“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer, German Philosopher (1788-1860)
I put it a different way. “If you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door. However, not before well entrenched mousetrap makers with political connections do their utmost to destroy you and your new improved mousetrap!” Kelly Thompson, DC, Armchair Philosopher
Why I started capturing the Videos below
Some time back as I finished up with a difficult case, involving a pup with a painful and incapacitating neck injury, the client thanked me profusely for helping his companion. I told him that he was very welcome as I looked into the lobby for my next client. As he turned to go, he stopped short, turned around and exclaimed that others need to see what I had done for his dog. I gave him my usual response saying… “ tell your friends.” That didn’t seem to satisfy him and by the look on his face it was obvious that he wasn’t finished. He went on to say that I should capture my treatment results on video and start a youtube channel and a website as well. My question to him in response was, well….why? I've never advertised, I don’t have a website, and I’m extremely busy by word of mouth and people can hear about my results on Yelp. He then explained something that caused a shift in my thinking. He continued, “its not for you it’s for others like me.” I looked at him with a "what do you mean," look on my face. He went on to explain that had a neighbor not given him a referral, he probably would have had to endure the heartbreak of having to put his companion down to relieve his suffering. Nothing else was working and that for every one you help, Kelly, there are probably untold thousands who are put to sleep for want of what you have the ability to do for them. Trying to end the conversation and not dampen his enthusiasm, I responded that I understood what he was saying but really what can I realistically do to help those thousands. He concluded by saying that they are being put down for lack of knowledge, not knowing that a workable technology exists, because people like you don’t make it known and that knowing this would empower other pet owners to search for and demand similar help in whatever area or region they reside. I thanked him and told him I would give it some thought.
That is what prompted me to start taking before and after videos on my iPhone, start a website and a youtube channel. I’m no videographer but I think the message gets across. I just have to remember to pull out my iPhone on the first visit with each new case. Just showing the after video doesn’t really show how bad they were when I started the case and saying, “I swear you should have seen how bad they were in the beginning just doesn’t cut it!” Also there are significant number of cases that don't exhibit their malady well on video such as where someone's companion is having pain that exhibits itself when they cry out periodically when they are bumped or moved, or they are not able to jump up on the couch or into the car any longer. I’m certainly not going to ask the pet owners to make there companion cry out or demonstrate their companions inability to jump up so I can catch it on video. Consequently you will only see videos that show obvious effects of an animal's malady. Below will start my many videos of animals with severe maladies that I have helped.
In this article I will introduce three animal companions who became paralyzed suddenly. I will discuss my theories concerning why in my decades of practice helping animals, I have never heard of a single comparable case in humans, and yet hardly a day goes by on my rounds that I don’t see a partially to completely paralyzed dog come through the front door of one of the many Veterinary clinics in which I work. I see the desperate faces of owners searching, trying to make sense of something, that in their minds seems impossible, because they too have never heard of someone spontaneously falling to the ground paralyzed in both legs. Sadly I only see a small percentage of these cases because Surgery is pushed first and always. Pet owners are pressured that unless they follow through and have the surgery, their companion will never walk again. In most cases this is an outright fabrication to strong arm you while you are in a weakened state emotionally. One particular Veterinary Neurologist in the San Francisco Bay Area even goes so far as to pressure and shame the desperate pet owners, insisting that they euthanize their pet then and there if they don’t follow her advice and agree to the surgery! Recently I was told by a pet owner that a Veterinary Neurologist refused to allow an MRI unless they agreed to the back surgery (before even seeing the MRI results!).
