Tigger MRI and Surgery

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With the help of our adopters and other supporters, we try to cover the costs of the Airedales we rescue in the southwest, but from time to time one comes in with extensive and expensive medical needs and we have to ask National Airedale Rescue to help us with the expenses.  Tigger is one of those Airedales.

Tigger is a 2 year old Airedale full of life and energy. Tigger’s favorite thing is to bounce which is how he got his name. He also loves to chase lizards, throw his toys in the air and run after balls—especially if the ball bounces and he can bounce with it. Among his many other endearing talents he is a virtuoso yodeler and a master at catching flies right out of air.

Unfortunately, Tigger is on what he considers ‘house arrest’. He has to be either crated, in a small pen, or on a leash. Tigger has had 2 cruciate ligament surgeries and Valley Fever—all before he turned two years old. Most of his puppy hood has been spent recovering from surgery or Valley Fever. And, after all that, he is still lame! When he first gets up his back is curved and he holds up one leg. Sometimes he has to pull himself forward with his front legs because both hind legs are hurting. Once we help him to stand on all fours he walks normally and is able to be leash walked. He loves exploring on his daily walks! But he is at risk of injuring himself if he bounces too much or is allowed to race around and play like a normal 2 year old.

Tigger has been fostered by Airedale Rescue for the last 5 months while we try to figure out what is causing the on-going lameness. The orthopedic surgeon we recently consulted with said the problem is in his back. He has a condition called Cauda-Equina in which a mis-alignment of the vertebrae at the base of his spine is pinching the nerves that go to his legs. Left untreated, this condition will worsen over time and the added complication of arthritis may result in his not being able to use his back legs at all. The surgeon has recommended an MRI to confirm his diagnosis and to rule out any other contributing factors. He said Tigger will need surgical intervention to relieve the pressure on his nerves. The cost of the MRI and the surgery is estimated to be $6,000.

If you can donate to help with Tigger’s expenses, it would be very much appreciated. All donations will go directly to National Airedale Rescue, Inc., a 501(c)3 charitable organization.

THANK YOU, DONORS!

  • Jeramiah Jordan
  • Robyn Schneider
  • Suzanne Eskenazi
  • Valerie McKinnon
  • ulie Ann Curlee
  • Nancy Wagner-Hislip
  • Kathleen Pfahlert
  • Martha Calligan
  • Margaret Coe
  • Charles W Jones III
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  • J Nicholas Percival
  • Lulu Hoeller
  • Maureen McLeod
  • Daniel Porter
  • Marnix van Gemert
  • Amy Marino
  • Gail Fawcett
  • Teri Murdock
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  • Media/Live on the Fly Studio
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  • michele mueller
  • Reza Novbakhtian
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  • Sandra Burton
  • Dr. Steve’s Sculptures
  • Jeri Langman
  • Kathleen Struck
  • christine horowitz
  • Judith A Reaves
  • Frank and Carrie Deak

3/30/2022 Conference with Board Certified Veterinary Surgeon

—What is the prognosis for a full recovery—will Tigger be able to lead a normal life and have full use of both hind legs?

80% of dogs who have this surgery will see significant improvement.  50% of those will have 100% improvement. A smaller percent (can’t remember the percentage—he was speaking so fast I couldn’t write it all down) will have some improvement.  About 15% will be the same—i.e. no improvement. 

—What are the aftercare requirements?

For the first month he has to be in a crate “23.5 hours a day”.  Only out to go to the bathroom and eat (although he will be able to eat in his crate).  He has to be on a leash when he is out 100% of the time and can not be allowed to jump or run.  He will be feeling better immediately, so it will be hard to keep him quiet.  They will give us sedating medications: Trazadone.  If that is not enough, Trazadone and Gabapentin.  If that is not enough, Trazadone, Gabapentin and Clonipin.

After the first month, he can be walked on a short leash starting at 1/8 mile and gradually increasing over the second month.  When he is not being walked, he needs to be in his crate and on a leash whenever he is not in his crate.

He said we can use a ramp if Tigger will oblige us and not be crazy about using it.  He wants to be sure that if we use a harness, it will not compress the area right above his tail.

