Veterinarians help partially paralyzed shelter dogs get back on their feet

Alexis and Mordecai may have been down and out a few months ago. But now they’re ready to go.

Both dogs were picked up by Wichita Animal Control as strays this spring, each suffering from partial paralysis and dragging their rear legs behind them. The Kansas Humane Society took them in and placed them with foster families.

Alexis, a terrier and dachshund mix, may have been hit by a car. Veterinarians aren’t sure. She had severe muscle wasting and no use of her hind legs.

“But her personality … she was just so bright and shiny,” said Michelle Townsley, the shelter’s veterinary clinic director. “She was a people dog right from the beginning.”

Mordecai, a dachshund mix, had disk issues and couldn’t walk or go to the bathroom by himself. He was in worse shape when he arrived.

Another Wichita veterinarian, Brenda Cederberg of Countryside Pet Clinic and Resort, stepped in and offered laser and physical therapy for both dogs. Cederberg is a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner and had talked to the shelter about wanting to help with such dogs.

Cederberg put together therapy and rehabilitation plans for the dogs. Alexis visited her clinic twice a week for therapeutic laser treatments and therapy exercises. During laser treatments, an ultraviolet light is applied to stimulate healing and pain relief.

“I wanted to use it as a teaching case,” Cederberg said. “We have a vet tech in school right now who is becoming certified in rehabilitation.”

Mordecai had two laser treatments and is undergoing therapy at his foster home. He still has some weakness in his back end and can go down stairs but not up them.

Alexis’ foster mom, Tommie Redington, recently decided to adopt her. Mordecai lives with foster parent Kay Fenning and is looking for a permanent home.

Redington said she adopted Alexis because not too many people had taken a look at her. Redington was moving to Oklahoma and was worried about the dog’s fate.

“She’s very smart and very playful. She’s still got a lot of puppy in her,” Redington said. “She needs someone who’s home all the time. She needs full-time care. That’s kind of hard to find.”

Redington has learned how to put a sling under Alexis’ belly to encourage her to use her hind legs.

“It helps support her when she gets kind of wobbly,” Redington said.

Alexis has come a long way since she came to the shelter at the end of March.

“The poor little thing couldn’t walk. She was just so cute, you know. Sometimes you just know that’s one you need to help,” Redington said.

Fenning took in Mordecai on April 13. She is a vet technician at the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital of Wichita and has been a foster parent to many animals with special medical needs.

Although Mordecai is doing better, “he has a hitch in his get-along,” Fenning said. In therapy, “his legs were really resistant at first to making a bicycling motion. Now he doesn’t think anything of it.”

Despite his own problems, Mordecai was a helpful dog-dad to some kittens Fenning fostered. He would clean them up after they did their business and lick their faces, Fenning said.

“He’s adorable,” Fenning said. “He gets along great with other dogs.”

Cederberg said Mordecai will need a home with someone familiar with the dachshund breed and disk problems, which are common among that breed.

“Sometimes it can reoccur,” she said. “He’ll need someone who can control his environment, not have other dogs who may challenge him or wrestle with him.”

Jennifer Campbell, communications director for the Kansas Humane Society, said Mordecai will need someone willing to observe him closely. Keeping the dog fit and lean will be a priority.

Campbell said the dogs’ stories are inspirational. Anyone interested in adopting Mordecai can call the shelter at 316-524-9196 to make an appointment to see him.

“They’re dogs that if they were at the old facility, we wouldn’t have had the resources to take them,” she said. “If we had more people like Dr. Cederberg, we’d be able to save more lives.”

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