Falco became a favorite (one of many) of the SCAN Team. His primary care veterinarian referred him to SCAN because he was unable to walk normally. Why is this such a unique case, you ask? – Well, Falco is a service canine and his job is to monitor his owner’s health at all times.

A three-year-old Malinois, Falco trained as a bomb dog but never deployed. While Falco didn’t go on to find bombs, he did find a former college athlete who suffers from Myasthenia Gravis, a neuromuscular disease. He needed a service dog and Falco was perfect for the job – this relationship worked out great.

Recently, Falco’s owner noticed he was slowing down and that he was less eager for interaction. One night, Falco became unable to stand up; he was dragging his toes as he tried to walk and walked like he was on “egg-shells”. Falco appeared uncomfortable and was also running a fever. The owner feared he might be suffering from the same Myasthenia Gravis condition she did as the symptoms were similar.

Falco’s primary care veterinarian referred him to Specialists in Companion Animal Neurology for an emergency evaluation by Dr. Cook. Notably, his signs were more consistent with a spinal cord problem or more diffuse, inflammatory condition; not at all typical of the Myasthenia Gravis his owner suffered from.

Because of the concern for progressive spinal cord compression, Dr. Jim Cook recommended an emergency MRI of the spine. Upon review, it showed that Falco’s spine was free of any structural abnormalities. Dr. Cook also noted that Falco’s joints felt slightly inflamed once he was under anesthesia; for this reason an arthrocentesis (joint tap) was performed. The joint fluid was markedly inflamed consistent with Immune-mediated Polyarthritis. Dr. Cook began medical therapy and was able to send Falco home that evening.

The next morning Falco was up and about feeling much better. At his two-week recheck appointment he was completely back to normal and back to his important job of keeping his owner safe. Great job Falco!