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Helping your dog with
FCE (Spinal Stroke) Recovery

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism (FCE) in dogs, commonly intertwined with Ischaemic Myelopathy, occurs when a piece of intervertebral disc disrupts the blood flow to the spinal cord causing a spinal stroke.

FCE Overview

Signs of FCE

Often signs come on suddenly and whilst your dog is being active. One or more of your dog's limbs may become very weak or immobile and it often affects one side more than the other, depending on where the area of damage is. Some dogs may cry out in pain at the time of the trauma and appear very anxious with the loss of use of their limbs but in general the condition is considered largely painless.

Cause of FCE

FCE in dogs occurs when a small piece of fibrocartilage from a nearby intervertebral disc makes its way into the bloodstream. This piece then flows down the bloodstream until it lodges in a blood vessel that supplies the spinal cord. When the spinal cord does not have a constant blood supply, it cannot function, causing the signs of weakness or inability to use the limbs.

Treatment of FCE

Luckily for you guys, surgery is generally not considered for this type of spinal condition. In most instances, recovery is fairly swift compared to IVDD patients, and often lead normal lives once rehabilitated with physiotherapy / hydrotherapy. Recovery can take as little as 6 weeks but is often longer and some dogs may remain a bit weak or wobbly forever. Consistent physiotherapy / hydrotherapy alongside laser therapies and targeted exercise programmes are considered the best modality for recovery.

What can we do about it?

Plenty! We have numerous modalities in clinic that we have at our finger tips to help your dog. These include massage, soft tissue mobilisation, stretching, joint mobilisations, targeted exercises, laser therapy, hydrotherapy... shall we continue? These have all been shown to restore muscle function, strength and coordination, improve spinal recovery and improve your dog's quality of life. With each session they undergo constant review of their clinical signs and progression in order to gain maximum recovery at a pace that's comfortable for them.


We have a comprehensive programme tailored for your dog's specific needs, depending on their recovery so far. For Conservative Management Patients, we will always assess their pain levels (if any), degree of mobility, muscle strength, amongst more, to enable us to create the most successful treatment plan for them.

There is never a guarantee with recovery but we are pleased to say we have never had a dog remain paralysed in our 10+ years of treating animals. The general rule of thumb is; if there is little to no improvement within 6 months post-trauma then prognosis isn't looking great. Persistence and patience are KEY!

Alongside what we do with your beloved pooch, there are a number of things outside of the clinic that can help them manage their condition or rehabilitation. Please find information in the sections below!  

For further information on creating the ideal crate environment please click here

Home Modifications After Crate Rest


Wooden floors and stairs are a big slip hazard for your dog. Try using non-slip mats along the main routes of your house. Alternatively, some dogs may benefit from paw pads (please speak to us before trying this option in case of contraindication).

Feeding Stations

Raising their water and food bowls may seem like a insignificant change to us, but it can really help your dog to be in a more neutral position.

Access to Furniture

Jumping up and down from heights if often a cause of additional pain / damage to your dog. If they enjoy a cuddle on the sofa or the bed, make it easier for them with dog-friendly steps or ramps onto furniture. This also applies to getting in / out of cars! You may find a sling to be useful.

Keeping Warm

Especially important in the colder months, your dog will benefit from staying warmer. Keep them in a jumper and walk them out with coats. Stay dry too!

Sleeping / Resting Areas

Great quality sleep is essential. Ensure their sleeping area is free from any drafts and in a warm spot. Their bedding should be supportive and not restrictive. Memory foam mattresses without rigid or tall sides are best. Make sure your dog can access the bed and can change position / stretch out easily.

Be Wary of Terrain

Different types of terrain in the garden and on walks can be hazardous, such as steep slopes, loose or uneven surfaces. Be mindful to where they are going.

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