This said, in some cases where “Deep Pain Sensation” is lost, a true time critical surgical emergency does exist and there is no doubt concerning what should be done and soon! However, even surgery has a very poor to guarded prognosis in these particular cases. In perhaps the majority of Dogs that still retain Deep Pain Sensation, based upon decades of helping these cases there are non surgical options and surgery, no matter the protestations of the Veterinary Neurologist, is not time critical. In other words there is time to get a second opinion, have the MRI read by someone other than the Veterinary Neurologist, or consult and explore non-surgical options. The before and after videos on this website and unsolicited reviews on Yelp are testaments to this reality. In defense of the Vets I work with however, and I've worked with over 100 veterinarians in over 50 Veterinary clinics and hospitals around the San Francisco Bay area and some in Southern California over the years, as strange as it seems to you that a Dog could spontaneously become paralyzed, it seems even stranger to most Vets that a Chiropractor who only treats animals, who came up with a proprietary therapeutic technology could resolves these sad cases without surgery. Along the same argument, how many paralyzed humans have I treated when I was still treating humans years ago? Answer.... Zero. How many paralyzed Dogs have I treated? Answer... I have lost count. However despite a fairly high success rate, I too have failures. What I have seen over the decades is that my failures fall for the most part into the following 4 groups: dogs who have lost deep pain sensation (usually caused by a massive disc herniation); dogs who have been paralyzed for more than 60 days (the nerve damage becomes permanent with time); dogs who have been on longterm (more than a year) NSAID's (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs appear to cause damage to the nerves with long term use) and dogs with undiagnosed spinal or spinal cord tumors (x-rays often don't reveal these and are subsequently picked up on MRI).
With this out of the way let us delve into this unfortunate condition in this rather lengthly article and try to make sense of the seemingly perplexing difference between the species.
It should not be without some interest on your part, if you took that time to read this far, to know that in 1983 I attended to my first animal patient, a paralyzed Dachshund who was slated to be euthanized. Days before, a patient of mine had described through a veil of tears her heartbreaking decision to end the life of her beloved companion after a month of paraplegia, with no improvement despite heavy doses of steroids. She explained that for a month since it had started he had been literally pulling himself around her house with his front legs like a seal, the back legs dragging lifelessly behind him. As perhaps any chiropractor would, and having no idea what I could possibly do, I offered to help if she obtained permission from her Veterinarian. As luck and perhaps fate would have it to everyone’s amazement, especially my own, the little Doxie stood, albeit unsteadily the day following his first adjustment. Lucky for me and my desperate patient, that little Dachshund's condition was relatively easy with subsequent adjustments to resolve with only what I knew from treating humans. I had no idea at the time, flush with success, that a large percentage of cases I would confront over the years would go well beyond what I had learned to that point treating humans.
Since that time it has been quite a journey of discovery. As previously mentioned, I have treated many hundreds of cases without fanfare, learning with each exciting success... and any heartbreaking failure, refining my technique as I made my own quiet discoveries, motivated and agonized by the heavy emotional yoke that comes with being in many cases the last one standing between someone’s dearest companion and their final resting place at Memorial Park. So without further delay we will discuss three cases I treated years ago, followed by my explanation of why based upon many years of research and practice that dogs can without apparent provocation or injury become paralyzed.
Katie was a very active female Cocker Spaniel who at the age of four began showing signs of spinal trouble. Marianne, Katie’s mom began noticing that she was more and more unable or unwilling to jump up on the couch. After careful examination and X-rays at her Vets, Marianne received the bad news. Katie would need Surgery. Marianne just couldn’t believe that such a young dog could be having back problems requiring surgery. She was torn and didn’t know how to proceed. Then her mother in Denmark sent her an article in a Danish magazine about Chiropractors treating animals and that’s how they came to find out about me.
When I first met Katie at the Vet clinic it was obvious she was headed for trouble. I didn’t realize it at the time but trouble was coming sooner than any of us could have imagined. The X-rays looked bad for a four year old. Her spine was roached and frozen in this arched position. She was also showing mild ataxic gait (wobbly legs) in that her rear legs had lost some control and coordination. After explaining things, we gave Katie her first gentle treatment. By the second session she was showing more rear end control. Looking back I suppose I could have been a bit stronger in my recommendation to limit activity.
