Written by: Ken Craft and Family
On the afternoon of April 20, 2020 our beloved dog Jerzy was let out to do his normal business. Upon letting him out he spotted a squirrel that he loves to chase and bark at; however, on this fateful day the squirrel turned quickly and Jerzy tried to do the same and that's when his injury occurred. He immediately stopped and literally was "screaming" in pain and could not move the hind part of his body. We rushed out to him and that's when we saw his hind legs crossed abnormally; it looked like he had no control over them. We immediately called our local veterinarian and got him there immediately. I accompanied my daughter with Jerzy. Upon an initial assessment with our veterinarian, they indicated that Jerzy had either herniated a disc in his back or his back was broken. We were told that if his back was broken then nothing could be done for him. We feared the worst when we heard the devastating news. Many tears were shed.
IN PHOTO (left): Jerzy with Dr. Gibrann Castillo Escotto.
Results from x-rays confirmed Jerzy had sustained a herniated disc. Our veterinarian indicated we needed to get our dog to the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) in Guelph. We had to decide quickly if we were going to proceed with surgery. Jerzy had no ability to walk or go to the washroom. Knowing this, we brought him home and discussed our options together as a family: surgery or put him down. It was a very quick discussion and our three children even offered their savings to help pay for surgery.
As fate would have it, on April 22 (the 25th wedding anniversary of my wife and I) we were at OVC dropping Jerzy off for surgery, with the hope the procedure would be successful and we would be able to enjoy his company for a number of years to come.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the entire OVC care team that looked after Jerzy throughout his stay, and all of the follow-up appointments we have had since. Throughout the entire process (not to mention during a global pandemic), his medical care team have been professional, compassionate and provided continuous expert care of our dog. They kept us up-to-date with regular daily calls and answered all of our questions. On April 23, Jerzy successfully had surgery to repair his back and on April 25 we were able to pick him up and bring him back home.
IN PHOTO (right): Jerzy recovers in OVC's Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Jerzy has had a lot to endure already in his life. We welcomed him into our family as a rescue dog from our local SPCA after he was featured on our local tv station one morning as a pet needing to be adopted. A year prior to his back injury at OVC, he underwent surgery on his right leg after getting injured when he was running in our local park in the winter and his leg got caught while he was running between some hard pieces of snow and ice.
The past two years have been extremely heartbreaking and stressful for Jerzy enduring two surgeries. We are thankful that we still have Jerzy in our lives and although he will never be able to run free/off leash again (he loved to run fast and past us playfully challenging us to catch him), he can still take short walks. Jerzy's journey has been a gold nugget in this time of transition within the world and we are so thankful for the teams we've worked with at OVC and during his rehabilitation with the Southern Ontario animal rehab centre.
Editor’s Note: OVC neurology resident Dr. Gibrann Castillo Escotto explains what medically happened to Jerzy, how common the condition is in dogs and what treatment may be considered. Castillo Escotto also shares what it means to hear from grateful clients whose animals he treats and saves, and what it’s like as a resident working in a veterinary teaching hospital during a global pandemic.
Jerzy suffered from a condition called intervertebral disc herniation (IVDH). This occurs when the once hydrated nucleus of the disc gets extruded, hitting and compressing the spinal cord. This disease is more commonly seen in small, short-legged breeds, like dachshunds, French bulldogs, Shih-tzu, beagles, cocker spaniels, to mention a few. Dogs that suffer this type of injury can present a wide spectrum of clinical signs ranging from back or neck pain, to complete paralysis of the legs. Treatment recommendations vary depending on the severity of the clinical signs. In patients like Jerzy where the compression is severe enough to result in paralysis of the back legs, surgery offers the best opportunity for these patients to recover the ability to walk.
It means the world for us as veterinarians to see patients like Jerzy recover from a severe spinal cord injury and hear from the caretakers that we have contributed to improve their pet’s quality of life. Despite of the number of patients that we see daily, every single one of them is unique and important for us. To see those tails wag again and a smile on the caregivers’ face makes a difference in our lives; it is what keeps us working hard to be better veterinarians than what we were the day before.
Despite of the unique challenges that a global pandemic has brought us, all veterinary hospitals have risen to the challenge to deliver an essential service to all our pets while keeping both clients and staff as safe as possible. Besides our reduced in-person interactions with caregivers, not much has changed – we continue to strive to deliver the best medical care possible to all of our patients.
IN PHOTO (above): Jerzy is back at home and enjoying life with his family.