FCE - Is there light at the end of the tunnel??

Unless you’ve been through it yourself with your dog (or watched super vet!), you may not be aware that dogs; just like people, can also experience problems with their spine and brain (neurological problems).

One common condition that is treated by intensive physiotherapy is called Fibrocartilaginous Embolism (FCE) and it is a disease of the spinal cord that is treated non-surgically. The level to which a dog can be affected by an FCE varies between each case, and maintaining physical function and preventing secondary compensatory changes is always paramount in physiotherapy. In some cases your dog may lose the ability to walk. This can be extremely distressing and upsetting to see as an owner which is why it is important to start physiotherapy as soon as possible to help get them back on their feet. Reassuringly this condition is typically non-painful, so although your dog may not be able to walk it shouldn’t be in any pain. This makes working through their rehab much easier too as they are often much more willing to engage – particularly for good treats!!

As in all cases, as to when your doggy can start having physiotherapy following a diagnosis of an FCE will be dictated by your vet, but often it’s the sooner the better. In the initial stages, your physiotherapist will try and maintain soft tissue flexibility (if your dog isn’t able to move their legs themselves the joints may get stiff and the muscles tight), provide sensory stimulation (some dogs may experience reduced feeling in their legs and paws) as well as providing you with an aid; such as a sling, to help you support your dog to walk around. Depending on how well your dog progresses over the coming weeks, your physiotherapist will look at including into their exercise programme core stability exercises, balance and co-ordination exercises, proprioception exercises as well as potentially using the water treadmill to help restore mobility. Further down the line as your dogs strength and fitness improves the pool may be a more suitable option.

Although initially you may think the worst when your dog is diagnosed with an FCE, prognosis is often good with the main aim of rehabilitation to get your dog back to doing its normal functional activities and leading a full and happy life. As with all conditions like this, some dogs do progress better and quicker than others but with the right veterinary care and physiotherapy your dog should get back to having a good quality of life. If you have any questions about this condition or anything similar please get in touch and we will try and help you as best we can!