About 5 days later I received an urgent call from Marianne who explained that Katie had been hurt in the park and that I should meet her at the Vets as soon as I was able. When we met, Marianne explained that because Katie was doing so much better she took her to the park to meet her friend and her dog. While at the park Katie had been very excited, running around like she hadn’t been for some time, jumping up, and playing with her friend’s dog. Then suddenly she jumped up, yelped and fell down. Just that fast she was unable to stand up or put any weight on her rear legs when lifted up. To be continued later in this article.
Geisha was an eleven year old female Akita who had always been a very happy, vigorous, and “bomb-proof” companion to Jen her mom. However, one evening while getting ready to take their regular walk, she came up to Geisha and beckoned her to come. Normally she would pop right up and they’d be on their way. This time Geisha with apparent great effort tried to stand up and couldn’t. Something was terribly wrong and Jen rushed Geisha to her Vet’s. There she was examined, X-rayed, and placed in ICU on Steroids for the night.
The next morning Jen arrived back at the hospital where she was met by the Doctor who explained the X-rays and the diagnosis. Then she heard what she had feared. Geisha had a spot in her back that needed surgery as soon as possible and the appointment was made for the Surgical specialist some 70 miles away in Marin County. Jen was almost in shock and overcome with concern for the dog who had been there for Jen in her own difficult times.
Jen made the drive with Geisha and the X-rays to the Surgeon’s facility where a full examination was performed and a Myelographic study was scheduled for the following morning. After a sleepless night in a local motel, Jen arrived at the clinic and was told Geisha had begun having seizures after they injected the dye into her spine so they had given her a big dose of Valium, and warned Jen not to be concerned if she appeared “out of it” when they brought her out. Jen then met with the Surgeon who told her that the Myelogram showed nothing abnormal that would warrant going in surgically. He recommended perhaps an MRI as the next option and recommended a facility. In parting the doctor told Jen that because Geisha was so large to manage and since she was so old (for an Akita) she should begin considering euthanizing her.
Jen drove Geisha home, confused and saddened by this turn of events, no closer to an answer and worse, contemplating the unthinkable possibility of putting her beloved Geisha “to sleep.” Jen called her mother upon arriving to give her an update. It was her mother who suggested she call me for my input, since no one could explain what was happening to Geisha to this point.
When I got a chance to examine Geisha, I looked at the X-rays and the Myelogram and they yielded minimal data relative to where I should find the offending lesion. At this point the rear legs were pretty much lifeless. When I examined Geisha further I concluded that the offending lesion was in the lower Cervical spine and not in the back at all. Everything pointed to the lower neck, specifically C5/C6. To be continued later in this article
Gretchin was a 13 year old Dachshund who has led a very active trouble free life right up until the night that her mom Patricia came home to find her curled up next the bath tub frightened, crying out in pain, and unable to move. Wasting no time, Patricia bundled Gretchin up and took her to the local Emergency Veterinary clinic where, after examining Gretchin, the doctor informed her that Gretchin needed Surgery right then and there to relieve the pressure on the nerves as soon as possible. He informed her that at her age the delicate procedure was not without risk and that there were certainly no guarantees Gretchin would ever walk again.
Patricia decided to wait until morning to take Gretchin to her own Veterinarian. She trusted him to help her make the right decision. However, seeing Gretchin’s lifeless legs, she wondered if she was doing the right thing to wait. Patricia met her Vet at 7:30 in the morning and he wasted no time going over Gretchin thoroughly. Her Vet subsequently told her he would not recommend Surgery and recommended a course of Prednisone to help reduce the inflammation and to keep her contained, quiet, and to hope for the best.
Paticia began home care including fitting Huggies to Gretchin complete with a hole for the tail, since she had no bowel or bladder control. A few days later they returned to their Vet because Gretchin had developed a bladder infection. Her normal Vet was out so she was scheduled with a new Vet. Patricia had been holding her own emotionally up to this point, hoping for the best. However, this encounter would push her to her limit. After examining Gretchin this Vet suggested antibiotics for the bladder infection almost as an aside. She then went on the explain to Patricia that this is as good as Gretchin would ever get and unless she was willing to come home from work 4 times per day to express her bladder that she should consider euthanizing Gretchin to relieve her suffering.
