Daisy’s dodgy disc

mri_visiting_53300f62404f3.jpg daisy

Dachshunds and other short-legged dwarf breeds of dog are at particular risk of severe spinal injury from ruptured discs, especially in the middle part of the spine.  This often presents with unexplained pain initially and is perhaps the most common cause of unexplained pain in Dachshunds and similar shaped dogs.

Imagine the disc as a jam doughnut.  The outer material of the disc (the “doughnut”) tears and the gelatinous inner part (the “jam”) is squeezed out under pressure into the tunnel that normally protects the spine.  The spine becomes squashed between the bony walls of the tunnel and the “jam” and with increasing pressure on the spine comes increasing paralysis.  The problem is greatest in dwarf breeds of dog like Dachshunds that have an increased risk of this type of disc rupture and also sometimes have a very narrow tunnel, making the severity of pressure on the spine much greater.  In the most severe cases paralysis can be permanent, but with accurate diagnosis followed by prompt and appropriate treatment over 90% of affected dogs recover the use of their legs again and are usually walking within a few weeks.

Daisy’s vet was smart enough to know that ordinary Xrays are rarely, if ever, helpful in these cases.  Specialist imaging is required.  This can be done by injecting a substance called a contrast agent into the spinal tunnel before taking Xrays, but this carries risks and fails to give a reliable diagnosis in up to one case in four.  Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is much safer, gives a diagnosis in 100% of cases with disc problems and allows an accurate 3 dimensional assessment to be made for surgical planning.  This is why MRI scanning has become the gold standard for spinal assessment in dogs and in people. At Northwest Veterinary Specialists our MRI scanner is available 24/7 and run by our advanced imaging technicians. 

Daisy was referred to Northwest Veterinary Specialists as an emergency.  Initially she was assessed by an RCVS Recognised Specialist surgeon.  She could not stand, had only the slightest movement in her back legs and was dribbling urine:  All signs of a severe spinal injury.   An MRI scan was performed that same day and convincingly showed disc material severely squashing the spine in the middle part of Daisy’s back.  The three dimensional imaging and two millimetre thick slices of the scans allowed us to precisely pinpoint the sight of the pressure on Daisy’s spine and this allowed her surgeon to make a very targeted approach to the back bone, before cutting a hole through the bone with a specially designed drill, a bit like a dentist’s drill.  This drilling, (called a hemilaminectomy) is very delicate and happened within less than a millimetre of Daisy’s spine.  The resulting hole in the wall of the tunnel allowed us to successfully remove the pressure from Daisy’s spine by retrieving all of the disc material from her spinal tunnel

After surgery, Daisy had to stay in hospital for 10 days and initially had a catheter in her bladder until she could pass urine again on her own.  By day six she was beginning to improve and we were able to remove her catheter.  By day ten she could walk, albeit in a very wobbly fashion and was able to go home for rest and recuperation.  One month later and Daisy was running around trying to be involved in everything at home again.  She still had a bit of unsteadiness at this stage and her owners had to rein her in for a further four months to allow Daisy to complete the recovery.  Nowadays, Daisy knows who is boss again.  This delights us, even if it does not delight the local postman!


Lorenzo Golini

Lorenzo Golini Lorenzo is an RCVS specialist in Veterinary Neurology &  joined us in May 2015 to launch our neurology service. Lorenzo underwent residency training in neurology & neurosurgery at the University of Zurich where he remained as a clinician after his residency. He holds the European Diploma in Veterinary Neurology and a Master's degree in behavioural medicine. His main interests lie in epilepsy and MRI.Lorenzo is passionate about neurology and providing the very best patients under his care. He is keen to spread the word on all types of neurological disease and lectures regularly to our referring vets.You can read more about MRI here.

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