Paralysed dogs given an unusual treatment for spinal cord injury have shown some success in being able to walk again, a new study reveals.

Dogs rendered paraplegic by severe spinal cord injuries regained significant neurological function after treatment with a polymer called polyethylene glycol, or PEG, say researchers at Purdue University in Indiana, US.



Dogs admitted to two veterinary hospitals with paraplegia – caused by naturally occurring mishaps leading to “explosive” ruptures of spinal discs – were initially treated with intravenous injections of PEG. This was followed by standard treatments, such as surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and remove stray bone fragments, and steroids to reduce inflammation.



The team, led by Richard Borgens of Purdue’s Center for Paralysis Research, reports that the PEG-treated animals showed marked improvement compared to “historical controls” – paraplegic dogs whose progress had been documented at the hospitals following standard treatments in the 1990s.



Within 48 hours, the PEG-treated dogs scored far better than the historical controls on neurological and behavioural tests designed to measure early functional recovery. And by six weeks after treatment 68% of the PEG-treated dogs were able to walk, compared with only 24% of the historical controls.



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