NorthStar VETS Cool Case Shorty

The team at NorthStar VETS is doing innovative and amazing things every day as they work to advance the level of care available to your pet. This series of posts highlights cool cases at NorthStar VETS and the types of things done to save pets and improve their quality of life. These are cases using innovative and cutting-edge medical techniques, and/or stories of pets beating the odds. This is the story of Shorty, a patient of our Neurology team.

About Shorty
Shorty Weaver is an 8 year old female, spayed dachshund from Cary, NC that came to NorthStar VETS for a percutaneous laser disc ablation (PLDA) procedure. She became acutely paraparetic in February 2018. She was originally diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease by Dr. Sarita Miles, the neurologist at Veterinary Specialty Hospital of the Carolinas. She had an MRI performed, which revealed a herniated disc at L1-2 predominantly compressing the left side of the spinal cord. The owners were very concerned as Shorty had a guarded prognosis for recovery with medical management due to Shorty suffering from acute paraparesis.

Shorty’s condition
Medical management for Shorty’s IVDD consisted of anti-inflammatory medication, pain medication, muscle relaxants, activity restriction, bladder expression, and light physical therapy (passive range of motion and massage of the pelvic limbs). During medical management, Shorty developed a urinary tract infection and black, tarry stool that also had to be managed. She was treated with antibiotics and gastrointestinal protectant medication, respectively, for these complications.

Shorty’s initial recovery
Shorty made a consistent recovery over the next eight weeks, showing gradually improved strength and coordination in her pelvic limbs over this time. Her medications were gradually decreased until she was no longer receiving them, and her activity level was slowly increased until she was back to her normal activity.

After making a complete recovery, Shorty’s owners began to question how they could avoid going through another episode like this in the future. Dr. Miles discussed the PLDA procedure with them. She mentioned that this procedure is offered at only four hospitals throughout the country, and only in one place on the east coast. The owners were very interested in the procedure and they wanted to know more about it. Dr. Miles called Dr. Tracy to discuss Shorty’s situation.

The next step for Shorty
After Dr. Miles spoke with the owners about the procedure, they decided that this would be a good thing for Shorty to receive so they can decrease the likelihood of another episode of disc herniation. They drove up from North Carolina on the morning of their scheduled procedure (approximately an 8-9 hour drive). When Shorty arrived, Dr. Tracy re-evaluated her (she was still pain-free) and the PLDA procedure was performed. The procedure itself took about one hour from start to finish. The owners stayed at a nearby hotel.

Shorty was re-evaluated the next morning. She was not painful and was walking normally. She was scheduled for discharge later that morning. The owners picked her up and made the drive back to Cary, North Carolina.

Dr. Tracy is an advocate of the PLDA procedure because it decreases the likelihood of chondrodystrophic breeds having disc herniations, and helps to prevent them from having to endure a surgical procedure.

What is Percutaneous Laser Disc Ablation?
PLDA is a minimally invasive preventative procedure that decreases the likelihood of disc herniation in chondrodystrophic dogs from 25 percent down to less than 10 percent. The patient is placed under anesthesia and spinal needles are inserted into each disc space from T10-11 through L4-5. A Ho:YAG laser is then inserted through the spinal needle and directly into the disc space and a laser pulse is delivered to each disc space. This laser pulse reverses the degeneration of the nucleus pulposus and decreases the intradiscal pressure and thus the likelihood of disc herniation.

Who is Eligible for PLDA?
PLDA is for any chondrodystrophic dog or any dog that has previously experienced an episode of suspected or confirmed disc herniation. It is important that patients are pain-free and medication-free for two weeks prior to the procedure. It is okay if patients have had surgery for a previously diagnosed disc herniation as long as they are fully recovered and fit the above criteria.

What is aftercare like?
Patients remain in the hospital overnight for pain control and observation. Typically patients are discharged to go home the following day. They are sent home with 3-5 days of pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication. They should be leash walked for 2 weeks following the procedure for recovery.

What are the risks/complications of the procedure?
The main risk following the procedure is transient ataxia and/or back pain that typically resolves within one week. Other possible complications include abscess at spinal needle insertion sites, proprioceptive deficits, and diskospondylitis.

Learn more about the Neurology service at NorthStar VETS.

Gaemia Tracy, DVMGaemia Tracy, DVM
Gaemia Tracy was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. Dr. Tracy attended The University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts (Biology) degree. While there, he played baseball and Sprint Football. He attended The Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine from 2008-2012. Immediately after graduating veterinary school, Dr. Tracy completed a rotating small animal medicine and surgery internship at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Tracy then completed a Neurology and Neurosurgery residency in Jacksonville, FL at North Florida Neurology with Dr. Andrew Hopkins and Dr. John Meeks as his mentors. Dr. Tracy completed his residency before joining Northstar VETS.

Dr. Tracy’s professional interests include IVDD, spinal surgery, management of seizures and inflammatory diseases of the brain and spinal cord.

Dr. Tracy currently lives with his wife, son, and their two cats, DD and Bunny. In his free time, Dr. Tracy enjoys taking in any baseball game, and cheering for the Buckeyes and Steelers!

The information presented on this web site is not intended to take the place of your family veterinarian’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Discuss this information with your own veterinarian to determine what is right for your pet. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. We can not and do not give you medical advice via this blog. The information contained in this online site and emails is presented in summary form only and intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge. The information should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation or advice of your veterinarian. We do not recommend the self-management of your pet’s health problems.

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