A vet and a team of nurses and therapists at a leading veterinary charity have helped an ailing guide dog return to work with her owner.

Buntie, a six-year-old black Labrador, was successfully treated by the Animal Health Trust (AHT) in Suffolk after losing the use of her legs.

The loss of physical strength had made it impossible for the guide dog to carry out any of her usual duties and made it difficult for her to eat, drink urinate and defecate.
Buntie was barely able to walk, stumbling on her front legs and having to shift her weight from side to side to remain balanced.

Vet Anita Shea, clinician in neurology and neurosurgery at the AHT, examined Buntie and found her biggest abnormality was weakness in all four limbs, with decreased reactions to basic reflex tests, showing multiple nerves had stopped functioning properly.
 Mrs Shea said tests were performed to ensure there was no obvious cause for Buntie’s weakness elsewhere in her body. 

She said: “We then performed further tests, under general anaesthesia, where little needles were placed in her muscles and nerves to measure electrical activity. This showed the nerves were not properly stimulating the muscles, so biopsy samples of muscle and nerve were submitted to a large neuromuscular laboratory in San Diego for analysis to try to determine the cause of the problem.”

The results did not suggest any signs of disease, leading the AHT team to suspect an unknown kind of toxin exposure, either poisoning or an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, this could not be cured by medication.

Physiotherapy was chosen as the best treatment option and Buntie underwent intense daily physiotherapy with AHT nurses, which was later complemented by sessions at the AHT’s hydrotherapy centre.

After three weeks of pool sessions twice a week, Buntie progressed to the underwater treadmill to build muscle and improve coordination and placement of her feet. Less than a month later the dog’s strength rapidly increased and she was able to stand up unaided and take small steps.

Eight weeks after being referred to the AHT, Buntie resumed her role as a working guide dog, much to the delight of her owner.

Mrs Shea added: “During her time at the AHT, Buntie became a firm favourite with all the staff involved in her care and recovery. She was so inspiring, with her dogged determination to get back to the duties she was trained to do.”

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