Surgery for Disc Disease Helps Return Dog to Mobility

Karina and Roxy
Roxie (right, with her companion Karina) underwent neurosurgery at UC Davis for intervertebral disc disease.

Roxie, a 12-year-old female Shih Tzu, was having trouble moving her hind legs, to the point of becoming partially paralyzed. After being referred to the Neurology/Neurosurgery Service at the UC Davis veterinary hospital, an evaluation of Roxie showed her to have an arched posture, avoided moving her neck, and had some incoordination in her hind legs. She also had decreased conscious proprioception (awareness or sense of one’s own body positioning) in all of her limbs. The neurologists found Roxie’s neck muscles to be tight, and her neck seemed painful. Based on these findings, her neurological signs were localized between the neck and shoulder region (between first cervical vertebra and second thoracic vertebra).

Radiographs (x-rays) showed narrowed spaces between her vertebrae, which is consistent with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), a degeneration of the cushioning discs between each vertebra. As the integrity of the disc weakens, the disc material in the center protrudes up towards the spinal cord causing compression and subsequent neurological signs such as difficulty walking. 

An MRI confirmed the diagnosis of IVDD, demonstrating a protrusion of the intervertebral disc at C2-C3 and compression of the spinal cord at this site, which was causing Roxie’s inability to control movement of her legs.

Neurosurgeons performed a ventral slot surgery at C2-C3, opening the neighboring disc spaces. The procedure partially removes bone and disc to create a window to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord. The surgeons also opened several other disc spaces in her neck to reduce the risk of future spinal cord compression.

Roxie was hospitalized for two nights following surgery, but recovered well and returned home to begin four to six weeks of cage rest. Her owner reported that Roxie seemed to become her old self again in just a few days. 

Following the prolonged crate rest, Roxie returned to the veterinary hospital in five weeks for a recheck examination. She was healing as planned from her neck surgery and was allowed to begin a gentle exercise routine, but still avoid rigorous running and jumping for the time being. Her neurologists expect her to make a full recovery.

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