Hemivertebrae is a congenital abnormality of the spine which often affects brachiocephalic breeds, such as the English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Pug and Boston Terriers. The vertebrae become deformed, either by fusing or becoming wedge-shaped, which can cause a twisting of the spine. The deformity in the vertebrae can cause compression of the spinal cord sometimes leading to weakness of the hind limbs. Fortunately, many dogs with this condition do not exhibit any clinical signs or pain, and do not need to be treated. Rest and anti-inflammatories can be helpful for affected dogs. Only in the more severe cases would surgery be considered as necessary to relieve compression on the spinal cord.
Now meet Will.
Just before the festive season I was invited over to help Will. He is an 8 year old French Bulldog who was rescued a couple of years ago so his physical and genetic background is unknown.
Recently he had started to knuckle his back paws and was wobbly on his rear legs. When his Mum took him to the vet, it was thought he could have hemivertebrae.
In Will’s case the vet prescribed anti-inflammatories for Will and recommended that his Mum try canine massage. Will's Mum, Alison, has known of AchyPaw for a while since she works for the Bulldog Rescue & Rehoming Trust where we've supported a couple of their annual bulldog picnics with our stall. Those shows have always been some of our favourites as there is a sea of bulldogs of all ages and sizes so you get lots of cuddles.
There are some pictures half way down the page on the AchyPaw website here http://achypaw.com/news-and-articles/events2014/ with the adorable Kiss-A-Bull booth.
When I heard of Will’s condition I thought there could be two options. Firstly, I could treat him myself but that may involve several visits to help him along. Or I could provide Alison with a tailored massage lesson and routine with specific exercises to help him regain his posture and confidence.
We opted for the second as I could always return for a top up maintenance therapy session should he need one.
His condition didn't seem to be causing him any pain, more like annoyance because his back legs didn't want to support his movement. Initial palpation revealed a distinct tightness from his mid spine, also reinforced by the fact his fur was quite different over that area being coarse rather than smooth over the rest of his body.
As he became more trusting with massage and touch, he subtly shifted his body so I was working over that area, his shoulder muscles and neck which were also very tight due to him overusing them.
I showed Alison a routine on one side of his body and then she took charge of the other side. By that time Will was in French Bulldog paradise, loving every stroke and knead. He was also very good at the exercises we tried out on him.
By the end of the two-hour session, he was visibly happier and moving a lot easier, even standing straight with no knuckling. Hopefully with his Mum doing her homework regularly, which I know she is, we can get little Will back in his feet again enjoying the New Year.
In fact I received feedback later that same day “Huge thank you for coming round to give Will massage therapy and show me how to do it. Will was so receptive and to see results straight away was amazing. I have one very sleepy Frenchie now who is curled up sucking on his teddy. Les you are my hero xxxxxx”.
Once again, this demonstrates the multi-purpose benefits that canine massage can offer. Not just for arthritis but for a diverse variety of other conditions. I guess some things are worth doing on Christmas Eve other than wrapping the presents.