Finn’s Amazing Recovery from Coonhound Paralysis
Meet happy boy FINN. We rescued him from the Orange County Shelter after they told us he was having trouble walking and needed help ASAP. His condition quickly worsened, and we got him to the Dogtor, where he was diagnosed with Coonhound Paralysis. The technical name is Acute Canine Idiopathic Polyradiculoneuritis, or ACIP. It is an improper autoimmune reaction to an unknown irritant, which causes acute inflammation of the nervous system and attacks and damages the peripheral nerves at the base of the spinal cord. Besides a known connection to contact with raccoon saliva (via a scratch or bite), the other causes are unknown. Viral or bacterial infections are suspected, or a vaccine reaction.
Symptoms begin 7–11 days after the triggering irritant. Usually it begins with a stiff-legged gait, then rapidly progresses over 3–5 days to paralysis of all 4 limbs, the facial muscles, vocal cords, and possibly (scarily) beyond. If the paralysis progresses to the diaphragm, the dog will need to be hospitalized and placed on a ventilator, given IV fluids, and fitted with a urinary catheter. ACIP is serious, but highly survivable. Recovery can take a few weeks to many months, and no medications are proven to help the condition.
The key to recovery is good nursing care. The dog is unable to maneuver, so turning them every few hours is needed to prevent pressure sores. Frequent physical therapy is very important in limiting loss of muscle mass. And of course, good nutrition (and hand-feeding, if necessary) to support healing of the damaged nerves. Because a paralyzed pup cannot eliminate in the usual way, wipedowns and frequent baths are also the norm, to keep urine from burning the skin.
Finn could not support himself, walk, sit, or vocalize–but his little tail worked overtime! Finn received electromagnetic pulse therapy, massage and physical therapy 3 times a day, and acupuncture 3 times a week. After a couple of weeks, he began to progress at an amazing rate, sitting, standing, walking, running, and negotiating stairs! At his follow-up rehab appointment, his doctor said, “Finn has shown fantastic progress!” He got a new, much more challenging PT routine, to build his muscles back to full potential. This funny, goofy and adorable boy, is back to being a beagle again, enjoying all the sniffs outside on his progressively longer walks. He has even met his future mama, and will be in his new home in time for the holidays!