Spinal cyst in a puppy
Zoe, a 16 week old cross bred dog, was presented with very wobbly hindlegs. She was dragging the feet to the extent that the skin on top of her toes was wearing away.
She appeared to not know where her feet were. The front legs were ok and she was otherwise, a bouncy lively puppy. The owner had noticed the problem since they purchased her at 8 weeks but it had appeared to slowly get worse.
We took plain x-rays which did not show anything abnormal. When we "knuckled" her back toes, she did not realise we had done so and would stand and walk on the tops of her toes. There was reduced pain sensation in both hind feet. We suspected some type of abnormality in the spinal cord that was interfering with the messages traveling up and down the cord between the brain and feet.
We referred Zoe to the Animal Referral Hospital (ARH) in Sydney where Dr David Simpson looked after her.
Dr Simpson anaesthetised Zoe and carefully inserted a needle into a space between the actual spinal cord and the surrounding tissues that fit over the spinal cord like a tight fitting sleeve. This space is filled with a fluid called CSF- cerebrospinal fluid, which is made in the brain. He then injected a special dye into this space which showed up on X-rays as a white line.
The dye flowed in the CSF up and down the spine and showed a cyst, filled with CSF, that was pressing on the spinal cord at a level just behind the last ribs.
A cat scan was done to get a clearer picture of the pooling of dye. The scan showed the dye in a CSF filled cyst, which was pressing on the spinal cord and interfering with the messages traveling up and down the cord between the brain and feet.
Dr Simpson decided that surgery was in order to relief the pressure on the spinal cord. Using a very special high speed air drill, he slowly and carefully remove the bone from above the cyst and exposed the cyst. He then incised the thin membrane wall of the cyst and drained the CSF out of it. He left the incision in the membrane open and packed the area with fat trimmed off some adjacent tissue.
Zoe was not much better straight after surgery but by day 3 she was back to where she was prior to surgery. Over the next week, she slowly started to get better use of her hindlegs and she is due for a check up in another 2 weeks to see how things are going. It is hoped there has not been too much permanent damage to the spinal cord form the compression it suffered form the cyst.
The cyst was probably present at birth and slowly got bigger as Zoe grew. It was benign but in a rotten place as it was squeezing the spinal cord below it as it had a bony roof above it.