Dear UC Davis Veterinary Hospital,

Recently, my normally healthy and active German shepherd, Dunham, experienced a fibrocartilagenous embolism (small stroke in the spine) (FCE), which resulted in the almost immediate and complete paralysis of his left pelvic limb, and partial paralysis of the right one. He could not stand or walk with his hind legs. I rushed him to our local veterinarian, and after a two-hour wait to be seen by their on-duty veterinarian, realized Dunham’s problem was above their capabilities. While waiting at that clinic, I had a phone consultation with the medical director of the local Pet Emergency Hospital, who advised me to get Dunham to UC Davis as soon as possible.

We arrived on campus shortly after midnight, and were met in the parking lot by your emergency veterinarian, Dr. Mara Senzolo, as well as technician Lori Weston and student Carin Steven. After administering a physical and neurological exam, your staff made the decision to bring in the on-call neurologists, Drs. Bev Sturges and Shannon Kerrigan, for further examination and determination if he would require immediate surgery. By 2:30 a.m., they determined Dunham was stable, and it would be better for him to wait until morning when the full facilities of the hospital would be available to care for him. The neurologists were very thorough in explaining my dog’s condition, the probable cause and the best course of action that would be taken in his care. Dunham spent the remainder of the night in your neurology ward under observation and on fluids. As he was quite anxious and confused, your technician spent the majority of the night with him in his kennel to comfort him and make sure he was okay.

In the morning, after another full physical and neurological exam, Dr. Jessica Rivera and student Liz Lee contacted me and informed me of their probable finding that Dunham most likely did experience an FCE, and in order to be sure, an MRI would be indicated. Dr. Rivera was able to work Dunham into an already full MRI schedule, and the MRI was conducted that afternoon. The MRI showed a lesion inside Dunham’s spinal cord consistent with an FCE. While at the hospital, Dunham’s condition improved, and he was discharged the next morning. Each day since, he has been substantially improving, regaining increasing control and balance of his left pelvic limb. Today he is back at an almost 95% pre-onset state.

While the events I described above are most likely routine and “another day in the life” for your facility, its students and staff, they were far from it for me. My dogs are my family and their care and wellbeing is paramount. The knowledge, professionalism and compassion that each of your students and staff showed was immense. Dr. Rivera took several hours out of her full schedule to answer every one of my questions, fully explain my dog’s condition, the likely cause and his probable prognosis. I feel she went above and beyond to fit him into the MRI schedule rather than merely place him in sequence for the next opening three days later. I cannot praise and compliment her and the students and staff enough.

The UC Davis veterinary hospital is a fine facility to both our region, and to the students who wish to learn and carry on this knowledge. I believe each of you is quite aware of this. However, in this instance, and as the recipient of this care, I wanted to take the time to share with you what your facility, your students and staff mean to a client. It is comforting to know you are available for the routine care during the day, as well as the emergencies in the middle of the night. I cannot express my gratitude enough to each of Dunham’s caregivers.

Very respectfully,
Todd C., Fresno, CA