Patricia left the examining room with Gretchin in her arms and sat in the waiting room in a daze. As she sat trying to make sense of what she’d been told and contemplating what she should do, completely unaware of anyone around her, suddenly she was pulled out of her thoughts by the voice of a kindly gentleman sitting across the room querying her about Gretchin. He listened patiently and then recommended she call The Pet Place in Menlo Park, explaining that the owners are a great resource for situations like this.
Patricia went home and called them and actually took Gretchin to see Mark and Lynn at The Pet Place. It was there that Patricia was asked how she felt about alternative types of treatment. It was then that she was given my name and number.
I referred Gretchin to one of the clinics I work with and after the Vet examined her he turned her over to me. It was now 7 days after the initial onset and Gretchin had shown no sign of improvement. Her legs were just lifeless. To be continued later in this article.
The basic anatomy is similar in many respects. It is when things go wrong that we really see the differences. Both Dogs and Humans experience what is called Spondylosis, which is the aging, “wear and tear” degenerative form of arthritis of the spine. This is also described as IVDD. See my article, "For Dogs, A Death by a Thousand Cuts" on my website: www.kellythompsondc.com to find out how dogs unfortunately accelerate this process of degeneration through micro-traumatic activities of daily living. We see the same disc deterioration or thinning, the same hypertrophic spurs (hooks on front edges of the Vertebrae, which are largely asymptomatic by the way). Over time we see similar spinal stenosis (the shrinking or constriction of the spinal canal), which makes our canine companions even more susceptible to paralysis as I will explain below. On MRI we see the same desiccation (drying out) of the Discs and so forth. Dogs and humans can even have similar disc herniations.
The most significant difference in my opinion, based upon decades of researching this condition to back up my thesis, is the fact that human beings have significantly more space around the spinal cord within the spinal canal when compared to most breeds of dogs. See the two accompanying MRI images and it becomes crystal clear that the spinal cord takes up significantly less overall volume within the spinal canal in humans than in our animal companions. So in dogs there is much less room for error. The spinal cord is significantly more susceptible to encroachment or impingement. So seemingly minor or insignificant injuries involving contusion (impact with bruising) which produces cord swelling or sudden bulging of discs can yield more immediate and devastating pain and impairment to the spinal cord in dogs than comparable injuries in human beings. In fact it takes significantly more trauma or injury, often including fracturing of the spine, to encroach into the spinal canal enough to yield similar catastrophic symptoms in human beings.
Coming to mind is an incident that explains the essential elements of this phenomenon. Years ago I crashed into a tree riding my dirt bike. An unfortunate set of circumstances culminated in my Honda CR 250 suddenly accelerating me directly into an oak tree. I had just enough time to reflexly raise my hands in front of my face a split second before impact. Besides my damaged pride I realized as I lay looking up at the sky that my hand hurt badly, specifically my ring finger. I lifted my helmet’s visor and gingerly removed my glove to survey the damage. I at once noticed my finger beginning to swell inside my wedding band. This began a hectic, almost comical race to find a “ring cutter” after copious amounts of cooking oil failed to dislodge this ever tightening golden circular prison. The ranger, who we alerted to the worsening problem kept remarking as he pulled open one drawer after another, “ I think it’s here somewhere.” Failing in his search for the elusive and unique device we raced over to the park’s workshop to find a vice and hacksaw as my finger attained more worrisome and painful shades of blue. After a few painful attempts to hold the ring in the vice still enough for the hacksaw to gain purchase we finally cut through the ring and freed my grateful digit. Had my finger occupied the same dimension relative to the ring as my spinal cord occupies relative to the diameter of my spinal canal we would never have had to even remove it in the first place. There would have been enough room for the contused finger to swell without encountering the immovable interior limit of my wedding band. However this sort of fitting would have made it very difficult to keep the ring on my finger as I moved through my day. A situation that would surely prove unacceptable to most significant others.
