Noodle Sees a Specialist
We recently took Noodle to a veterinarian neurologist, Dr. Kline. Just as with humans, neurologists are the experts on the nervous tissue (ie brain and spinal cord). With a functioning neurological system, our brain (in a very basic sense) has a center or cortex that controls sensation and motor. These two main areas of the brain have nerve fibers that communicate down through our spinal cord and then extend out to all parts of our body. For the motor area, the nerve fibers communicate downward, meaning from the brain through the spinal cord to the muscles. This is in a basic form what creates our movement. The sensory system works in the opposite direction from our body/joints/skin into the spinal cord and up to the brain. The communication between the brain and the body is dependent on the “roadways” through the spinal cord.
We learned from the neurologist that Noodle’s spinal cord injury is a complete injury at the level of L2 in her lumbar vertebrae. This means the communication from L2 and past to all the other levels of her lower spine are no longer in a two way communication with her brain. She cannot feel or move beyond the L2 level which is around her waist on a dog. An incomplete spinal cord injury would have meant that the communication or roadway through the spinal cord wasn’t completed severed and some volitional control produced from the brain could be regained.
But Noodle can move her legs? When there is a break in the neurological system like a spinal cord injury or even a stroke, this can result in a type of muscle movement called tone, spasticity and/or increased reflex reactions. Noodle’s leg movements are reflexive also termed spinal walking. Think about when the doctor hits your tendon below your knee and your leg kicks up into the air. This movement is not in our conscious control. When Noodle’s foot hits the ground this is the same thing as a reflex hammer hitting our tendon at the knee. This reflexes causes her foot to withdraw away from the ground. Thus she appears to be making steps though her movement is not conscious or intentional.
Kyle and I were neither surprised nor saddened to learn that her spinal cord injury is complete. She is still our sweet Noodle. With a complete spinal cord injury we still want to encourage her movement even though it is reflexive. This reflex movement still causes a muscle contraction. It can keep her muscles from getting too weak, reduce risk of skn breakdown and potentially she can “learn” to use her spasticity and reflexes to stand and unweight her hips from the ground while moving. We believe we already see this intentional use of her reflex or spasticity as she tends to push up to her parital stand position more often when outside on our bumby sidewalk in front of the house and as many of you saw in the pool with therapy.
Well, onward we go with Noodle. She will continue to revieve physical therapy for her injury and will continue to be the happy go lucky pup with a super serious face.
Thank you for everyone’s support of our little girl.
The content knowledge regarding the neurological system is based off of our education, training, and implementation as physical therapists who work with neurolgical diagnoses. The content regarding doggie anatomy and rehab is based on information received as healthcare consumers learning from Noodle’s doggie physical therapists, neurology veterinarian, and her primary veterinarian.