Bubba the adorable-and-fun-loving basset hound experienced an ever-changing home life residing in four different homes until the day Nathan Richmond of Berthoud, Colorado, adopted him from a shelter in 2014—delivering Bubba his forever home. Life was great with the two closest-of-companions for six years until a happy leap into Nathan’s lap led to a loud yelp from Bubba—after that he no longer had the use of his back legs. 

Thanks to spinal surgery by board-certified veterinary specialist Amy Komitor, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology), at VCA Veterinary Specialists of Northern Colorado, Bubba had a real chance at recovery. Everyone understood that full mobility was going be to a long bumpy road ahead. But luckily for Bubba, in addition to his surgeon and Nathan, he also had VCA’s Carrie Adrian, MSPT, PhD, director of physical therapy—devotedly on his side.

Bassets and that fateful day

“Bubba is my second basset hound,” explained Nathan, who’s a software developer project manager. “My first basset was named Dr. Deeds, and I had him for 9 years. When I found Bubba in 2014, I learned that he’d lived in two previous shelters, for a total of four different homes. I know bassets can be temperamental and stubborn, but I love the breed because they’re loyal and really want to be with you. These dogs also have big personalities—Bubba is very talkative and playful!”

But when Bubba was 10 years old, he began to experience spinal issues that ultimately led to his inability to walk. “It was August 22nd, I'll always remember the day—hard to forget,” shared Nathan. “Bubba’s a very animated dog, especially when I come home. He jumped on me once and then jumped on me a second time and that’s when he yelped loudly. Then all of a sudden, his back legs went out.” 

VCA welcomed Bubba for care

Nathan immediately realized he needed to call VCA in Loveland to help Bubba. “I’d heard friends’ stories about the hospital in the past, and heard it offered very good care,” he recalled. “It was a Saturday and we drove up to Loveland. By the following Monday, Bubba had his spinal surgery performed by Dr. Komitor, and I was able to bring him home on Wednesday.”

Nathan learned from Dr. Komitor that Bubba had a moderate compressed disc in the middle of his back. And unfortunately, it had been an issue for some time. “The day Bubba came into the hospital, he presented for acute non-ambulatory status that progressed to paraplegia,” stated Dr. Komitor. “The MRI showed disc compression at L1-2 and he underwent a right-sided L1-2 hemilaminectomy.”
  
Bubba had a herniated disc injury at the high end of his lumbar spine—meaning the disc blew, putting pressure on his spinal cord, causing compression and pain. That’s why he lost function in his back legs and why he was in so much pain.

To help Bubba, Dr. Komitor had to cut a window around the injured area in his spine to help it decompress. She found a lot of nerve damage and that’s why his legs were compromised. And after the surgery, Bubba felt the effects more on his rear right side.
“It’s been an extremely humble but rewarding experience in this collective effort to get my dog walking again. Bubba’s very full of life, and consistently happy too, which is really important to me. And he's made great strides in his progress to walk.”
Bubba’s long and rocky road to recovery

The first day following Bubba’s surgery was extremely tough—for both Nathan and his dog. “During the first 48 hours, Bubba was not comfortable at all,” recalled Nathan. “I moved him every two or three hours at the beginning to keep his blood flowing consistently. And he remained in his kennel for the first 10 weeks to keep him resting.”

Bubba’s physical therapy sessions with Dr. Adrian didn’t begin right away. “I first met Dr. Adrian, VCA’s animal physical therapist, when I came to pick up Bubba after his surgery,” said Nathan. “Dr. Adrian told me then it would probably take six to eight weeks of recovery, and 10 to 12 physical therapy sessions to get Bubba to walk again. It actually took a lot longer than that!”

Dr. Adrian, who was voted the 2021 Veterinary Rehabilitation Therapist of the YEAR by the International Association of Veterinary Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy,
feels Bubba is a sweet soul. 

“Bubba and his dad have been through so much,” reflected Dr. Adrian. “Bubba began physical therapy with me in the late summer of 2020. After spinal surgery, there’s a lot of swelling that takes some time to dissipate. Many clients think, ‘he's going to be up and running immediately,’ but that’s not the way the nervous system works. Plus, the swelling also puts pressure on the spinal cord and continues to cause some discomfort, so we help manage the pain.”

One week after surgery, Nathan brought Bubba to see Dr. Adrian for his first visit. Nathan drove 20 miles, two times a week for his rehabilitation sessions—and never left his side for more than a year. “We began his rehabilitation with laser therapy and electric stimulation,” shared Nathan, “and many exercises at home. Later he walked in a water treadmill to improve his mobility.”

More than a year of physical therapy

Dr. Adrian said Bubba continued to progress, but for Nathan at times it was very frustrating. "It's slow and it’s baby steps. I would say to Nathan, ‘look where Bubba used to be and look at what he can do now.’ We could see progress being made along the way. He may not be running a marathon after surgery, but he’s up, he’s more independent and we continue to see strides in Bubba. There’s no doubt in my mind that Bubba wouldn’t be to this point without physical therapy.”

It’s constant communication between clients and pet owners during therapy, stated Dr. Adrian. “Communicating with clients through the hard times is a lot of what I do—I hold their hands and give them tools to empower them to help their pets at home. And my job is to evaluate and reevaluate functional status, and challenge them to reach the next level of mobility.”

On his paws and moving

Nathan says today Bubba can walk on his own for 25 feet straight ahead on a hardwood floor. And he’s improving at a consistent pace. “Bubba’s rehabilitation took longer because of his age, severity of his condition and the fact that he’s stubborn—he’s a basset. You have that temperament where he'll do what he wants when he wants, and when he doesn't want do something—he's not going to do it!”

The staff at VCA treated Nathan and Bubba like family during all their visits. Nathan said even during Covid when the hospital was short-staffed, the staff still went above and beyond for them. 

“I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Adrian,” Nathan concluded. “It’s been an extremely humble but rewarding experience in this collective effort to get my dog walking again. Bubba’s very full of life, and consistently happy too, which is really important to me. And he's made great strides in his progress to walk.” 

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