Intricate spinal surgery has pug back on his feet

July 10, 2020

A near-paralysed Pug has had a new lease of life after undergoing delicate micro-surgery to his spine using tiny 2mm screws at one of the UK’s leading specialist animal hospitals.

Six-year-old Rufus was losing the use of his back legs and his condition deteriorating quickly before experts at Southfields Veterinary Specialists, in Essex, took on his challenging case.

MRI and CT scans revealed the stricken dog’s spinal cord was malformed and being compressed by a cyst-like lesion, which was blocking the flow of essential spinal fluid.

Dr Fabio Stabile, senior neurologist at Southfields, decided intricate surgery was the only viable option and ordered a 3D model of Rufus’s spine, including millimetre-perfect guides for the miniature screws which would be used to stabilise the pug’s backbone.

Dr Stabile said: “The aim of the surgery was to remove the lesion, decompress the spinal cord and to stabilise Rufus’ spine.

“This is an intricate procedure and one small error has the potential to cause serious damage to the spinal cord, which would have left Rufus with permanent neurological damage.

“We ordered an individually designed 3D printing of Rufus’ spine as guides for the screw placings to minimise the risk that comes with inserting screws so close to the spinal cord, aorta and chest.

“The first part of the operation was to remove the dorsal part of the vertebral bone, so we could see the spinal cord.

“The dura mater (membrane around the spinal cord) was then opened and a large square of abnormal membrane was removed (durectomy) in the region of the cyst-like lesion.

“This was a very delicate moment as it involved cutting through where the abnormal meningeal membrane had attached to the spinal cord.

“To give Rufus more stability we used the purpose-built 3D guide to carefully insert 2mm screws laterally into the vertebral pedicles, making sure they were not placed too deep, as his aorta was just underneath the vertebrae.”

Dr Stabile was delighted with the results of the operation and said: “After this type of surgery, a certain degree of deterioration is always expected because of spinal cord manipulation but Rufus recovered incredibly well.

“Just 24 hours after surgery he was already able to walk and was happy and comfortable. Three days after surgery he was discharged to his owner’s care and seemed even better than before! He is making an excellent recovery.”

Thrilled owner Maria Harris, from Langdon Hills in Essex, said she was delighted with the excellent care and treatment Rufus received from the Southfields team.

She said: “We are euphoric. We have got our old dog back. It’s such a relief after such a worrying and stressful time.

“We first noticed something was wrong in November, when one of his back legs was kicking out as he walked.

“InitialIy, I thought it might be a touch of arthritis which had flared up because it had turned colder.

“However, within weeks both back legs were kicking out and he was deteriorating quite quickly, so then I thought it was his hips.

“We took Rufus to our local vets who immediately referred him to Southfields, where he had neurological tests and MRI and CT scans which revealed the problem was in his spine.

“I was horrified when I heard the news and was told he needed surgery and I remember asking what the other options were.

“The reply was that there were no other options, this problem was not going to heal itself.

“We had to decide what to do and quickly as we realised Rufus must have been in so much pain and was getting worse every week.

“The bottom line was that we didn’t want to lose him, so we had to give him this chance.

“Now we feel so happy. It’s like ‘Wow! We definitely made the right decision’. It’s fabulous.”