Super Vets

Episode 4

Frodo's rehabilitation

Last week

We saw Frodo arrive collapsed at the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals in his owner's arms.

Investigations by RVC neurologists Emma Davies and Rodolfo Cappello revealed a problem with two of the bones at the top of his neck which were causing his spinal cord to be compressed.  Frodo had surgery to reduce the compression and stabilise the neck bones. Due to the damage the spinal cord incurred during the injury, he was still unable to use his legs.  The dedicated team of surgery nurses working in Frodo's ward now began his post-operative rehabilitation.


Physiotherapy exercises and hydrotherapy are very important parts of this rehabilitation.  They work alongside mental stimulation, monitoring pain control and ensuring food intake to allow healing.  In common with many spinal surgery patients, Frodo could not empty his bladder normally for several days after surgery.  To prevent discomfort and permanent bladder damage, cystitis or dribbling of urine onto Frodo's skin if his bladder overflowed, the nurses closely monitored how full his bladder was and emptied it when necessary.

Frodo with some of the nursing team exercising out in the sunshine.The RVC runs postgraduate courses in Veterinary Physiotherapy.  These are open to qualified, experienced human physiotherapists and more details on these courses are available in the prospective student section. Physiotherapists work in the College's hospitals creating treatment plans for individual patients.  Nurses are heavily involved in carrying out the actual exercises in the same way that physiotherapy assistants carry out exercises with patients in human hospitals.

Holly Field, the senior ward nurse, describes caring for post -spinal surgery patients, their rehabilitation and some of the exercises that were used during Frodo's rehabilitation.

Slow Progress

Patients like Frodo often need support while the re-learn how to walk.  For larger dogs we use a special hoist to help lift them.Frodo made slow progress after his surgery. When he was discharged from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and moved to the surgical ward he was unable to stand or walk. He was just able to support his own weight if he was lifted and had his feet carefully placed under him and it was very difficult to see any real effort being made by Frodo to move his limbs. The College has its own hydrotherapy pool and often patients unable to move on land will show obvious movement of their limbs, once the water and ‘life jacket' are supporting their weight.


Being a water-loving spaniel, Frodo rapidly started moving his legs once in the hydrotherapy pool. This first movement was greatly encouraging to the team of nurses looking after Frodo, as well as to his owners. However, Frodo developed a chest infection which meant that he was unable to swim for many days. This had an impact on how much exercise and rehabilitation he was able to undertake and slowed down his recovery. Due to the fact that Frodo could not go into the hydrotherapy pool for some time, the nurses adapted the treatment plans and used alternative ‘dry land' exercises to strengthen his muscles, ensure no stiffness developed in his joints and to help clear the infection from this lungs.


Although not 100% cured just yet Frodo has made a massive improvement thanks to the skill and dedication of the team involved in his care.Once Frodo was recovered from the chest infection and was able to safely walk Emma Davis decided that it was time for Frodo to go home. However, as his neck was still far from healed, Emma explained to Frodo's owners that once he was at home, it was crucial that he was kept in a quiet environment and on a lead attached to a harness rather than a collar at all times.


8 weeks after his original surgery Frodo returned to the QMHA for a check-up. He had been very well at home and was very active, constantly straining on his lead. Although everything looked great from the outside, the vets needed to make sure there were no problems with the bones or the surgical implants. Frodo was once again anaesthetised so that his neck could be checked with another CT scan. The scan showed that the bones were in the correct position and that there were no problems with any of the surgical implants. There was also some evidence that the bones were starting to fuse together, which meant good progress was being made.

Emma was pleased with Frodo's progress and advised that Frodo stay on his lead for another 8 weeks to allow further fusion of the bones in his neck.

“Frodo would not have had a chance if he was not lucky enough to come to the RVC, the treatment that he received from all the team was excellent and very professional.  We as owners felt supported the whole time, we could ring Emma or any of the nurses to get advice as and when we needed it.”
Frodo's owners Dr and Mrs Money-Kyrle

Frodo's owners

Frodo's owners has answered some questions about caring him before and after his surgery. Click below to read their answers.
Frodo's story...

Episode 4 of Supervets was originally broadcast on BBC1
at 8.30pm on Thursday 26 January 2006

This page was last modified on 23 December 2008