He went into detail about what the surgery involves, explaining that they take the top off the part of his spinal column near the base of his tail to relieve the pressure on the nerves.  He will have about a 3” incision.  They can’t replace the bone they remove because it will be powdered.  So they remove fat from another part of his body and place it over the exposed nerve to protect it.  This is why it is so important that he needs to be kept quiet.  The fat pad needs to graft onto the surrounding tissues.  If he moves around too much, it may form scar tissue which could then compress the nerves again.

—Will he need physical therapy and, if so, what are the recommendations

Regular walking is the recommended PT.  If we had access to swimming (we don’t) that is also good.

—How soon after surgery can he be transported home?

The day after surgery

—Is there any possibility that he might have Diskospondylitis, caused by a bacterial or fungal infection within a disk, or could this be a sequela of Valley Fever? 

Yes, that is a possibility. 

I talked to him about the fact that Tigger is not showing many the common symptoms associated with Cauda Equina and ask for his thoughts.  He said he might have a milder case of it and we are catching it early.  Or it might be something different which is why he wants to MRI the whole spine.  It is also possible that he might not need surgery, although he feels pretty certain that he will.

Can this be determined with the MRI?

Yes—he will be able to determine if that is the problem after looking at the MRI.  He is pretty sure that is not the case, but needs the MRI to rule it out.

—Will there be a need for post-op follow-up?  If so how often? 

He would like to see him 2 weeks after surgery and again at 8 weeks. 

Will he need more x-rays or another MRI?

No

His son has an Airedale who was a “real handful” when he was young, but is now the “sweetest, kindest soul”.  But he is 11 years old now.  So he gets it about young “Dales”.

April 7, 2022 Update:

We were able to borrow a larger crate—in fact, once we get through the first month, we have access to two large crates that can be fastened together to make a larger pen.  I ordered a supposedly indestructible “Primo” pad for his bedtime crate and still looking for one for the daytime, larger crate.  We used to have a ramp that we gave to a friend with an older big dog who has since passed, so we were able to borrow that back.  And we’ve been looking into harnesses for him.  I contacted Ginger Lead to inquire about their support sling and they asked if we were a non-profit and when I said yes, they donated one of their slings!  https://www.gingerlead.com/

I will still need to get the surgeon’s approval to use it, but this one does not put any pressure on the area that will be operated on.  

The dog trainer we’ve been working with loaned us several interactive dog puzzle toys to help with mental stimulation during his confinement. 

And she bought him a pheromone collar (ThunderEase Calming Collar) to help keep him calm.  Another trainer sent me several links to sites with videos demonstrating mentally stimulating activities that can be adapted for him while he is on crate rest.

Tigger seems to have a host of Angels helping out….

I got him some chews and some new toys to rotate every few days.  I even found a ‘Tigger Toy’ for him today (see pix).  A true Tigger would have stripes, of course, but it otherwise looks very Tigger like….

Tigger Toy for Tigger’s Recovery

We’re practicing walking up and down the ramp and spending short periods of quality time in the big crate (he loves his bedtime crate, so that won’t be an issue).  And today we started learning how to find the treat in one of the trainer’s interactive dog puzzle….  

Enrichment bowl to fight boredom

So we are getting prepared.


One of my biggest concerns is that he only has an appetite after he has been for a long walk.  He literally doesn’t eat sometimes until we’ve had our walk—even the home cooked food and the Steve’s Prey Diet raw food will sit untouched until he has had some exercise.  But after the walk, he eats with enthusiasm. I don’t know how he will do if he can’t be walked at all.  We’ll just have to take it one day at a time.



4/18/2022 Update
MRI shows a large bulging disc.. The MRI results will be reviewed by a second expert. If both agree that surgery is necessary, operation will take place tomorrow morning. Tigger will stay overnight and should be ready to be picked up by foster family Thursday morning.

4/19/2022 Update

Second expert agrees that surgery is the best option to give Tigger a normal life. There is the possibility that there is a fungal or bacterial infection element, which could only be determined with a biopsy. A biopsy would require surgery, so going forward with the laminectomy will accomplish both relieving the pressure on his spinal cord and excising the material necessary for the biopsy.

4/22/2022 UPDATE

Tigger’s surgery went very well, although they kept him a day longer than we expected.  We dropped him off in the morning on Tuesday April 19th, along with his “loosey goosey” for comfort.   They did not get to doing the MRI until around 4 that afternoon.  The Surgeon called me to say that the MRI showed a bulging disc and also that the vertebrae at the end of his spine was pressing on the nerves going down his legs.  He said he was sending the MRI out to a specialist to review and would not be operating until he had the results the following day.

