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Prof Uses Titanium Mesh to Protect Young Dog’s Brain

Prof. Michelle Oblak, Department of Clinical Studies, with Ella, who is thriving one year after her surgery.

An innovative approach and first-time ingenuity proved to be a perfect solution for a young dog needing surgery at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).

Ella, a shih tzu-poodle cross, was only 18 months old when she arrived at the OVC Mona Campbell Centre for Animal Cancer at the University of Guelph for her first appointment. A lump on her head that had been slowly growing over the first few months of her life began increasing in size quickly and was becoming a concern.

After an initial visit, blood work and a biopsy, clinical studies professor and veterinary surgical oncologist, Michelle Oblak, knew they were dealing with a bony tumour. While the tumour was suspected to be benign, it was invading Ella’s skull and as it continued growing it was pressing on her brain. Osteomas are uncommon and not breed specific. These benign tumours typically grow in flat bones and affect young animals. They can be aggressive locally but with removal can often be cured. The aim during these types of surgeries is to take extra margins when removing a tumour to get as many of the cells as possible, but this varies with each situation, Oblak says.

Fortunately, if this tumour could be removed completely, Ella had the potential for a very good outcome. One of the challenges was its size — removing the tumour would result in a very large defect in Ella’s skull.

Oblak wanted to find a solution to protect Ella’s skull and ensure a normal life. “Ella is a young dog and has her whole life ahead of her,” she says. “Usually we try to save some muscle during surgery to provide support to the area where we’ve had to remove bone, but in Ella’s case this muscle was stretched thin so that wasn’t possible.”

Read the entire article on the University of Guelph website.

Video shows Ella's skull prior to surgery.  Xray shows titanium mesh in place post-surgery.