Pet of the Month: July 2011

petofthemonth_0711“Bear” Johnson – Bernese Mountain Dog

As a young Bernese mountain dog, Bear was diagnosed with a lack of development of his external ear canals resulting in deafness. This did not seem to matter; he had always been the Johnson’s special dog that needed a little extra attention. In December of 2010, Bear experienced what was thought to be a seizure and was transferred to Dr. Stephen Lane for evaluation. Bear was not having seizures, but experienced problems with the balance centers of his brain. His incoordination and imbalance while trying to stand and walk looked like seizures. Neurological examination also identified a cervical spinal cord problem. Dr. Lane recommended Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of Bear’s brain and cervical spinal cord.

MRI revealed the presence of hydrocephalus, which is an increased amount of fluid within the normal fluid chambers of the brain. Bear also had fluid build up within his middle ear that was a result of not having developed normal external ear canals. The presence of these two things likely was the culprit that resulted in the imbalance. Bear’s gaiting difficulty was the result of excessive and inappropriate growth of the vertebrae in his neck. This condition has been termed “Wobbler’s” Syndrome, as affected animals walk with a wobble in their rear quarters.

Bear underwent spinal surgery in late January 2011 to correct the narrowing onto his spinal cord from his malformed vertebrae. Despite requiring a second surgery, Bear bounced back quickly. His recovery was slow and steady. Bear remained in the hospital for 22 days. His exuberant and friendly attitude never diminished. Bear was always happy to see everyone and greeted all with a wag of his tail.

Bear’s housemate also underwent knee surgery at the same time Bear was hospitalized. They both went through their recovery with rest and restrictions together. Both dogs are back to being able to go on long walks, run and play without restriction. The Johnson family delivered the support and compassion that allowed Bear to recover. Their dedication and unwaivered trust has given Bear a new lease on life.

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