He called me back the following day and reported that there was a possibility that the bulging disc might be caused by either bacterial or fungal infection and, while he was doing the surgery (laminectomy),  he would scrape the disc and do a culture to determine if that was the case.  We won’t have the results of that culture for 5 to 10 days

Tigger went into surgery early afternoon.  They called late afternoon to report that the surgery had gone well and that Tigger was resting quietly. (The staff were great about making sure he had his “loosey goosey” with him when he woke up from surgery)

We picked Tigger up the following morning along with detailed instructions about his aftercare and a list of medications and times to administer them.  We went to a pharmacy and filled all the scripts (and it is indeed an impressive list of medications!).  And then started the long drive back to Silver City.

Tigger was very relieved to be home.  He ate a small dinner and enthusiastically took his medications wrapped in sliced ham.  And he slept soundly through the night with his “loosey goosey”.

We are off to a good start today.  He got up and walked on all fours to his large crate in the living room.  He had another round of medications wrapped in sliced ham.  And a light breakfast.  We are icing his incision 3 times a day (not his favorite activity). 

He has had two short potty walks this morning—no signs of limping or holding a leg up on either one!!! ) 

And we just finished playing one of his “find the treat games”.  Now, with the help of a ham wrapped Trazadone, he is napping.

Because of the extra night at the vet’s office and the extra expense for the biopsy, the cost is higher than anticipated, but generous Tigger supporters have donated over $3,500 and, thank goodness, the wonderful donors to National Airedale Rescue fundraisers throughout the year have also made Tigger’s surgery possible. We are very hopeful that he will now have a long and healthy life. Bless his foster family for their extraordinary efforts on his behalf.

05-07-2022 Update Tigger’s House Arrest Routine

We celebrated the half way mark of Tigger’s total House Arrest May 4th.  Now we are on the count down with 12 more days before we can start introducing short walks (up to 1/8 of a mile) several times a day.  The first week was really rough.  We were following the Vet’s instructions regarding medication dosage, but Tigger was not sedated sufficiently and we struggled to keep him quiet and calm enough to ensure that he was able to heal.  A follow up call with the Vet changed the medication combinations and, once he was on the new protocol, he was much quieter and easier to manage.  He is doing very well and we have our daily routine down pat.  He walks with me from his bedroom crate to the larger living room crate at 6:30 AM and then gets his sliced ham wrapped medications.  At 7:30 he gets his breakfast.  He naps until around 9 (long enough for the medications to take effect)

Tigger sleeping in his crate

and then we do our morning potty stroll around our small back yard.  Back to the living room crate for a nice long nap.  At around 2PM (before the sedatives have worn off), we do another potty stroll around the back yard.  At 3PM he gets his ham wrapped medications and we play a round or two of find-the-treats puzzle games.  

Tigger licking his treat toy

Nap time again until around 4.  Followed by quality time with rolled up Cow Cheeks.  (Recommended by our local dog food store owner as being safer than rawhide.)  

Tigger with rolled up cow ear

This keeps him happily chewing and gnawing until dinner time.  Dinnertime at 5:30.  And then another Potty stroll around the yard.  At 7PM he starts to yodel that he wants to join the rest of the family for TV time.  He gets to lie on his bed next to my chair attached to a short leash…just in case.  And he promptly dozes off again.  Sometime around 9ish, it is time for the last Potty stroll around the yard.  And then it is bedtime and he goes to his bedroom crate where he gets the last of the day’s ham wrapped medications which insures a night of sweet dreams.  

The most wonderful news is that there is no sign of lameness since he had his surgery.  He gets right up on all fours and walks out of his crate and around the yard like a normal dog!  It gives us a thrill every time he does this!  The incision site is healing beautifully and will soon be invisible as his coat is growing out.  The other noteworthy change is his appetite.  Before the surgery he would only occasionally eat in the morning and then only the home cooked part of his meal and never the kibble part of the meal.  Often he would not eat until mid to late afternoon.  And the same with his dinner—he wouldn’t eat that until after a long walk just before bed.  And he was not motivated by food treats.  Now he eats his entire breakfast and dinner with enthusiasm at the appropriate time.  And he loves getting treats.  I have to wonder how much pain he must have been in to have had no appetite.  We are feeling so hopeful that he will make a full recovery and be able to romp and play like a normal Airedale youngster!

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