Spinal Tumour Surgery Success for Larry

Davies Veterinary Specialists

Neurology

1st May 2019

Like many dogs of his age, 11-year-old crossbreed Larry was on non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to help his osteoarthritis, but had been finding it increasingly difficult to clamber in and out of the car for several months. More recently, he had become stiff and weak in his fore limbs, with a degree of muscle wastage in his right fore limb; this was the same leg from which a tumour had been removed in 2014. He was also becoming unsteady in his hind limbs, prompting his local vet Cuffley Hills Veterinary Centre to refer him to Pete Smith, Neurology Specialist at Davies.

Larry was becoming stiff and weak in his fore limbs and progressively more unsteady in his hind limbs. He was on medication for osteoarthritis and four years previously a tumour had been removed from his right fore limb. His condition was worsening rapidly so he was referred to Pete Smith, Neurology Specialist at Davies for further investigations.

Neurological examination showed a weak and wobbly gait, with a short fore limb stride and poor coordination in his hind limbs. He didn’t appear to be in pain but the examination pointed to a problem affecting the spinal cord at the base of his neck.

Larry was weak and wobbly in all four limbs and his condition was deteriorating. As with many older dogs, he was on non-steroidal medication for osteoarthritis. He also had some muscle wastage in his right fore limb; from which a tumour had been removed in 2014. He was referred to Pete Smith, Neurology Specialist at Davies to find out what was exactly what was going on.

Initial neurological examination indicated a problem affecting the spinal cord in his lower neck. An MRI scan of this area showed a large mass at the junction between the 6th and 7th neck bones, which was causing severe compression of the spinal cord. Whilst there was concern that Larry’s previous tumour – a soft tissue sarcoma on his right fore limb – could be related to this, chest X-rays showed no evidence of the tumour having spread and he was therefore scheduled for surgery.

The primary aim of surgery was to obtain a biopsy of the growth, with the secondary intention being removal if possible. Careful dissection down the spinal column from the upper side of Larry’s neck yielded a view of the spinal cord, which suggested that the mass could be removed in one piece. This surgery was carried out successfully after removing the roof and part of the wall of the spinal canal.

Larry was up and about the following day and although unsteady, he showed signs of becoming stronger with each passing day and was sent home four days later. He continued his rehabilitation at home, with regular visits to see an animal physiotherapist, and is now back to being chief mischief-maker.

The mass was diagnosed as a lipoma, which is a benign tumour of fat.
“This is an unusual type of tumour, very rarely reported in dogs, but appears to carry a favourable outlook,” said Pete Smith. “It’s an outcome that should see Larry making the most of his twilight years.”

Davies Veterinary Specialists, Manor Farm Business Park, Higham Gobion, Herts SG5 3HR 01582 883950

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