Have you ever stepped awkwardly off of a curb in such a way that it caused a sharp pain in your lower back? How about turning your head quickly and you felt a sharp pain in your neck? Can you remember the last time you hit your “funny bone? How painful was that? Do you recall watching a football player during a college or NFL game receive what is called a “stinger” from an impact to the shoulder? Can you recall a time you lifted a heavy box incorrectly and felt a sharp pain in your back? These are all incidents that caused a greater or lesser degree of damage to nerves and/or joints of the spine. Hopefully the injury was minor enough that the resulting soreness dissipated in a few days. Some of these incidents involve contusion or bruising of the spinal nerves or spinal cord. Swelling occurs within the spinal confines but unless the injury produces a massive disc rupture the swelling and resultant discomfort subsides as it heals and the swelling recedes.
However in our canine companions it can take very little swelling following similar injuries or even a minor disc bulge to cause a squeezing of the spinal cord because of the tight quarters within which their spinal cord resides. This is the key point and explains how they can recover more readily as well. How you ask? Think of it this way, if it takes very little swelling or minor bulging of a disc to encroach on the spinal cord to create the "supersized" neurologic effects that we see so often in our canine companions relative to the the offending physical insult, and minor injuries heal better and faster than major injuries, how much easier is to effect a healing solution that helps retract or decompress even but a little, the minor disc bulges or enhance the healing of contused neural tissue by gentle manipulation that decompresses and effects a mobilization of the edematous, stagnant, and constrained physiologic byproducts of bruised and swollen tissue. This in my opinion, backed by 36 plus years of clinical results, explains why paralyzed humans find it difficult to recover from any degree paralysis, while our canine companions in a high percentage of cases recover from what seems like catastrophic incapacity. This explains how a dog can become paralyzed without apparent cause or provocation. But is surgery required in some cases? Of course, Dogs can also incur massive disc ruptures just as humans.
Another distinction is the fact that in humans when a compressive lesion puts pressure on internal structures within the spine it nearly always results in unilateral (one sided) symptoms: pain and paresthesias (burning, numbness, tingling) down an arm, or into your buttock, thigh, or down one leg. The foramena or openings through which the nerves exit the spinal column is where we as humans find our genetic "short comings.” In humans it is here that even minor compression yields the common symptoms outlined above. So we know that it is merely affecting the root(s) coming off one side of the spinal cord and not the cord itself. In dogs it is much more uncommon to have symptoms of nerve root impingement yielding unilateral symptoms. It does happen infrequently and in veterinary parlance it is called “root signature.” It’s what I call "doggy sciatica." This is called in colloquial discussions a "pinched nerve." Consequently it is rare in the extreme in humans to have these symptoms running down both legs or into both arms. When it does it is an extremely serious condition! However when the same thing occurs in your pet based upon the symptoms we see so often it is clear that the entire spinal cord is compressed and although one side may be more pronounced, the symptoms are more commonly bilateral (on both sides).
Looking at the spinal cross sections on this page (below) I have drawn in the nerve tracts, with the nerves that carry sensation on the right and those that carry messages from brain to muscles on the left. Those closest to the surface are also the largest nerve fibers most susceptible to external pressure, which carry messages about: proprioception (sense of position of the body in space), Kinesthesia (sense of position & movement of joints), Touch and Pressure sensations. This explains why the first sign of spinal cord compression in a dog is loss of coordination and control to a greater or lesser degree directly proportional to the compression on the spinal cord. They just don’t seem to know where their legs are. Your veterinarian will test for this by turning or flipping your dog’s paw under so that they are standing on the top of their paw inverted to see how quickly your companion rights the paw. If they are unaware they are “knuckling” and just go on standing there with their paw inverted they have lost proprioception indicating that at minimum the outer or more superficial nerve tracts are being compressed. With increasing encroachment initially you may notice they are dragging their toenails on your walks. With increased compression you will see them walking like a "drunken sailor," legs crossing, slipping and falling. These symptoms can become so severe that they can only stand when you hold onto their rump to prevent them from falling sideways. As the compression increases the tracts that carry movement signals from the brain to the muscles are affected, creating weakness or loss of strength. These tracts are a deeper within the white matter of the spinal cord.
