Rob and Mel have travelled five hours from sunny Newquay to seek the advice of Professor Noel Fitzpatrick. Their six-month-old Bouvier de Flandres Koa has a severely deformed leg – causing his foot to bend out sideways. Noel and the team at Fitzpatrick Referrals face complex surgery and a long road to recovery to ensure that Koa is given the very best quality of life that a puppy deserves.

Their Story

Koa travelled all the way from the coastline of Cornwall with his parents Rob and Mel.

The Problem

Whilst Mel was grooming Koa one afternoon, she noticed that his front right leg felt out of place. She decided to pull out a pair of old tights and put them on his legs – allowing her to see the problem more visibly. His leg was noticeably deformed and not as straight as his other legs.

Mel and Rob made the decision to travel from Cornwall to Surrey to seek the advice of Professor Noel Fitzpatrick. Before they arrived, Noel had already assessed an x-ray of Koa’s leg and on arrival, sent Koa for a CT scan to further identify the problem. Bouvier de Flandres grow very fast – often causing deformities that can occur at an early age and making Koa very susceptible to problems himself. The scan showed a massive deformity that forced the foot in a different direction – curving, twisting and translating it – making it very difficult to correct.

Noel explained that there were four options available to treat Koa’s deformity. Continuing medical management, amputation, major surgery or euthanasia. Desperate to give Koa the best possible chance at a full and happy life, Mel and Rob opted to go ahead with major surgery to correct his leg deformity.


Whilst corrective surgery could have potentially given Koa a new lease of life, Noel was faced with a very complex operation and a slow road to rehabilitate him. Reconstructive surgery required removing sections of both forearm bones, rotating the twisted radius and making it straight. The forearms were then secured to rings and wires to make a specialised expanding frame which would gradually strengthen and lengthen Koa’s leg as it heals. This technique is known as distraction osteogenesis. The operation was a success but the next leg of the journey required rehabilitating Koa and monitoring the progress of bone growth. The bone needed to grow to 7cm to allow for a full and stable recovery.

Six weeks after the operation, Mel and Rob travelled back to Surrey to collect Koa. Treatment was a success – Noel and the team had managed to grow 7.2cm of new bone and Koa was already bounding around and raring to go home. Mel and Rob were instructed to continue physiotherapy at home and returned to Newquay that day with an energetic Koa in tow.

It’s lovely to have him home. He’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing. He’s very excited about life.


Four months on, Koa’s leg had completely reformed and the frame supporting it had been replaced with pins and a metal bar for the final stage of rehabilitation. Mel and Rob returned to Fitzpatrick Referrals one last time to have the remaining bar removed and have a final checkup with Noel. The pair were thrilled to hear that Koa had recovered and was ready to have the bar removed.

Four weeks later, Koa was bounding across the beach with the freedom to live the life a puppy deserves.