Muffin a pointy-eared Jack Russell is the apple of her family’s eye. She arrives at Fitzpatrick’s after her family fears she has fallen from their six-foot verandah. Unable to move her back legs, neurologist Clare Rusbridge is concerned she has suffered a serious spinal injury. After examination, it’s clear she needs emergency surgery, but Clare suspects a fall is not the cause of Muffin’s paralysis and there’s a risk that even with surgery, Muffin may not walk again…

Their Story

Muffin is the apple of Simone and Peter’s eye. With her large ears and cheerful personality, she is deeply loved by her family.

The Problem

Muffin was seen by her local vet because she was quieter than usual and appeared to have some back pain. Whilst at the vets she gradually became worse and eventually could not use either back leg. Simone and Peter are unsure what could have caused this but think that Muffin might have fallen from their 6ft garden railing whilst they were out of the house.

Muffin was referred as an emergency to Fitzpatrick Referrals and examined by Clare Rusbridge, Chief of Neurology. From her examination, Clare suspected that Muffin had severe Intervertebral Disc Disease, but didn’t think that a fall was the cause. Clare explained that intervertebral discs act as cushions between the vertebrae, which enable the spine to be flexible and move in different directions; it’s common for short-limbed dogs to have early degeneration of these disc cushions. If a disc loses the ability to ‘squidge’ when the vertebrae move then, eventually, the outside of the disc weakens and tears, and the contents come out and press on the spinal cord, causing pain or total paralysis. Muffin needed an MRI scan to confirm Clare’s suspicions and guide the necessary surgery. Unfortunately for Muffin, Clare was proved right and emergency surgery was planned for that day, else Muffin could face permanent paralysis.


Once in theatre, Clare set about accessing the spinal cord by cutting away a small window of vertebrae. Having gained access to the spinal cord, Clare saw that the damage was more extensive than previously thought, but she continued as planned to and set about carefully removing the intricate exploded disc fragments to relieve the pressure on her spinal cord without further damaging the surrounding tissue. Despite Clare’s hard work there was a risk that even with the operation she might not have been able to walk again.

Six days after the operation, Muffin had made excellent progress, even baring weight through her back legs! She was making such good progress that Clare was happy for Simone and Peter to take her home to continue her recovery and physiotherapy programme. Simone took the following fortnight off work to dedicate her full attention to caring for her much - loved friend.

You gotta do what you gotta do for your dogs


Over the following months, Muffin was put on a strict programme of rehabilitation, with Simone and Peter transforming their home into a doggy gym! But all the hard work certainly paid off.

Muffin has now made a total recovery and is back running, playing, swimming and ruling her family pack at home as she did before.