No two days are ever the same at Lort Smith. We see animals come to us every day presenting with a wide array of conditions, illnesses and injuries.
Some are horrific. Some are routine. And some require a specialist to be called upon to perform an incredibly delicate and complex procedure to save the animal’s life.
Five-year-old shih tzu mix Coco came to us with the latter.
Coco’s previous carer had called out to her one day, but the normally friendly and responsive little dog wouldn’t come.
She was found lying on the floor, panting heavily, with a large hump on her back. She hadn’t touched her food or water and her back legs were completely paralysed.
Knowing something was seriously wrong, her carer raced her to Lort Smith.
“Coco came in making a LOT of noise. It’s always distressing to see a dog howling and crying in so much pain,” said one of our dedicated vet nurses, “It really makes the adrenaline kick in. We just wanted to do everything in our power to stop her hurting.”
Our head veterinarian of inpatients, Dr Andrew, immediately ordered a CT scan of Coco’s spine to see what could be causing the extreme pain and paralysis.
“The CT scan clearly demonstrated that this was a case of intervertebral disc disease,” he said. “This is a condition where the discs that act like a cushion between the vertebrae degenerate over time, herniate into the spinal canal and compress on the spinal cord.”
“Even though the disease would’ve progressed over time, the hernia would’ve been sudden and incredibly painful.
“Coco would have been happily playing one moment and in agony the next.”
Coco needed spinal surgery immediately if she was ever going to walk again. And she would need a specialist orthopedic surgeon to perform it.
But unable to afford the very high costs associated with the surgery, her carer made the difficult decision to surrender Coco into Lort Smith’s care.
“Not all clients are able to afford that specialised level of care,” Dr Andrew said. “So had we not been able to take her in and perform the surgery ourselves, the carer would have sadly had to euthanise Coco.”
This is a tragically common occurrence, carers who love their pets but simply don’t have the money to spend on expensive surgeries.
After immediately placing Coco on strong pain medication, our veterinary team organised for specialist orthopedic surgeon Dr Adrian to come into Lort Smith to perform the procedure.
Having worked with Lort Smith in the past, Dr Adrian now acts as a consultant for when we have very technical and advanced surgeries to be performed. Coco’s situation was such a case.
Coco was still unable to eat or drink. Our nurses had to hand-feed her with a syringe every few hours to keep her strength up.
“She was on a lot of pain medication, but she was still so uncomfortable,” said another vet nurse. “Her paralysis was affecting her bladder as well — she couldn’t wee on her own. We had to express her bladder every few hours. She was just miserable.”
After four days in our care, Coco underwent a hemi laminectomy, which is a surgery to remove part of the herniated disc and relieve the pressure on the spinal cord. And while the surgery went very well, Coco wasn’t out of the woods just yet.
“Spinal surgery is very invasive and not without risks,” said Dr Andrew. “Even with surgery, there’s still no guarantee that they’ll walk normally ever again.”
But this courageous little dog showed everyone that she had a zest for life that couldn’t be beaten.
“It was amazing… The next day, she was walking normally,” Dr Andrew said. “To recover that quickly is rare. Some dogs can take weeks to walk properly after a spinal surgery. But Coco was walking normally the next day!”
“We all let out a massive cheer when she started walking,” said the vet nurse who looked after Coco’s recovery. “We were so happy for her. It felt like a miracle.”
Lort Smith is dedicated to saving every life we can, no matter the cost.
But we need your support to continue making miracles happen.
Please donate and change the life of animals like Coco today.