Did you know that a bacterial infection can cause a dog to lose the ability to walk? I didn’t know this was possible until I interviewed a pet parent named Julie about the Cocker Spaniel she rescued and how a chronic ear infection caused this dog’s paralysis.
Like many Cocker Spaniels, Bandit was prone to ear infections from the time he was a puppy. He was in and out of the hospital for so many surgeries on his ear canals that ultimately his ear drums had to be removed, leaving the little dog deaf. Julie met Bandit for the first time on the day his previous owner brought him into the veterinary clinic where she works, to be euthanized. Bandit had developed an abscess in the area where his ear canal had been removed and he had suddenly become paralyzed in his hind legs.
Julie and Bandit’s Miraculous Story
For the past 15 years Julie has worked as a vet tech at the animal clinic where Bandit is a patient. The day Bandit’s owner made the difficult decision to have him euthanized; Julie wasn’t even supposed to be on duty. She was filling in for a coworker.
Julie explained that she has always had a special place in her heart for Cocker Spaniels so she decided to walk into the exam room and ask if she could adopt Bandit and take him home.
“It was an awful situation for the owner,” said Julie. “Bandit was in critical condition, the veterinarian was not hopeful about his future and his owner wasn’t equipped to take care of him.”
That evening Julie brought Bandit home, determined to do whatever she could to help the 8 year-old dog.
The next few months were a whirlwind of appointments with veterinary specialists who ultimately diagnosed Bandit with a bacterial infection of the bone called Osteomyelitis. The infection had grown deep into Bandit’s spine causing the L1 vertebrae to completely collapse. In addition, Bandit was battling MRSA which is a resistant staph infection that was caused by a tiny piece of tissue that remained from one of his ear canal surgeries.
The veterinarian assumed the MRSA infection is what led to the Osteomyelitis in Bandit’s spine which in turn caused his hind quarters to become paralyzed.
Bandit was put on an injectable antibiotic to get the Osteomyelitis and MRSA under control, but unfortunately after one month the medicine caused him to have seizures and the treatment had to be stopped.
That’s when Julie decided to make the most of the time she had left with her new dog and keep him as healthy as possible. She put Bandit in a spinal brace to stabilize his back at all times, kept him in a playpen so she didn’t stress his body pulling him in and out of a dog crate and she bought him a dog wheelchair. She also started Bandit on a physical therapy regimen she did at home.
“I massaged his hind legs and moved them around like he was pedaling a bicycle. We would bicycle forward first and then backward,” said Julie. “He was so good and the sweetest dog you ever met.”
Bandit grew to love Julie’s family of Cocker Spaniels and Chihuahuas and bonded with her young son. Even though Bandit hadn’t been around children in his early years, he fell in love with Julie’s son and made sure he was in the car every day to take him to school.
For more than a year Bandit was on various types of antibiotics and he continued his at-home PT. Julie also added supplements to his diet that included Glucosamine, Chondroitin, fish oil and a pet tonic vitamin because Bandit was low on iron.
At some point Julie started to notice movement in Bandit’s hind legs. Then little by little he miraculously regained his ability to walk.
“I can’t explain why he is walking,” said Julie. “He can now walk for a mile on his own and he’s been taken off the antibiotics.”
The Rest of the Story
I would have loved to report that Bandit continued life as a healthy, family pet, but there is more to his story. After his amazing recovery the Cocker Spaniel started to have nose bleeds. Some of them were very bad and Julie made an appointment for him to see a veterinary specialist at the University of Auburn. Around the same time Bandit woke up one night in extreme pain and his body was swollen all over. It was discovered that he had a compression fracture in his spine. Julie worried if the Osteomyelitis had returned and spread.
A veterinary oncologist put all of Bandit’s symptoms of bloating, nose bleeds and a compression fracture together and diagnosed him with multiple myeloma and a plasma cell tumor in his spine. He was put on 33 rounds of chemotherapy which is given to him orally by Julie. He is still on the treatment today.
Julie and Bandit are not letting this setback keep them down and according to Julie he is “kicking this cancer in the ass.” Bandit is still going for walks, taking his boy to school every day and being a sweetheart.
Bandit has lived with his new family for nearly 3 years and in August he will celebrate his 11th birthday. I plan to write an update about how he celebrated his special day. You can stay up-to-date with Bandit’s recovery on his Facebook Page – Bandit’s Journey of Paralysis to Healing.
Symptoms of Osteomyelitis
Osteomyelitis is inflammation of the bone or bone marrow that is due to a bacterial infection. It is commonly seen in open bone wounds from a trauma and in post-operative orthopedic procedures like repairing a bone fracture.
The condition can occur because of a sudden infection or after a chronic infection. It can enter a dog’s body through the bloodstream or from another infection that is close to the bone.
- Intermittent lameness
- Persistent ulcers
- Limb pain or swelling
- Muscle wasting
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