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How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Helped a Blind Dog See

An anesthesia accident left the little puppy blind and brain-damaged, but a pioneering new treatment restored her sight and health.

 |  Jun 29th 2012  |   7 Contributions


Most of us have had to -- or will have to -- stand up for our dogs in a life-or-death situation. 

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Sofie before the treatment, when she was still blind.

But we hope not too many will have to do what Corinne Scholtz of Florida did: fight for the life of a tiny, five-month-old Yorkie puppy whose companionship she'd only enjoyed for three short months.

Sofie the Yorkshire Terrier entered Corinne's life at Christmas 2011, kid sister to Simba, Corinne's male Yorkie. Three months later, Sofie was booked in for her routine spay procedure.

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Sofie and Corinne.

Nobody could've guessed what would happen next: Something went terribly wrong during anesthesia, and little Sofie -- who entered the vet hospital a healthy pup -- emerged from surgery with brain damage that caused her to stumble in confused circles, her ataxic limbs crossing against her will.  

But most heartbreaking of all to Corinne was the fact that Sofie was blind; her once bright-brown button-eyes now had a chillingly empty stare that registered ... nothing.

"I was devastated," recalls Corinne, who documented Sofie's every move with the video function on her iPhone. Looking at the footage, it's painful to witness such a tiny dog in the grip of such huge confusion, sniffing around with her nose glued to the ground to navigate her surroundings.

But the little dog proved to be tougher than she looked. And despite one vet's suggestion that euthanasia might be the kindest option, Corinne decided not to give up on her best friend. She sought a second opinion from a different vet, who recommended hyperbaric oxygen therapy for Sofie.

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Sofie looking alert and alive after her treatment.

So one week after her anesthesia injury, Sofie began a course of sessions in a hyperbaric chamber designed especially for pets. She started to show improvement almost immediately.

As her sight returned, Sofie also regained her interest in toys and her ability to navigate household obstacles such as a sliding glass door. The high-tech treatment -- until recently only available for human patients -- seemed to be working a miracle. (Of course, Corinne's low-tech TLC didn't hurt: She cooked chicken for Sofie, pureeing the meat and broth in a blender and combining it with regular canned dog food.)

A few more treatments in the hyperbaric chamber, and the dog who previously had no chew reflex was able to eat solid food with ease.

Finally, in one video we see a confident, secure Sofie climbing the steps all the way up to the sofa -- a task that was impossibly daunting for her just weeks earlier. It seems this "little dog" is 4.2 hefty pounds of sheer willpower.

Today, three months and 35 hyperbaric sessions later, Sofie sees just fine. A visit to a veterinary ophthalmologist confirmed what Corinne already knew: Hyperbaric medicine had restored Sofie's sight, reversing the cortical blindness caused by the brain damage.

"Sofie is healthier now than when she first came to live with us," Corinne enthuses, crediting hyperbaric oxygen therapy with her dog's dramatic positive reversal: "It saved Sofie's life. I would recommend it to anyone." 

Follow Sofie's recovery via Corinne's YouTube video posts

Photo Credits: Top Yorkie photo via Shutterstock.

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