Surely, Everyone Can Tell When A Dog Recovers After Spinal Cord Injury?

By Suzanne Rosen | Graduate Student
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences

Unfortunately, the question is not as straightforward as it seems, because there was no agreed-upon definition of recovery of walking. 

Now, a team of veterinary clinicians and technicians at the Texas A&M Small Animal Teaching Hospital has confronted this problem and provided a solution: the 50-step walking test. By making a calculation based on the length of each dog’s legs, our team calculated the distance that would be covered when that dog took 50 steps, a distance that allows them to return to take part in everyday activities, such as toileting, on their own. 

In our study, each owner was given a piece of string of that length and was asked to record when their dog could walk that distance without falling. By recording these outcomes in a large number of dogs we know how long dogs take to recover after different severities of spinal cord injury and in the future we can compare the effect of different approaches to therapy and rehabilitation.

Video Caption:
The video is of a dog who is able to walk 50 steps for the first time after having a thoracolumbar hemilaminectomy (surgery to decompress the spinal cord after a disc herniation). The string next to the dog was measured based on her ulna (arm) length to represent the equivalent of 50 steps for her size.