Published: 27/05/2015 15:09:25
Tortilla the Torti walks again thanks to AHT vets
Tortilla came to the Animal Health Trust over the Easter Weekend as an emergency case. Tortilla had suddenly lost the use of her back legs and tail and her owners, Sue and Paul, were incredibly scared that there was nothing that could be done.
Up until the previous evening Tortilla had been her normal, active self. Sue had noticed a slight limp but nothing serious. At 5am the following morning Sue was woken by the sound of Tortilla in immense discomfort and when she tried to settle her realised that she was unable to move her back end and was paralysed from the waist down.
Sue rushed Tortilla to her local vet as soon as they opened where they ran full blood tests to see if Tortilla had been poisoned. The tests all came back negative and Sue was advised to get Tortilla to a neurologist as soon as possible – which meant a three-hour drive to the AHT! Sue and her husband jumped in the car and started the long journey to see Anita Shea, one of our expert neurology team.
Up until this point in time Tortilla had lived a very happy six years with the Sewell family after she was rescued from a rubbish tip as a kitten. Fortunately she came to the attention of the Hull Animal Welfare Trust, where Sue works, and despite successfully rehoming the rest of the litter Tortilla had formed such a strong bond with Sue it was clear she didn’t want to be anywhere else! Ever since, like the rest of Sue’s rescued animals (four dogs, two cats and two horses), Sue would do anything for Tortilla.
Anita conducted a full neurological examination which suggested that there was a problem with Tortilla’s lumbosacral spinal cord segments. An MRI scan was required in order for Anita to see exactly what was going on in Tortilla’s spine, so Tortilla was prepped and anaesthetised for the scan.
The MRI showed an extensive swelling and abnormal brightness of the spinal cord in the lower lumbar region, affecting both sides of the spinal cord. This was suggestive of a blood clot in the spinal cord, commonly known as a “spinal stroke”, ischaemic myelopathy or FCE, which was the cause of the sudden paralysis.
A “spinal stroke” is an injury which can occur in both humans and animals and is usually associated with a strenuous activity or potentially, trauma. In humans it can be things like sports and car accidents, in dogs the injury often suddenly occurs during a walk/run or while playing.
In Tortilla’s case it may have been due to a spat with another cat. It can also occur as a result of diseases/medical conditions/procedures that can increase the risk of blood clot formation, for example kidney disease. It can be quite distressing as the paralysis can come on quite quickly, but in most cases, with the right treatment and rehabilitation, animals (and humans) can recover well.
After her diagnosis, Tortilla was started on medications to try to reduce the swelling of the blood clot and kept in at the AHT for the next four days to start physiotherapy.
Physiotherapy is considerably easier to perform in dogs than it is in cats - dogs are used to walking on a lead whereas cats are far less likely to be willing to walk in an unusual environment. Dogs are also more amenable to massage, joint movement and performing strength and balance exercises while cats prefer to be touched only on their own terms.
Anita said: “Although Tortilla wasn’t the greatest fan of the physiotherapy exercises she was extremely tolerant and allowed us to perform them. Through a combination of the medications, the physiotherapy, her body’s natural healing ability and her own determination, two days after her diagnosis Tortilla showed great improvement and was able to use the litter tray. The following day she was able to walk short distances without assistance.
“Five days after her injury and Tortilla was able to go home – not yet walking normally but still making daily improvements. Recovery from such an injury can be slow and Tortilla needed at least another two weeks of cage rest to stop her from jumping and causing her spine any further damage.
“On top of this she required physiotherapy three to four times a day and regular doses of steroids and anti-oxidants to help treat the spinal cord, but I knew Sue and her husband Paul would give Tortilla all the love and support she could possibly need during this delicate time. There was still a chance Tortilla would not recover the full use of her tail but she has gone on to make a full and speedy recovery!”
Sue commented: “It wasn’t easy keeping on top of Tortilla’s medication schedule and physio – which was definitely a two-man job- but my husband and I managed to get the hang of the exercises and became pros at getting Tortilla to take the pills! She wasn’t a fan of any of it, especially the cage rest, but the difference in her now has made it all worthwhile!
“She is doing absolutely wonderfully and runs up and down the stairs with no trouble at all now. Only the last three inches of her tail is a little bit limp but she is living a normal life, which I wouldn't have believed possible.”
“I could not be more impressed with Anita and the standard of care we received at the Animal Health Trust. As you can imagine, after the shock I’d had to find Tortilla paralysed from the waist down and the long trip to the AHT from Yorkshire, worrying the whole way that I would be saying goodbye to my beautiful girl, well, I was a wreck by the time we got to Anita!
“But she was amazing, so caring - to me and to Tortilla - and I really felt like she was looking after Tortilla as if she were her own. Nothing was too much trouble and Anita kept me regularly updated on Tortilla’s progress over the long Easter weekend.
“Possibly the best vets I’ve ever dealt with, I just wish you were closer to Yorkshire! I was so pleased with the standard of care I’ve since made a £200 donation to the AHT. I really didn’t think she would be able to come back from her injury but thanks to the AHT it’s like nothing ever happened!”
Anita added: “While a spinal stroke is not something that we see very commonly in cats, every now and then we are presented with a cat with this type of injury. Until recently the prognosis for this condition in cats appeared to be poor but cats are amazing creatures – most cats can return to a normal quality of life if given enough time and support and I’m so glad that Tortilla is walking proof of this!”
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