How is it I’ve owned a dog the greater part of my life (50+ years), and I’ve never heard the phrase ‘Canine FCE’? I’ve asked fellow hunters with active hunting dogs, other friends, family, professional dog trainers, dog walkers and even some veterinarians and none of them have heard of this rare, stroke- like accident that leaves dogs partially paralyzed or in extreme cases, fully paralyzed.
It’s a phrase that’s rarely heard yet sadly, can be common in all dogs regardless of breed and size. If you’re a dog owner (or even a cat owner), I’d like to help educate you on FCE (fibrocartilaginous embolism), causes, prognosis and most importantly, rehab.
Our family’s experience with canine FCE in our five year-old black lab Bubba was emotional as we navigated the unknown, rationalized vet bills all while being faced with making decisions about our beloved dog that were life and death. What makes Bubba’s story unique and rare is the extreme case in which he experienced FCE. It happened in a split-second and it changed his life, and our family’s, forever.
What is a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE)?
FCE is the functional equivalent of a stroke in the spinal cord rather than the brain.
It is a sudden blocking of an artery or vein of the spinal cord by a clot of foreign material.
FCE is often associated with strenuous exercise and/or trauma. It can appear rapidly without any warning. After the initial pain of trauma, an FCE is not painful but can cause weakness and paralysis (inability to move).
As a pet owner, familiarizing yourself with FCE is important. While data on cases is still being uncovered, many dogs of all sizes can experience the debilitating side effects on a scale ranging from partial to full paralysis. Some dogs, mainly smaller ones, can maintain a reasonably healthy quality of life after a tragic episode because they are smaller and owners can help them walk, eat, go to the bathroom outside and do activities dogs love to do. Larger breed dogs however, are usually more difficult cases because they cannot be regularly carried around by their owner for daily dog activities.
For more information about FCE, clinical signs, prognosis and more, please visit our resource page.
Learn more about Bubba’s story, The Miracle of Bubba, an inspiration dog story for all ages, pet owners and the like and please follow my blog for a series of resources, FCE experiences, guides, inspiration and hope.