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“Help! My dog has collapsed!”

As a vet, I am never fully off duty. I immediately searched for the source of the call.


I saw another agility competitor like myself bent over her young collie dog. He was lying in what might be taken for a relaxed posture, hind legs to one side, head up, tongue lolling.


It took the eye of experience to notice how his eyes were starting out of his head with fear, and that his heavy panting could be more than excitement. And in particular that each attempt on his part to get up was failing, and that his hind legs were not working.


I introduced myself, and the look of gratitude on that dog owner’s face was a reward in itself.


His owner told me that he hadn’t taken a fall, or a slip. So, how come he couldn’t move his legs?


I gently examined him, performing the normal neurological tests, and confirmed that he was apparently paralysed from the waist down, a devastating potential injury. His agility competition days could be over. And if the problem could not be sorted out, he might need wheels for the rest of his life, or worse, depending on his owner’s feelings.


It seemed likely to me that he had either suffered a catastrophic slipped disc in his spine, or an embolism.


Collies are not nearly as likely to slip a disc as certain other breeds, such as dachshunds. But they are very prone to a problem called fibrocartilaginous embolism.


This can cause a very sudden obstruction to the blood supply to the nerves in the spine, resulting in paresis from that point back towards the tail.


I knew that he needed very urgent veterinary imaging of his spine, an MRI under general anaesthesia. And I needed to protect his spine whilst he was being transferred to the specialist centre where this could be done.


I helped his owner locate a spinal board, and saw them off, wishing them well. I never heard how he did, but hope that he recovered.

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