Cornell University Hospital for Animals


Hospital Services
Companion Animal

Companion Animal
(607) 253-3060

Success Stories


Smokey, a 5 year old female cat, presented to the Emergency Service at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals for hind limb paralysis. Smokey had been playing with her canine brother when she accidentally crashed into a table, and immediately lost the ability to move her back legs.  She was taken to her regular veterinarian, who diagnosed a spinal fracture on x-rays, and referred Smokey to Cornell for emergency surgery. Upon arrival Smokey was unable to move her legs, and the doctors were unsure whether she was even able to feel them.  Despite a very guarded prognosis, Smokey's owners wanted to give her every chance they could for recovery.  A CT scan confirmed a lumbar spinal fracture with compression of the spinal cord, and Smokey was taken to surgery to remove the compressive bony fragments and stabilize the fracture.  The following morning, Smokey was miraculously able to feel AND move both of her hind limbs.  She was an amazing patient, purring and nuzzling throughout her stay.  While it is not uncommon for patients like Smokey to stay in the hospital for at least a week, Smokey was discharged just 3 days later (the day after Christmas), and was already able to stand on her own!  She continued to improve in leaps and bounds at home, and was running around the exam at her 2 week recheck.


Cadence, an active Boxer, arrived at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals five years ago after being surrendered to a local shelter with a broken leg and several broken ribs. The orthopedic service inserted a metal plate to treat Cadence's fractured leg and helped her find a new home.

Cadence returned to Cornell for regular checkups over the next four years. In 2012, her owner noticed Cadence limping on her back right leg. The orthopedic service examined Cadence carefully and found her right stifle was enlarged, painful, and unstable. Radiographs revealed that the knee was swollen consistent with rupture of the cranial (anterior) cruciate ligament (ACL).

The final diagnosis was ruptured cranial cruciate ligament in her right knee, a common cause of debilitating hind limb lameness in dogs of all shapes and sizes. 

Dr. Ursula Krotscheck and Dr. Heather M. Knapp-Hoch recommended Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy surgery, which stabilizes the knee joint by changing its anatomy. Dog’s walk in a “crouched” position on their toes with their knees flexed or bent forward. In this position, there is a tendency for the bottom of the thigh bone (femur) to fall off the back of the tibia. The ACL - the ligament that Cadence tore - stops this from happening.  When the ACL tears, this falling off occurs and causes arthritis and pain.

The TPLO surgery realigns the surface of the tibia to change the forces during walking, preventing the femur from falling off of the tibia. The TPLO surgery was successful, and Cadence made a full recovery within a month.

A helping hand for Zeus

The following letter was shared by a client of the Cornell University Hospital. Please enjoy!

On Saturday March 26, 2011, Zeus ran out to greet my uncle as he drove in the driveway with his van. He was there to fix my dad’s furnace. 

It had been icy and when Zeus tried to stop he could not and slid on the ice. He did not go under the vehicle, but slid up against the side of the van with his hip hitting first. That was when Zeus let out a horrible scream of pain and ran to hide on the porch. Everyone scrambled to find him and when we did, it was plain to see he was in horrible pain. 

My dad had adopted Zeus at the Auburn SPCA a year earlier; he was now only 3-years-old.  He had heart worms and went through all the treatments to get cured. By this time, my dad and Zeus had bonded, and they went everywhere together.  My dad called me to come over and see what I thought he should do. I brought my muzzle because it sounded like Zeus was in extreme pain, and I did not want anyone to get bitten if he reacted to being moved. He is such a good-natured boy, but the pain was terrible. We loaded Zeus in the back of the station wagon using a sheet as a sling. My dad seemed numb, almost in shock. He first took Zeus to his vet in Auburn, who took one look at Zeus, gave him a shot for pain, and sent him to Syracuse to an emergency veterinary hospital there. 

Dad sat with Zeus for an hour, but was told it would be approximately $3500 just for them to x-ray and take a look at what they could do for him.  Dad called asking me where else he could go for help because he did not have that kind of money. He met me in Moravia and Dr. Kerry Norris met us there and took x-rays; we then learned Zeus’s hip had actually popped out of the socket when he banged up against the van. Dr. Norris said his hip socket was a little more shallow on that side and although he had better hips than most German Shepherds, the blunt force had been enough to cause this to happen. She then put him under and worked for several hours trying to get his hip to pop back in the socket. Sadly this did not work. We discussed our options and decided the only hope to save him was to take him to Cornell where a team could assess the damage and hopefully repair his hip. Zeus was given more pain medication, and we drove the 45-minute drive to Cornell. 

The Cornell doctors assessed the hip injury and determined the best option for Zeus was to remove the ball on his hip. Incredibly, the hip would form scar tissue and form a sort of false hip joint. This would require confining Zeus, keeping him calm, and therapy several times a day with cold and heat packs to help with pain and swelling for several months. When they told my dad how much it would cost, I saw a sad, defeated look come over him and he said he did not know what to do; he could not afford this, but he loved his dog and did not want to let this be the end. He agonized over this for several hours as the doctors did more tests and gave him updates. Then one of the students told him he could apply for help through the patient assistance program: a program where folks donate funds to help cover the cost when a person is struggling to save their pet but cannot afford it.  This was the answer to his prayers and this helped saved Zeus' life. 

We cannot begin to find the words to thank the people responsible for this warm act of kindness.

We wanted to send you a deeply felt and special thank you and ask you to pass this on to the folks responsible. Again we cannot thank them enough, it is a wonderful, loving thing to do, and we will never forget this.

My dad religiously did the therapy and Zeus is now using his leg again. He again tags along with my dad everywhere he goes, swims in the pond and is my dad’s constant companion. Thank you so much for allowing us to have more time to spend with this wonderful member of our family! Please know we thank you from the bottom of our hearts and will never forget this special gift!

Thanks again,
William N. Denman and his daughter Deb