Candice Chandler, Global Animal

Pets with disabilities such as spinal cord injuries face a short list of treatments. One dog, Tobi, who suffered from a spontaneous ruptured disk was given two options for recovery: euthanasia or expensive surgery. His guardian, Beverly Tucker, opted for a different approach. She purchased a wheeled cart fitted to Tobi’s hind legs to aid in his mobility, a solution that, while helpful in keeping Tobi somewhat mobile, was still difficult for both guardian and dog.

But in the future, the 2.3% of dogs handicapped by spinal cord injuries may have another option than having to live their lives forever disabled. 

Research conducted by Linda J. Noble-Haeusslein, PhD, a professor in the University Of San Francisco Departments of Neurological Surgery and Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science has developed a drug that has the potential to drastically improve recovery from spinal cord injuries. The drug, which inhibits the protein matrix metalloproteinase-9 from acquiring high numbers and destroying the cells in the spine, has had extremely promising results. 

Dog With Spinal InjuryAfter a spinal injury such as a ruptured disk, chemical reactions, swelling, and bleeding caused by the excess protein produce the worst damage to the spine than the injury itself. This is what causes complete paralysis. The new drug blocks this protein from reaching abnormal quantities, and the research has proved to be a great success in helping animals not only recover, but walk again.  

Treatment conducted in accordance with Dr. Linda Noble and Texas A & M College Of Veterinary Medicine will soon reach guardians and their beloved pets. The project will start to test dogs brought into the animal hospital at Texas A & M with spinal injuries, and each will be given the drug for three days while constantly being monitored for any sign of improvement. 

The research has provided evidence that when the drug was given within three hours of the injury, the recovery process was achieved. The degeneration process of cells in the spinal cord had been stopped in its tracks. 

The future of this research has the potential to save many animals from paralysis. Like Tobi, pets ailed with spinal injury might not have to face surgery or death due to ruptured disks. All mammals, not just dogs, have the chance to make a nearly full recovery from spinal damage. Pigs, cats, alpacas, rabbits, and even humans have a conceivable future living a normal, walking life after suffering from damage that was once thought to last forever.