Paralysed, five-year-old Cockapoo, Leo, has undergone three spinal operations and intensive physiotherapy and hydrotherapy rehabilitation courses at Linnaeus-owned Kentdale Referrals in Milnthorpe, Cumbria, to finally make it back onto all fours.
Kentdale managing director Toby Gemmill said Leo’s remarkable recovery was a tribute to both the paralysed dog’s determination and the multidisciplinary expertise of the talented team at the renowned animal hospital, with Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) specialist in small animal surgery, Graham Hayes, carrying out the initial surgery and Joe Higgins, ECVS resident in small animal surgery, completing the second two operations.
Toby explained: “Leo was first referred to us in 2020 after he sustained a spinal injury while playing with a ball. He was paraplegic and in a lot of pain, and we suspected it was due to a lesion within the mid-lumbar spine.
“A CT scan confirmed the presence of a recent (L3-L4) disc extrusion which was putting pressure on the spinal cord. There was also an historic (T12-T13) disc extrusion and multiple mineralised discs.
“The prognosis was not good, as only 50 per cent of dogs recover from this type of damage but, after discussions with Leo’s owners, we decided to operate. A hemilaminectomy was performed (at L3-L4) on the discs and a large amount of disc and haematoma was removed.”
A week after surgery, Leo began physiotherapy and rehabilitation aimed at improving his ability to stand upright unassisted and build back his balance, coordination and spatial awareness in his hindlimbs.
Kentdale’s veterinary physio, Eugenie Wilcocks, said: “Leo struggled to flex his knees and preferred to maintain an arched back posture. He also had difficulty controlling his bladder.
“To manage his resultant muscle wastage, Leo received daily neuromuscular stimulation therapy and a couple of weeks later, he started underwater treadmill hydrotherapy to further encourage hindlimb muscle usage, strengthening and balance.
“He continued a regime of exercises at home, along with his treadmill hydrotherapy sessions. Although he was still sporting a slightly unusual gait, Leo did build up his hindlimb muscle mass and tone and regained his full ability to walk, run and play.”
It was a terrific result for the Kentdale team but then seven months later Leo was back with more spinal problems. Toby said: “When we examined Leo, he was only just able to walk and stand but with sub-par balance and coordination and in need of assistance. He was once again in a lot of pain.
“A CT scan was performed which highlighted a disc extrusion over two disc spaces (T12-L1). A hemilaminectomy was again performed to relieve the pressure on his spinal cord and Leo made great progress. He was comfortable, able to control his bladder and was able to do an uncoordinated walk, before going home three days later.
“His owners dedicated themselves once again to his rehabilitation and he made a swift recovery over the coming months; doing so well to regain his ability walk and live a relatively normal life despite having two serious spinal injuries.”
Unfortunately for Leo, that was not the end of the story and he recently returned to Kentdale for a third dose of treatment for his persistent spinal trouble.
“Leo could still stand and walk but was showing weakness and poor coordination in his hindlimbs and noticeable pain in his mid to lower back,” revealed Toby. “All options were discussed with his owners, and it was decided to give him 48 hours of rest and pain relief while we monitored for improvements.
“Unfortunately, Leo continued to deteriorate, and it was decided to again go ahead with the surgical route. A CT scan found a further disc extrusion (at L2-L3) and a third hemilaminectomy was performed. Disc retrieval was particularly tricky this time but surgery went well and once again, Leo made fantastic progress and went home four days later.”
Physio Eugenie added: “Leo has amazed us all with his dogged determination and his owners have been equally determined and diligent. While recurrence is not uncommon, he was incredibly unlucky to have had three episodes.
“His owners again started the process of restoring his full function through rehabilitative exercises at home and it’s all going well. Once again it includes helping Leo re-build his hindlimb and spinal muscles while working on his balance and proprioception (sense of movement).
“Rest assured that we will continue supporting and guiding Leo to make another full recovery.”
Kentdale Referrals is a specialist-led practice offering expert services in diagnostic imaging, arthroscopy, laparoscopy, anaesthesia, infection control, orthopaedic surgery, spinal surgery, soft tissue surgery and physiotherapy.
For more information on Kentdale Referrals, visit their website or search for Kentdale Referrals on social media.