My dog Bob had a severely herniated disk in his L/S region. To someone who didn't know him,you may not have even noticed any outward signs - I noticed he was resistant to jumping up in the car and was all of the sudden much more compliant about counter surfing But then at night, I noticed him whimper when he switched positions in his crate. Bob seemed to have a slight limp but it was very hard to determine where it was coming from and it was intermittent at best.
This all started during the thick of winter and we had so much snow and ice, I figured he slipped. I am very fortunate to work at a specialized veterinary hospital for ortho and neuro and had him looked pretty quickly. Initially, the doctors thought muscle strain or groin pull and we tried some rehab and conservative therapy including pain meds and muscle relaxers. Even our gait analysis mat didn't show any obvious source of lameness. After this conservative approach, he didn't seem to get any worse, but not really any better either.
After about a week or two I got impatient - I had one of doctors who excels at muscular skeletal ultrasound anesthetized him and really examined the groin. She found nothing inconsistent with a working dog so while he was under, we threw him in the MRI. He was only in there about 5 minutes when the neurosurgeon came into my office proclaiming he knew exactly what was wrong! The MRI showed a severely compressed disk that was herniated. Everyone says it, but it was unbelievable how stoic these dogs are even with such a severe case.
Here is a screen shot of his MRI showing the affected area:
The white line between the bone is the spinal cord and you can see about 2/3 of the way to the right where the disk has herniated. This would have knocked a human on their ass!
I eventually opted for surgery after seeing this. I work with some of the best rehab vets in the country and even they all agreed that surgery was the best route.
Our neuro surgeon is awesome - he is board certified and does laminectomies about three - five times a week. I don't think my experience is unique because I work with him. As soon as he was done, he came to my office (still in scrubs) to tell me that it was one of the worst he's seen but was very happy with the procedure. Bob came out of surgery between 3pm and 4pm and was awake and standing by 7pm. At 10pm, the techs took him out to pee and he was not a compliant patient with the sling and was lifting his leg to pee only 6 hours post surgical. When I got to work the next day, other than the shaved patch on his back, there was no way to know he had surgery!
Bob's recovery has been unbelievable! He had leash walks and crate rest for about the first month but as it is with border collies, I had to reign him in. At 6 weeks postsurgical, I was told I could start ramping up his routine and then just yesterday (a couple days shy of 7 weeks postsurgical) he was able to go back to very light stock work. That made both of us so happy!
So much went right for me. First, the access I have to care is great - I am very, very lucky that way. Not many people have this luxury (great job perk!). Second, getting into the MRI and seeing the actual image is a godsend. Had the doctors and I not have seen the images, we may have continued with conservative care. The doctor that operated on Bob was board certified, well qualified with a ton of experience and our staff is pretty awesome. Add to that, Bob is a young (almost 5 years old), fit, working dog and I was able to catch this really early. I just hope that we continue on this positive path as he returns to full work and trialing.