As veterinarians, we take an oath to help promote the best health and wellness in animal that suffer from a variety of medical conditions. Thousands of companion animals are evaluated and treated on a yearly basis, so notable examples of cats or dogs overcoming adversity and recovering from seemingly insurmountable odds are bound to appear.
One of my greatest success stories involved a cat that would have never made it without the help of a good Samaritan and a few veterinarians who were willing to give her a second chance.
The good Samaritan found a wounded young cat living as a stray in her neighborhood. The cat exhibited obvious inability to use its hind limbs and appeared to be suffering, so she brought the cat to a hospital facility, at which I was a relief veterinarian for humane euthanasia. After one of my colleagues evaluated this gentle, four pound, intact female Domestic Short Haired (DSH) cat, the decision was made that she would be given a second chance to have a better quality of life.
The cat, who may be known by the name “Pretzel,” or “Toast” (I’ll use Pretzel for this article), had severely compromised function to her hind limbs, causing her to have an abnormal gait and twisted appearance. Pretzel had been likely hit by a car in the months leading up to her presentation for veterinary evaluation. Against remarkable odds, Pretzel survived the dangers of street life by using her normal front limbs to drag around her nearly paralyzed hind limbs. She was also weakened by severe flea infestation, with resulting anemia (low red blood cell count).
Radiographs (X-rays) revealed a fractured pelvis and a lacerated diaphragm (the muscular sheet that separates the chest and abdominal cavity). The tear in her diaphragm displaced a portion of Pretzel’s intestines and liver into her chest cavity, adjacent to her heart and lungs. One of her lung lobes was completely collapsed. The extent of her injuries makes it quite remarkable that Pretzel had survived the trauma and partially recovered.
Surgery was performed to repair Pretzel’s diaphragm and remove her reproductive organs (ovariohysterectomy or spay). Post-surgery, Pretzel showed continued improvement. Although her pelvis had healed with abnormal conformation, she regained sensation and motor function in her previously paralyzed legs through the combination of daily physical rehabilitation and once to twice weekly needle and electrostimulation acupuncture (AP) treatments.
The effects of the electrostimulation were quite profound, as the positive to negative direction of current ran down Pretzel’s spine, through her damaged pelvis, and into her hind limbs, helping to rewire her damaged nervous system. She was so patient and cooperative for her treatments, which required her to stay extremely still so that the acupuncture needles that conducted the electrical impulses stayed firmly in place.
Pretzel’s recovery was also aided by the anti-inflammatory benefits of fish oil based omega 3 fatty acids and chondroprotectants (joint supplements). Additionally, she’s needed to consume a moist food diet to ensure that constipation does not ensue as a result of the reduced diameter of her pelvic canal (through which the colon delivers feces to the outside world).
With time and consistent treatments, Pretzel is walking and moving quite well considering the trauma her petite bones and body incurred. Despite any compromise to her mobility, Pretzel currently moves with a purpose more commonly seen in a fully able bodied cat to her food, litter box, and sleeping quarters.
Pretzel’s progress has been monitored through a series of videos I’ve posted on YouTube:
Pretzel Climbs After AP 5 (this video is the most remarkable)
Have you ever been a good Samaritan who has helped an animal receive care instead of facing a traumatic death, illness, or euthanasia? If so, please tell me about it in the comments section (or just share your perspective on Pretzel’s recovery).
Acupuncture therapy for Pretzel
Pretzel receiving acupuncture therapy
Dr. Patrick Mahaney