LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It happened in the blink of an eye: Penny, a 9-year-old Boston terrier, went from being active and playful to completely paralyzed.
“I tried to stand her up and she fell right over,” said Penny’s owner, Madelyn Anderson. “She couldn’t move at all.”
Penny was rushed to BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital, where Dr. Forrest Cummings, an internal medicine specialist, performed a battery of tests, including a spinal tap. The results showed Penny had meningitis, a dangerous neurological disease that can be fatal.
But diagnosing the illness was only the first step. Now doctors had to get Penny moving again.
“Once a dog stops using their muscles, those muscles can go downhill pretty quickly,” Cummings said.
Dr. Cummings collaborated with Dr. Ruth Schmidtchen, a BluePearl senior clinician who is trained in veterinary integrative medicine, acupuncture and rehabilitation. As a specialty and emergency hospital, BluePearl doctors from a variety of specialties collaborate to create comprehensive treatment plans for pets like Penny.
Schmidtchen said she could tell Penny was very motivated to walk again. And Anderson was committed to helping her.
“I don’t think Penny would have made as much progress if her owner hadn’t been so dedicated,” Schmidtchen said.
Schmidtchen put Penny on a physical therapy regimen, working to slowly rehabilitate her muscles. She performed acupuncture on the pup and had her start walking on an underwater treadmill.
They expected it to take months for Penny to move again. But Penny made remarkable progress. Anderson said she knew they had turned an important corner when Penny pushed herself up and took a few tentative steps.
“It was such a relief,” Anderson said. “We knew that we weren’t doing this for nothing.”
Once she became strong enough, Penny started engaging in her favorite playtime activity: chasing bubbles.
“We went from a dog who couldn’t even lift her head up to a dog who is walking,” Schmidtchen said. “That’s a great outcome.”
Penny still undergoes physical therapy at BluePearl every Wednesday and is a little wobbly, but is mostly back to her playful self. Anderson, who describes Penny as “her baby,” said she hopes other pet parents will learn from her experience and educate themselves on the dangers of meningitis.
“It was a horrible, scary thing,” she said. “But now it’s turned into a wonderful thing.”