Benannand Cairn Terriers


                                                             Greg with Toby at Dogs in Motion for his weekly hydrotherpy sessions during his treatment.



We have placed this story on our website about our struggle with this fairly rare neurological disorder in case someone else's dog comes down with this. We found it helpful reading other peoples experiences and this also assisted us in keeping hopeful and positive.  If anyone else reading this would like any advice on this condition you are most welcome to contact us. 


Health Report on Polyradiculoneuritis for the Cairn Terrier Club of Victoria

Toby’s Story                                                               

It is hard to believe our male Cairn Terrier Toby (Grand Ch Benannand Double Take) was unable to walk for the best part of 3 months up until 10 days ago.  Today (10thFeb) he is walking completely unaided,{ although a little stilted and stiff), but is getting stronger and gaining more stamina each day.  When we were asked to write about our experience by the Health committee we decided it would be a great idea to share our story just in case someone else comes across this condition in the future. When dealing with Polyradiculoneuritis you need all the knowledge and encouragement you can get in order to treat and cope with it. We searched the internet for websites and blogs and found there was limited support and information but did find a few personal blogs that helped.  

At the start of November 2014, Toby suddenly showed weakness in his hind legs and a subtle change in his bark.  Over the next few days the condition progressed which led to total paralysis of all four limbs and total loss of his bark.  He was initially tested for a spinal injury (CT scan), tick paralysis (shaved & anti venom), and various other neurological disorders (electromyography and nerve conduction studies).  Toby was finally diagnosed by the Neurologists at the Melbourne University Veterinary Hospital as having Idiopathic Polyradiculoneuritis, a serious, unpredictable, life threatening neurological disorder that occurs when many nerves throughout the body malfunction simultaneously.  The prognosis is very good but recovery times vary from 2 weeks to 6 months and the only treatment is a huge dose of tender loving nursing care and lots of patience and physiotherapy.  The hospital sees almost one case a week of varying degrees affecting all breeds, ages and genders.  Toby was considered a fairly severe case so we knew we were probably in for the long haul.

Over the last 3 months we turned our life upside down in order to help Toby recover.  There were many disheartening times watching a lively, bubbly dog struck down with this debilitating condition but luckily small improvements were apparent along the way.  During the first month we had to hand feed him, take him outside regularly throughout the day and night for toileting, move his positioning often and exercise his limbs several times a day. 

In December we took Toby to a canine physiotherapist at Dogs in Motion where he had hydrotherapy on an underwater treadmill.  We were given a set of exercises to give him several times a day including one session in the bath daily.  The physiotherapist Michelle Monk also gave us so much hope and support as she had worked with this condition before and assured us that Toby will walk again!  At this stage he still had very little movement in his legs and only limited movement in his neck and trunk and muscle wastage was also a concern.

Slowly improvement became more evident with Toby beginning to wriggle his body more and display stronger neck muscles.  By Christmas Day he was wagging his tail and moving the top half of his body and by early January he began moving himself in a commando style roll and shuffling  along on his elbows.  At hydrotherapy sessions he gradually began using his legs more, first his hind legs then finally his front legs, then definite steps on the treadmill in the water. 

Finally on 1st February, 3 months after the onset of this condition Toby walked unaided for the first time, much to our delight and surprise. (Both the specialist and physiotherapist had both predicated he would probably walk in about 2 weeks a couple of days before!!)  Since then he has improved daily but will still need time to build up his muscles and stamina and of course his damaged nerve ending will still be growing back and repairing themselves for many months to come. Nerve endings grow very slow, 1 to 3 mm per day!

The team of Neurologists at Melbourne University are of course attempting to discover the causes of Polyradiculoneuritis.  In the US this condition is called Coon Hound paralysis as it is thought to be caused by exposure to racoon saliva.  As we don’t have racoons here in Australia there are many other theories that are being considered including a link to diet.  We have been advised not to feed Toby any form of raw chicken, including his daily chicken neck as there is some suspicion that raw chicken could be a contributing factor.   We must stress this is still a theory and has not been proven.  They have found most of the dogs they see with Polyradiculoneuritis have been fed raw chicken or chicken necks.   

While going through this experience we learnt a lot about ourselves and Toby.   He has turned out to be the terrier we always thought he was, a true fighter who is continuing to surprise us and push himself daily.  We also believe that Toby’s recovery was accelerated due to our persistence and hard work with his daily physiotherapy.  We look forward to watching our boy recover fully over the next few months.

Lyn and Greg Chapman

At  Hydrotherapy                                                               Walking after 3 months!              


Up date April 2015 Toby has come on in leaps and bounds.  His orginal cheeky personality has returned and he is playing and running around with the other dogs.  His shaved coat is fast returning to its former self and his muscles are slowly bulking up. He is now going for walks, barking at birds etc and generally being a typical cairn terrier.  


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Greg and Lyn Chapman

Victoria   Australia

[email protected]

  Mobile  0409437001 or Phone 97757508


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