veterinary teaching hospital after surgery, slowly regaining motor skills, but she still could not walk or stand. After going home, she spent four weeks in a splinted bandage, followed by two weeks in a soft bandage. She came back to AVC once a week for four weeks for reassessments and dressing changes. Over time, she gradually regained the use of her legs.

During her recheck on December 19, Lupina showed her caregivers for the first time since her accident that she can walk.

“Today her bandage was removed, and she is walking beautifully!” said Dr. Shelly Shamir, a small animal surgery intern who assisted Dr. Dundas with the operation. “She still has some neurological deficits, but is improving every day. She is a very lucky girl to have survived and improved after such significant trauma to her neck.”

Larry and Lisa are thrilled to have their beloved Lupina back on her feet.

“Pet owners will understand why we go the extra mile to do whatever it takes to save the life of our dog,” said Larry. “Lupina is a much loved member of our family. Lisa and I are so thankful for everyone at AVC for their love and care for animals, and to have the hospital so close to us. Otherwise, we would not have our Lupina today.”

“Lupina’s name means She Wolf,” he added, “and she is one heck of a fighter.”

Anna MacDonald
AVC External Relations Officer
Atlantic Veterinary College
(902) 566-6786
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