Life changed for Kyser in a heartbeat _ and it nearly broke his owner’s heart.
But thanks to the dogged determination of Kyser’s “mom,’’ Karen Souza of New Bedford, and the dedication and compassion of staff members at Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, Kyser recovered from a potentially fatal lower back injury and is back on all four paws.
Kyser’s problem was first observed when his nightly routine became anything but.
Every evening, the six-year-old German shepherd would be let out into the yard, where he chased a ball and romped with Souza’s other dog, a golden retriever. Kyser enjoyed his time to exercise and play and Souza enjoyed watching him enjoy himself.
Everything changed one night in May 2014, when Souza let Kyser out and was alarmed by what she observed. Her dog’s back end was drooping.
“It didn’t seem that bad at first,’’ she said. “I didn’t see any cuts or anything’’ that would indicate trauma.
But as he continued to try to play with his basketball, his back end kept drooping. And then he fell.
Souza, horrified, took Kyser to a local veterinarian. “I had to almost carry him in,’’ she said. “Every hour he was losing strength.’’
She asked the local veterinarian a very wise question: If he were your dog, what would you do?
The veterinarian answered: Take him to Foster Hospital for Small Animals. That decision likely saved Kyser’s life.
Souza brought Kyser to Foster Hospital May 16. The dog was given an MRI, a tool that proved ideal in determining a diagnosis.
Based on the MRI results, Dr. Harpreet Singh diagnosed Kyser with a slipped disc.
No one knows exactly how it happened. He might have turned the wrong way while he was playing. The injury could also have happened when Kyser was wrestling with his golden retriever pal.
Although the condition is not uncommon, it is more often seen in short breeds with long backs, Dr. Singh said.
Surgery was performed May 17 to remove the disc compression on Kyser’s spinal cord.
“Neurosurgery is critical in the well-being of dogs,’’ Dr. Singh said. The surgery “can mean the difference between owners moving forward or euthanizing their paralyzed pets,’’ Dr. Singh said.
The experience was painful for Souza, who cried when she had to leave Kyser behind to return home. But she soon discovered, to her relief and gratitude, that she was not facing the trauma alone.
When she left Kyser at Foster Hospital, a veterinary student “put her arms around me and told me Kyser would be OK, he was in good hands.’’
This care continued during the week Kyser recuperated. “They called the next morning at the time they said they would,’’ she said. “They called every day, twice a day. What they said they were going to do, they did. I wish every veterinarian in this world could be like Tufts. They were absolutely awesome.’’
Her biggest thanks go to Dr. Singh, who she described as “my hero. He did an absolutely wonderful job. I love that man. I can’t ever thank him enough.’’
Kyser returned home about a week after surgery and continues to recover. He receives physical therapy to strengthen his back legs and improve his balance.
At the advice of the physical therapist, Souza tests his balance by gently pushing him from side to side. “If he keeps his balance, that’s a good sign,’’ she said.
A full recovery can take a year, although Dr. Singh said Kyser is “more or less back to being independent.’’ Souza agrees. “He’s getting stronger every day,’’ she said. “He’s walking, and that’s 100 percent to me.’’
Dr. Singh was impressed with the “amazing bond’’ between Souza and Kyser.
“Pets are often dependent on their owners, but when our pets experience life-altering or life-threatening events, we start to understand how dependent we are on them.’’
With her beloved buddy home and healthy, Souza has her own diagnosis of the experience. “Fixing my dog fixed me.’’
- Cummings School