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by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ’04 Ph.D.

A 6-year-old dachshund name “Dexter,” was referred to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital by his local veterinarian after he stopped using his hind legs and began dragging them as he walked with his front legs. Dexter was having back pain and an MRI revealed one of his discs was pressing on his spinal cord causing the paralysis in his hind legs, a fairly common condition in dachshunds.

After surgery on his spine, Lori Lutskas, a veterinary physical rehabilitation specialist, began physical rehabilitation with Dexter using a therapeutic underwater treadmill to help him regain use of his muscles. Because he could not yet move his legs for himself, she “walked” his hind legs to mimic normal walking. After just one week, he began taking steps on his own. By day 11 he was walking with occasional use of a sling for assistance.

Neurology patients are some of the most rewarding,” said Lutskas. “When you have a patient that can’t walk and then through treatment they can, it is very gratifying. If the animal was paralyzed then seeing even two steps is remarkable.”

Dexter ended up staying at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital for two weeks since he was also part of a study evaluating the advantages of underwater treadmill therapy. Preliminary findings in the ongoing study are that animals begin walking sooner and recover more quickly when hydrotherapy is added to their treatment plan.

After two follow-up visits, Dexter is doing well and only having occasional stumbling or missteps. Not all patients do regain the ability to walk, Lori explains, and for those patients a wheel chair can be a good option.

Learn more about integrative medicine and wellness services offered at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.