Friday, 30 November 2012

All About Riley

I am writing this blog post from a hotel room in Pullman, Washington.  Today Riley had surgery to fix the compression on his spine at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Washington State University (WSU).  He is currently heavily sedated and resting in ICU at the hospital.  I will be able to see him tomorrow. 

I last blogged about Riley here just after we had an MRI done in Vancouver.  It took a little while to get answers but we finally met with the neurosurgeon and viewed the MRI.  His recommendation was to do surgery to remove the cyst and relieve the pressure on the spinal cord.  The quote for surgery was between $7,000 to $9,000 assuming there were no major complications or extensive rehab required.  I facebooked about this and lots of friends chimed in with recommendations for the wonderful facility here at WSU.  I contacted them and long story short here we are and the quote is less than half price.  The neurologist in Vancouver was very understanding and cooperative about providing records.

The decision to do the surgery has been very difficult.  Riley has been coping fairly well with the situation but he is a true labrador with high pain tolerance and likely has been living with this for quite a while before the symptoms became as noticeable.  There have been signs of significant discomfort present for him.  He is very restless and rarely sleeps for long periods without shifting positions.  The angle when he poops seems very uncomfortable for him.   He has recently begun a lot of licking of his legs which can indicate pins & needles sensations to those limbs.  He holds his head low quite a lot while we are walking and has a roached back position.  We could have opted to wait but the risk becomes that the compression worsens and causes disc damage and quite possibly paralysis.  It was also possible that he may have continued as he was for quite a long time.  I explored some natural alternatives such as acupuncture but the experts I asked figured that it was highly unlikely it would help the situation.  Natural is my treatment of choice for most things but treatments can also be quite expensive.  We are stretching to afford this surgery and honestly spending a bunch of money to see if those alternatives would work just makes the surgery less of a do-able financial decision. 

We arrived in Pullman on tuesday evening and met with the hospital for a consult on wednesday.  They wished to redo the MRI as the machine here is much stronger and they wanted to determine if the disc below the problem area was affected.  That would mean a difference in the surgery plan.   We also did a spinal tap to insure that the symptoms were not being caused by an infection in the brain or spine.The disc ended up being fine but then his blood work showed some red blood cell abnormalities which could indicate liver or spleen tumour.  The same abnormalities were present in his prior blood work a few months ago.  He had an ultrasound yesterday to review those areas and all was determined okay and that the abnormalities were probably normal for him. 

I dropped him off this morning for surgery.  The procedure is called a hemilaminectomy and involves going in from the top of his neck down to remove a section of bone over the spinal cord and then remove the material causing the pressure on the spinal cord.  The neuro surgeon here refers to Riley's condition as a form of wobblers which is basically the name for cervical vertebral instability.  The goal of surgery is to prevent further deterioration.  He likely will always have a bit of a wonky movement but that depends on the level of permanent damage.

The surgeon said that the procedure went as planned and that they removed a lot of the pressure on the spinal cord.  The rest is now up to Riley.  Hopefully this is where that crazy labrador thing kicks in and he will be up and moving around in the next few days.  We have a long few months ahead of us for recovery but for now I will happily take everyone's good wishes and happy thoughts for my boy.  I will blog more in the next few days to update and tell more about the procedure.

Update here on post surgery.


  1. TONS of healing wishes sent out to Riley! And peace and calm for you.

  2. I'm glad you did it. I know it was hard on you in many ways and layers, but I really believe that this way, you'll have no regrets, you know? Without having done it, you would have watched him progress towards more pain and more paralysis and always wondered- I think, anyway.

    I hope his recovery is easy and quick and he gets a new life.


  3. So glad you learned of the teaching hospital, and that the surgery went well. Sending good thoughts your way that Riley heals up, and ends up feeling like a new dog!

  4. Sending lots of positive energy Riley's way.

  5. We're never sure if we've done the right thing but in this case, doing something seems like it was a lot better than doing nothing in Riley's case. It sounds like you ended up at a great clinic/hospital and that sure makes a positive difference. Best wishes for a full physical recovery to Riley; to a full mental recovery to you & to an eventual recovery for your bank account. And what a relief it was less than originally estimated but I guess that's in part due to the difference between Canada & the US. Sending positive thoughts & healing prayers from the Varazs Vizslas.