Friday, 7 December 2012

Riley Recovery

On my last blog post (last friday) Riley had just had his hemilaminectomy procedure to remove the cyst pressing on his spinal cord.  His official diagnosis was Wobbler's Sydrome with mild stenosis of the spinal canal at C4 and cystic synovial proliferation of the left C5-C6 articular facet.  The good news is that all of his discs seem to be in quite good shape.  The surgeon had felt that the procedure had gone well and "the rest is up to Riley".

I am happy to report that Riley was already up and mobile the morning after surgery.  I saw him in the morning and he tried to sit up to greet me and then we had a good snuggle together with lots of tail wags and licks.  When I saw him again that evening he stood up to greet me.  This is considered a painful surgery for dogs to recover from because there is a long incision on the back of the neck which involves opening up a lot of muscle as the spinal cord runs fairly close to the throat area.  A lot of dogs don't want to lift their head or move very much but my wonderful hard-headed labrador was able to cope well with that and by sunday evening he was able to walk out to see me for our visit.  Pneumonia is also a real risk after this type of surgery so having him mobile so quickly was very important in preventing that.  He was set to be discharged on monday afternoon but I had them keep him until tuesday morning so I could pick him him and head out on the long drive home.

The surgeon was very pleased with his progress and felt that he already had similar or better neuro function at discharge as he had prior to the surgery.  He walks well unassisted but we need to really watch him on slippery floors as he is still a bit wobbly on his right hind with some occasional mild scuffing.  That should improve as the inflamation from surgery decreases and hopefully the spine can recover from some of compression.  I really am quite thrilled with how he is doing less than one week from his surgery! 

I confess to fighting thoughts in the hours leading up to surgery of just throwing him in my truck and running away.  The care and compassion we received was amazing but it was still incredibly scary and stressful for me.  When we first checked in we were assigned a fourth year medical student who is then the chief contact for both the dog and the owner through the entire stay.  Our student was still a tad awkward with the human side of things but she was wonderful with Riley and he really liked her.  The surgeon was very honest, patient and thorough.  Everyone from the receptionist to the head of the neurology department was kind and caring to both humans and animals.  It was both inspiring and heart breaking to see and meet other owners and animals receiving treatment at the facility.

We returned home tuesday evening and are settling into the new "normal" for now.  Riley will be severely restricted for six weeks.  He is confined in an exercise pen and allowed out 3-5 times per day for five minute potty walks.  He objected loudly to this the first evening but we seem to be working things out now.  I have slept downstairs with him since we came home to settle him into the new routine and make sure he isn't experiencing any pain.  Hopefully I can move back upstairs to my own bed this weekend.  After the first six weeks we can then begin to slowly return to normal exercise levels over the next two months.  He should probably never play tug, on-land fetch or do a lot of jumping activity as he is always going to be at risk of cervical problems.  Swimming is encouraged during recovery so we will be looking into some local therapy pools.

Stella went with me on this trip and I was glad to have her along.  She was good company and kept me from going crazy waiting for news.  She unfortunately came down with kennel cough likely from a conformation show we attended the weekend before we left.  Luckily she seemed to bounce back very quickly and Riley has not shown any signs of kennel cough.  She also decided to start her heat cycle the day before we headed home after weeks of waiting.  Life is never dull with dogs!

Here are a few pics of my boy:

First morning after surgery

24 hours after surgery

48 hours after surgery


  1. So glad to hear Riley is doing so well. Leave it to a Lab to be up and around faster than expected. Glad he is doing okay in the x-pen, despite his protests. I've had to limit Toby on several occasions for just minor leg injuries, and even that was rough, so I feel for you severely limiting Riley. Glad you had Stella along to comfort you while you were worried, and glad she did not pass her cold on to Riley.

    1. Yup, can't keep a labbie down for long. Thanks for your good thoughts.

  2. You're a very compassionate & caring owner Terri & it seems you did make the right decision in the end. All in all, things sound really great & far, far better than you initially expected I think. So here's to continued success & a full recovery even if Riley isn't supposed to do some of the activities he did in the past. Big hugs to all of you!!!

  3. Wishing Riley the very best!!! I'll bet he won't object to the swimming part of recovery. Wishing those six weeks to go by very quickly for you guys. Lot's of love from Indi, Rye and me.