Natasha Olby, a professor of neurology at the College of Veterinary Medicine, tests the reflexes of a canine patient with the help of a colleague.

Spinal surgery can involve a painful recovery process – whether you’re a human or a dog. But what if a noninvasive treatment utilizing a pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) could improve pain, reduce inflammation and possibly aid motor recovery? A recent small clinical trial at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine set out to see whether this was the case – and some of the results were promising.

Acute intervertebral disc extrusion (IVDE) in dogs occurs when there is an explosive release of disc material from the spinal column. In IVDE the “jelly-like” center of the disc cannot withstand pressures exerted on it by movements of the spine, so it ejects into the spinal canal above it. The disc material both bruises and compresses the spinal cord, rendering the dog unable to walk or feel anything below the injury site. It’s most often seen in short-legged breeds like Dachshunds, but can occur in other breeds as well.

Surgical decompression is the preferred treatment for IVDE – surgeons drill a hole in the bone above the spinal cord and remove the disc material. This procedure alleviates the compression, but doesn’t help with any bruising of the spinal cord. Afterward the dog’s ability to recover depends largely on the amount of injury incurred. For dogs with the most severe grade of injury the recovery rate is just over 50 percent – the rest remain paralyzed.

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Originally published March 26, 2018. Written by Tracey Peake.

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