Case solved: Intervertebral disc herniation
Sheila Zarella was in Florida on vacation. Her dog, KaChing, was recovering from back surgery at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. She eagerly waited for the call that came each day, updating her on KaChing’s condition.
“We had been planning a trip to Florida which happened to fall right after KaChing’s surgery,” recalled Zarella. “We weren’t sure if we’d have to cancel or if one of us would stay behind with him. But Tufts was able to medically board him while we were away for two weeks. One of the students, Oisin Tracey called us each day to provide a status on his recovery. He was absolutely wonderful and it was so reassuring to get a daily report.”
Many people can relate to KaChing’s pain—back pain to be specific. For a person or dog, suffering a spine injury is debilitating and can lead to devastating consequences. And all it takes is one wrong move, a weird twist or turn and one of the most critical spots of a dog or person’s body can be damaged.
For KaChing, it was a jump that had been performed many times in the past. A summer morning started off as usual: he went outside for a morning romp in the yard with his canine pal, Kato. From the Zarella family’s house, there is a 10-inch step that is part of the Chinese Crested dogs’ routine. But this time, KaChing landed wrong and yelped out in pain.
“He was hunched over and had trouble walking,” said Zarella.
She and her husband, Robert, immediately took KaChing to their vet to have him checked out. He was monitored throughout the day, and given medication to help with the pain and ease movement. But by that evening, KaChing’s condition had worsened. He could barely walk and was dragging both hind legs.
The next day, Zarella brought him to the emergency room of the Foster Hospital. After an MRI, KaChing was diagnosed with a spinal injury and the family elected to have surgery.
Dr. Harpreet Singh, a resident of small animal surgery at the Cummings School, explained KaChing’s case: “KaChing had a herniated disc near his mid-spine, which caused his spinal cord to compress. This condition diminishes or can completely cut off function to the hind limbs. His local veterinarian had prescribed a muscle relaxant, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and pain medication. These are common medications for this type of injury. In KaChing’s case, the medicine did not work and he required an MRI to pinpoint the herniation and then surgery to remove the compressive disc material.”
Dr. Singh performed the surgery and KaChing responded well, eventually regaining the ability to move his hind legs. Zarella was pleased with the outcome of the surgery and even more grateful that Tufts was able to medically board KaChing during his recovery.
Zarella said her high-energy dog is back to normal, always at her side. But she does take precautions against re-injury, like carrying him up and down stairs.
“You can tell he’s had surgery because he’s still a little hunched. But he is doing great and we are grateful to everyone at Tufts. They were incredibly helpful.”