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ID:	54807 A paralysed dog has become a walking miracle after five months of intensive treatment at one of the UK’s leading small animal hospitals.

Five-year-old Cooper was referred to Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service in Solihull, West
Midlands, after a sudden and dramatic decline in his mobility left him totally paralysed in his back legs and unable to even wag his tail.


Cooper’s incredible journey back to health began when Willows’ neurologist Robert Clark performed delicate back surgery to relieve the acute pressure on his spinal cord, which was being caused by a herniated disc.

There was still no guarantee Cooper would walk again, though, with Robert revealing just how serious the Staffie cross’s condition was.

He said: “Cooper’s owners first became aware something was wrong when he yelped in pain one day as he lay down on the sofa.

“He also became wobbly on his legs and then suffered a drastic deterioration which left him totally paralysed in his back legs and tail. He had no feeling at all in his hind limbs or his tail.

“A full neurological examination and an MRI scan showed he had an intervertebral disc extrusion (slipped/herniated disc) which was so severe there was a less than 50 per cent chance he’d recover.”

The operation went well but Cooper then faced a five-month fight to recover and regain his mobility under the care of Willows’ specialist in anaesthesia and analgesia, Jacques Ferreira, and veterinary physiotherapist Emma Box.

Emma said: “The first challenge was that in the days immediately after surgery Cooper wouldn’t sleep without someone sitting with him, so the nursing and physio team took it in turns to be with him.

“The biggest challenge, though, was helping Cooper to learn to walk again which required intensive rehabilitation over the next five months, including regular physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, electroacupuncture and medical management.”

Jacques said: “Cooper’s case was particularly difficult as his spinal cord injury had left him with permanent changes to the muscles in his legs.

“Rather than being soft and relaxed, Cooper’s muscles had been left permanently stiff and rigid, which was obstructive to his mobility.

“We managed this with medication, regular physiotherapy and electro acupuncture and over the next five months, Cooper slowly but surely showed very subtle signs of movement.”

Emma continued: “It started with his first tail wag, which happened around three weeks after his injury and was a wonderful moment, a sign that things were working.

“He then started to move the paw in his left foot, followed by his right leg and eventually he gained enough strength to take steps with support.

“Finally, five months after his accident, Cooper took his first unaided steps and he continues to improve and grow in strength every week.

“He’s now able to do most things with a little support from his owners. He is still wobbly but he’s going for longer walks and is back playing with his ball.”

Delighted owner Michelle Gilroy, from Solihull, admits she initially feared the worst and can barely believe Cooper’s remarkable recuperation.

Michelle said: “We were absolutely devastated when it was explained to us that Cooper’s chances of recovery were low and there could be possible fatal complications.

“We were extremely concerned. Everything seemed to point to him not recovering but we were just trying to focus on the slim chance he had.

“We were also encouraged by the outstanding team at Willows. From the start they were very informative and took time to explain and answer all of our questions while the medical side of it was extremely thorough and clear.

“It was more than that, though. It was the caring, understanding and supportive side to the care they have given Cooper and us throughout.

“From initial diagnosis and a very guarded prognosis, through physio, acupuncture, pain management and onward referral to a hydrotherapy centre in keeping with their own excellent standards of care, we can honestly say Rob, Emma and Jacques have been brilliant.

“The result is that Cooper’s happy again and loving his life! It’s been a long, slow road but all the moments along the way, when he wagged his tail again, learned to stand, sit and even now taking steps on his own, wouldn’t have been possible without Willows.”

In turn, physio Emma paid tribute to Michelle for her epic efforts to help her pet complete his incredible recovery.

She said: “Michelle and the family were incredibly dedicated, too. They were carrying out lots of exercises with him at home, including walking over obstacles and working on his balancing and, without their support, Cooper certainly wouldn’t have been able to walk again.”

The main praise, though, was for Cooper himself, with Emma admitting he’d been an inspiration to her and the rest of the Willows team.

She said: “Cooper has a really infectious personality and seems to understand that you’re trying to help him. He’s been an inspiration to all of the team here to never give up, no matter how tough things are!”

Willows offers specialist services in anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, clinical nutrition, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, emergency and critical care, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, soft tissue surgery and spinal surgery.

To find out more about Willows’ wide range of specialist services, visit www.willows.uk.net or search for Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service on Facebook.

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Five-year-old Cooper has become a walking miracle after five months of intensive treatment at Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service, in Solihull