“I have terrible anxiety because I wonder what the future holds for her. So I’m just hoping that Fitzpatrick’s can offer her some hope and we can have a normal life.”

Age: 21 months

Breed: Pug

Her Story: Betty Boop lives with Anna and her sixteen other rescue dogs. For over five years, Anna has offered a home to Chihuahuas in need. Betty Boop came to join the family when Anna noticed how small she was compared to the rest of her litter, and decided to bring her home. Anna is a devoted and loving mum to all her dogs, and would do what was right and necessary for them to give them the best life possible.

The Problem: At the young age of 8 months old, Betty Boop started dragging her feet. Anna took her to her vet, but no one could work out the cause of the problem. Eventually she had surgery to remove a cyst on her spine, but despite this, the symptoms returned, which progressed causing little Betty Boop to become partially paralysed and incontinent. Desperate to find a permanent solution for her, Anna brought Betty Boop to Fitzpatrick Referrals and Senior Neurologist Dr Colin Driver for help.

Treatment: When Colin examined her, he conducted a series of neurological tests and explained that her particular clinical signs suggested a spinal cord problem in her lower back. An MRI scan would help Colin further assess whether surgery would offer Betty and Anna any hope. The MRI showed that in one area of the spinal cord there was a re-accumulation of fluid that was compressing the cord and causing Betty to be paralysed. Without surgery, Betty would eventually be totally unable to walk. But thankfully, Dr Colin had a plan.

In the surgery, Colin had to delicately access the site of the compression. Relative to Colin (who stands at 6ft 4in!) Betty is tiny, so the surgery demanded all of Colin’s skill, composure and expertise. Once Colin had access to the buildup of fibrous webs around the spinal cord, he gently removed these adhesions using very fine hand tools. This alleviated the pressure on the spinal cord and gave it the space it required. Colin then stitched the membrane surrounding the spinal cord open to help prevent the blockage reforming and covered the spinal cord with a thin layer of collagen derived from pig intestine to act as a new membrane that allowed the spinal fluid to flow without obstruction and prevent it from leaking.  Using six pins and bone cement, Colin then fused three vertebrae to stabilise the spine.

Outcome: Colin was apprehensive when checking on Betty Boop in the days after surgery because surgeries that manipulate the spinal cord can carry a risk of worsening a patient’s clinical signs. However, it was good news for the little dog because only four days after surgery she was using her legs exceptionally well and Colin was delighted.

After a week of care and recuperation at Fitzpatrick’s, Anna finally got the call from Colin that Betty Boop was ready to go home. She couldn’t have been happier, and when the pair were reunited her face lit up ecstatically as she saw how well she was. At last she was able to imagine Betty Boop with a great and happy future ahead of her where for so long it had seemed uncertain.