Holly – No Longer a Pain in the Neck!

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Holly was an eight year old Cocker Spaniel who was referred to us for further investigations to help manage the chronic neck pain she had been experiencing for two years. Although there had been some relief from anti-inflammatory drugs (combined with cage rest) this hadn’t fully resolved the problem and her owners felt that her naturally playful nature had diminished.

We took a detailed neurological examination along with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to provide a three dimensional picture of Holly’s spinal column. This showed a ruptured intervertebral disc in her neck area, with the extruded disc material compressing her spinal cord – this was the cause of Holly’s discomfort but also raised the possibility of irreversible nerve damage. After taking into account all the factors which had brought Holly to Northwest Surgeons the decision was made to surgically remove the herniated disc material. This was carried out using a procedure called a ventral slot, which involves making a small ‘window’ in the spinal column to allow the surgeon access to the cord. This technique requires little dissection through healthy tissue and minimal disruption of normal anatomical structures.

For Holly, the surgery resulted in a significant amount of disc material being successfully removed from the spinal canal and after just three days in hospital she was ready to go home. Her owners were delighted to see a real change in her temperament.

Over the following month Holly’s activity was controlled to short periods by using a chest harness being worn to help limit the strains placed across her neck. At her first post-operative check up Holly’s owners were delighted with the dramatic improvement they had seen to the quality of her life. With a new zest for life Holly was back as the playful, excitable pet she had previously been. The only small problem was that Holly had rediscovered the joys of barking – previous neck pain had made her extremely reluctant to do this.

Intervertebral disc disease is the most common neurological disorder diagnosed in veterinary patients with cervical (neck) disc extrusions making up around 15% of all canine disc ruptures. The availability of an MRI Scanner at Northwest Surgeons has dramatically enhanced our ability to diagnose this condition, with the clear images aiding decisions about surgical interventions.

Holly was treated by Ben Keeley BVM&S CertSAS DipECVS MRCVS