When Janet first met Antoine, despite loving care from his first foster mother, his legs were heavily scraped from being dragged behind him. Even a no-kill shelter would have been forced to evaluate his condition and quality of life as very poor, but others saw what Janet saw– Antoine was full of life and joy. He wanted to live. He was a survivor.
Janet’s vet in Kansas City determined Antoine was suffering from “bilateral stifle and tarsal hyper-extension with bilateral quadriceps contracture.” In other words, his right leg had rotated completely around his hip. Luckily, Antoine appeared to be neurologically intact, and his organs were fully functional. He was not in pain. Janet knew she had to help this dog.
A year earlier, Janet had experienced Colorado State University Veterinary Hospital for the first time when she brought her own beloved St. Bernard there for treatment. She wondered if they could help again and sent Antoine’s X-rays for their review. They told her to come.
At CSU, the first step was to research every detail of Antoine’s background that the hospital could find. In one afternoon they traced his life back to a breeder in Nebraska and diagnosed him with the parasitic infection Neospora. It became clear that the disease was probably transmitted to Antoine from his mother during fetal development. Neospora causes the muscles to contract beginning with the hind limbs, resulting in rigid paralysis. As it progresses, it affects the central nervous system and the muscles involved in swallowing and breathing, eventually leading to death. It’s simply amazing that Antoine had survived as long as he had.
The doctors gave Antoine a CT scan that confirmed and amplified the information from the original X-rays taken in Kansas City. They had never seen a dog with such severe damage to his muscles and bones that had survived Neospora. Surgery was necessary if there was to be any hope for Antoine to stand and walk. The prognosis was very guarded. Antoine would have to go through a lot of trials with no guarantee of successful results.