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VLOG: Murphy's Story

Four days ago I received a panicked call from Murphy's mom. He was suddenly unable to walk that morning and she wasn't sure what had happened! Murphy is a 7 year old mixed breed dog who has otherwise been healthy his whole life. There was no chance for any recent trauma or toxicity.

I arrived to their home that day to perform a full physical exam. This showed that he had neurologic deficits in all four limbs, which were most notable on the right forelimb. "Deficits" occur when there is a block in signal from the body to the brain. When our limbs move, the nerves signal to the brain letting us know where to go and how to move the limbs. In Murphy's case, he was knuckling over on his paws and criss-crossing his limbs as a result of this impaired signaling from the limbs to the brain. Because of this incoordination, he could not walk at all.

Based on his physical exam, his problem could be localized to the cervical (neck) portion of the spinal cord. The most common conditions that we can see damaging the spinal cord and resulting in these neurologic deficits are: intervertebral disc disease (IVDD; a "slipped disc") or a fibrocartilagenous embolism (FCE; a stroke-like event in the spinal cord). Other less likely causes could include infectious diseases, inflammatory diseases, or cancer in the spinal cord. The only way to know for sure what was going on in the spinal cord would be to see a neurologist for an MRI. Without knowing the underlying cause, we had no idea whether Murphy would ever recover from this.

Check out the video below to see Murphy's story!

As you can see, Murphy is making an awesome recovery from very severe neurologic deficits! Although we will never definitively know what caused Murphy's illness, based on the speed of his improvement we are now most suspicious for this being a fibrocartilagenous embolism.

An FCE occurs when small particles of cartilage from the intervertebral discs become lodged in the spinal cord, cutting off the blood supply in that area. It occurs randomly, though it is more often seen in middle-aged, larger-breed dogs. It typically has a very sudden onset, and signs are often asymmetrical with one side being much worse than the other. It can be initially painful, but then becomes non-painful. Signs usually improve significantly over the subsequent days after the FCE occurs. Some dogs are left with mild permanent neurologic deficits, but most make a complete recovery.

We're thrilled that Murphy is doing so well!! We give his family major credit for taking such wonderful care of him and for firmly believing in his recovery. We hope he never gives them such a scare ever again!

Do you have a pet who has experienced an FCE? Share your story below!