Now observably there are different degrees of hind leg paralysis. When compression is significant enough to effect muscle strength, the first thing to go is they lose their ability to contract and control the muscles that cross and move the hock (ankle joint). This will be observed by them dragging their hind end with their rear legs pointing forwards or standing very unsteadily standing literally on their ankles. Moving from least serious to more serious compression, they lose their ability to contract and control the muscles the cross and move the stifle (knee joint). You will notice that they are dragging their hind end with their legs pointing sideways or standing very unsteadily literally on their knees. With increased compression they lose their ability to contract or control the muscles that cross and move the hip joints. This will be observed by them dragging their hind end with their rear legs pointing straight back behind them like a seal. With increasing spinal cord compression the smallest fibers and some of the least susceptible to compression residing even deeper within the spinal cord are those that carry, Pain, Hot, Cold, and Itch sensation. The deepest afferent (sensory) nerve tract is called the Spinoreticular tract. This carries Deep Pain Sensation. This is tested for by squeezing one of the knuckles of one of the paralyzed paws hard to see if the patient has any awareness that this is occurring. If someone’s companion is paralyzed and they have zero awareness of someone squeezing their knuckle hard then they have lost deep pain sensation. This is the last sensation to go and when it is gone the compression is literally killing the spinal cord! This is a true surgical emergency and even with surgery the prognosis is poor to guarded. So to recap, the more compression, the deeper the compression reaches into the spinal cord the more pronounced the neurologic effects are observed.
Now what is observed when a paralyzed dog begins to recover with my treatment? It is the progression in the reverse direction of the that delineated in the preceding paragraph. Think of a ladder leading out of a neurologic hole. At the bottom of the the hole is the loss of deep pain sensation as the bottom rung of the ladder. The second rung off of the bottom is complete paralysis of a dog's rear legs but deep pain is intact. It is called healing from proximal to distal (nearest to farthest). If they were to start at the stage where they are dragging themselves along like a seal they would then start to pull themselves along with their rear legs pointing sideways, then forward and attempting to stand on their knees unsteady then ankles unsteadily etc. As they ascend this neurologic ladder they eventually begin to stand unsteadily followed by more and more control standing and even begin walking etc. This is what I have witnessed in countless cases since 1983 and discoveries in my own right came in cases that weren’t progressing as expected or couldn’t progress past a certain point in the ladder of improvement back to normal ambulation.
You can find out more about the therapeutic technology I discovered and utilize in a prior article titled NMR-T or Neuromyofascial Release Therapy.
Now the rest of the story of these three canine companions we started this article with many paragraphs above. Katie made steady progress and with each visit she’d improve incrementally and recovered completely. Geisha took the longest because her problem I finally discovered was caused by wearing a heavy metal choke chain 24/7. This is where I first discovered the deleterious effects of dog's heavy choke chains causing slow damage to the lower cervical spine. Think of it this way, the unrelenting downward pressure on vertebral segments of the lower neck eventually cause serious instability and ongoing damage to the spinal cord which led to Geisha's malady. So for heaven's sake never leave a heavy choke chain on your dog as their permanent collar! She finally recovered fully. Gretchin responded the fastest. She was walking after the first visit and done in 6 visits. Happy endings in all three cases.
The take home message from this presentation is that the majority of cases I see are those that can be helped without surgical intervention. However, you must always have a full workup performed by your Veterinarian to rule out loss of deep pain sensation and more rare conditions like malignant tumors in and around the spinal cord, tick bite paralysis, or other much less common medical maladies.