‘It’s like watching your kid take their first step:’ Virginia Tech vet team helps poodle walk again

Tootsie, an aging standard poodle, was diagnosed with ‘wobbler syndrome’ after her legs stopped working

An extraordinary recovery after a serious diagnosis.

Tootsie is an aging standard poodle with arthritis and recently, her legs stopped working, Virginia Tech officials said.

Mary Jane Barrett of Roanoke is Tootsie’s owner. She said when the pup’s legs stopped working, it looked like she was doing a belly flop.

The pup was taken to the vet, then was referred to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine for treatment. officials said.

The next day, they arrived at the appointment and Tootsie was completely unable to stand.

We’re told the pup was later diagnosed with “wobbler syndrome,” a condition more formally called cervical spondylomyelopathy, which occurs when the spinal cord is compressed because of a narrowing of the spinal canal. VT officials said the syndrome is usually seen in large dog breeds.

There were two options for treatment – a decision that wasn’t so easy for her owner to make.

“It’s scary. We were petrified to make the decision: surgery or medicine,” Barrett said.

But since Tootsie’s symptoms came on so quickly, they decided to go with surgery. With that decision, the VT team expected a long road to recovery ahead.

“Going into surgery, we discussed that it could take months for her to get back up and walk again,” said Kayla Fowler, chief neurology and neurosurgery resident.

But Tootsie is exceeding their expectations. After just weeks in the hospital and multiple types of therapy, officials said she is now able to walk on her own again.

Even though she’ll need to remain in long-term rehab and still wears a support harness just in case, Tootsie is back home living it up with her family, officials said.

Her owner is overjoyed with the outcome.

“There have been lots of tears. The first day that she just got up on her own and walked to her water bowl, I cried. Watching her walk from the car to therapy has just fulfilled every kind of emotion,” said Barrett. “My daughter said it best: ‘Mom, it’s like watching your kid take their first step.’

About the Authors

Alli Graham came aboard the digital team as an evening digital content producer in June 2022.

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