Bucks puppy given new lease of life after vets 'print screws' to help Ping walk again

Ping, a tiny five-month old male Chihuahua, needed life-saving surgery after suddenly becoming paralysed.

By Thomas Bamford
Monday, 23rd March 2020, 9:26 am
Updated Monday, 23rd March 2020, 9:27 am
Ping pre operation
Ping pre operation

Specialist Vets at Hamilton Specialist Referrals, High Wycombe, diagnosed a severe mal-formation in Ping's neck, and used custom designed 3-D printed guides to allow placement of minute implants to stabilise the affected area.

Following surgery, Ping walked out happy and pain-free just one week later.

When Ping's owner, Zoe Cekalla, noticed he was having difficulty walking she took him to her local veterinary practice.

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The problem was affecting all four legs and had become progressively worse over the course of a week. His local vet quickly referred him to Hamilton Specialist Referrals veterinary neurologist, John Parker.

John says, "When Ping was first brought in to us he was depressed and couldn't walk. The weakness had progressed rapidly and was affecting all of his limbs. He also had a head tilt and his eye reflexes were reduced. We knew from these signs the problem was localised to his brain or cervical spinal cord (neck)."

CT and MRI scans showed the cause of Ping's problems - the bones in his neck had not formed correctly from birth. This led to a region of instability, which resulted in direct pressure on the spinal cord in his neck, leading to the weakness.

John says, "The technical term is atlantoaxial subluxation, which means the first two bones in the neck were partially dislocated.

"The second neck bone (the axis) hadn't formed completely and the area needed stabilising to provide Ping any chance of recovery. However, Ping was so small - he weighed barely a kilogram - and in such a tiny space, traditional orthopaedic implants would be too large to place safely".

The team at Hamilton's used the CT images to design bespoke 3-D printed guides to enable precise placement of tiny 1.0mm diameter screws. While waiting for the guides, Ping was hospitalised in a neck brace with nursing care to keep him comfortable and prevent further damage to his spinal cord.

Surgery took place six days later with John and surgery specialist, Michael Hamilton, stabilising the unstable region of Ping's neck using the guided screws and encasing them in bone cement.

Ping made a remarkable recovery and one week later he was able to walk out of the hospital for a pain-free, happy, normal life. Ms. Chekalla was delighted, "Ping is my baby! He's such a tiny little puppy and I was devastated when he became so weak.

"When I heard he needed spinal surgery I couldn't believe such a tiny dog would cope with such a major procedure. The team at Hamilton's were fantastic and I can't thank John, Michael and the whole team enough for all their expertise and care. It truly is amazing that my bionic puppy is back to his normal self so quickly".

Hamilton Specialist Referrals is one of only a few veterinary specialist centres in the UK to offer such advanced orthopaedic and neurological techniques.

Director, Michael Hamilton, says, "We pride ourselves on using and developing the most advanced techniques to help pets and their owners. We strive to work alongside local vets to provide the best possible outcomes for four-legged members of the family".

Michael worked with and appeared alongside Noel Fitzpatrick in the BBC television series ‘The Bionic Vet', produced by Simon Cowell.

In the face of the coronavirus outbreak the centre has introduced additional measures in order to continue to provide service as usual for referring vets and clients. Michael says, "Client, patient and employee health and safety is our foremost concern, so we have implemented strict biosecurity and operational preventative measures.

"We are also offering a pet collection and drop off service for vulnerable clients, with video calls with the specialist". They ask clients and referring vets to check their website for further details."