MacKenzie – Suspected FCE Affecting All Limbs


Meet MacKenzie, our December 2017 Pet of the Month.  MacKenzie is an 11 year old German Shorthaired Pointer Mix who came to see us in April of 2017.  She had a complication following surgery and was unable to use her limbs when she awoke.  When she came into our office a few days later, she needed assistance to stand at all and could not resist gravity to support her own weight.  When assisted with harnesses, she really was only able to flick her front limbs and lacked any significant movement in her legs.  .  Her clinical signs were suggestive of a spinal stroke or fibrocartilaginous embolism (aka FCE).  MacKenzie’s rehabilitation story is a long series of baby steps and little victories supported by love and dedication.

Initially, MacKenzie could not do any “real” exercises and could only lay on her side, so the first goal was helping her to stay up in a sternal down position.  MacKenzie was very food motivated, so she did not object to working for treats on some core strengthening exercises in a down position.  We also used acupuncture to help stimulate her nerve cells and improve peripheral nerve communication with the brain.  Laser therapy was also used to reduce inflammation she may have been experiencing in her neurologic system and also her muscles from compensation (several muscles had really tensed up on her).  Massage regularly at home was also employed to help stimulate her muscles and nerves and keep her joints moving freely.

As she improved slowly over the 1st month, she was able to switch sides laying down on her own.  Her family worked with her to practice assisted sitting and also paw shakes to get her front limbs doing some active movement – the coordination would follow later.  Her rear limb strength started to come back first, so we transitioned into using a front end wheelchair to support her chest and front legs so the rear limbs could start some weight bearing and pushing forward.  The front end cart also allowed her to really sit like a dog and practice paw shakes even better.  These exercises transitioned into giving her enough support to be able to swing her front limbs forward to pattern her gait.  Once she was strong enough she began to stand on her own and take a few steps with support in her Help ‘Em Up Harness. 

With time and continued hard work, MacKenzie was able to stand and walk on her own without support.   The day she walked into the office under her own power, we all nearly cried with joy!  She still places her right hind limb paw upside down from time to time but is able to take stairs on her own and is enjoying her family life again.  She continues to work on her homework exercises for anticipated further improvement over time.  MacKenzie and her family worked very hard at home on her homework exercises.  Her success would not have been possible without their regular efforts outside the office.  Her rehabilitation program was not easy and it took several months, but this sweet girl is proof that love and rehab can work wonders sometimes!  Congratulations, Team MacKenzie!

MacKenzie’s case was pretty unique and her rehab was pretty intense.  Check out her progress video on our YouTube page using this link:


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