Before his accident Tucker could “jump four feet straight up, spin, and fly through the air to catch a ball,” says his mom Rhonda Reed. “He could also climb trees. He could run right up the trunk, and sit in the crotch of the tree ten feet up.”

Two years ago, on a rare snowy day in Eugene, Reed let Tucker out to enjoy the experience. He slipped on the ice and fell, but typical for him, he just bounced back up and joined his canine siblings in play.

The next day Tucker was limping, so Reed took him to her veterinarian who gave him pain medication and a steroid injection for inflammation. Unfortunately, over the weekend, Tucker got worse, but a trip to the emergency clinic for x-rays was inconclusive. By Monday, Tucker was completely paralyzed in both hind legs and in a lot of pain.

Reed frantically called several veterinary hospitals looking for help. Finally, she was referred to the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) at Oregon State University. With two board-certified orthopedic surgeons and a large orthopedic team, the VTH treats hundreds of dogs with disc injuries every year, so the staff answering phones know how important it is to act quickly in cases of paralysis. In Tucker’s case, they described his symptoms to Dr. Isaac Cortez, an orthopedic surgery resident, and he arranged to bring Tucker into the hospital immediately. There, an MRI confirmed Dr. Cortez’s suspicion of herniated discs that were extruding into the spinal canal and compressing Tucker’s spine.

The success of any disc surgery is dependent, in part, on relieving spinal compression quickly. Dr. Cortez and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Warnock took Tucker into surgery that afternoon. They performed an extensive procedure, removing the protective roof of the spinal canal to access and remove bulging disc material between four vertebrae.

Soon after waking up, Tucker showed one small sign of improvement: he was able to wag his tail, but he still had a long road ahead to regain movement in his legs. Sara Short, a Certified Rehabilitation Technician began laser therapy on Tucker while he was still in ICU. “It is unusual for us to have a case with this many disc injuries,” she said, “so we wanted to promote healing and decrease inflammation right away.”

Continue reading