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Keizer, a 'Fitz Bionic Hero'

In August 2012, 7 year old Keizer, our very large Rottweiler/Cane Corso cross was seen by Veterinary Surgeon, Emily Binning at Moor Cottage with lameness to his front left leg. Unfortunately subsequent X-rays led to the diagnosis of a bone tumour located inside his left foreleg. His options appeared limited.

Emily referred Keizer to Fitzpatrick Referrals, specialists in orthopaedics & neurosurgery based in Eashing, Surrey and he was seen by none other than 'The Bionic Vet' himself, Chief Orthopaedic Surgeon, Professor Noel Fitzpatrick.

Scans and X-rays later, Noel discussed the options Keizer had……… Euthanasia, not an option we wanted to consider. Full Leg Amputation, something due to his weight he would not cope with. Chemo & Radiotherapy, which would delay but not stop the tumour from progressing - or surgery to remove part of his bone containing the tumour followed by the insertion of an implant to strengthen and hold the bones together, a type of surgery Noel and his team specialise in.

Informative image: Keizer the bionic dog with happy Bracknell owners.We discussed all the options and decided that we had to give him the chance of a life plus we were not ready to be without our 'little' fella and albeit an expensive option we decided that Noel should go ahead with the operation.

The next few weeks, while his new Titanium implant was being made, was traumatic, he had to be stopped from running or going upstairs, (he sleeps by our bed), in case any jolt or impact could rupture the fragile bone around the tumour, with obvious consequences. Earlier than expected Noel rang to say they were ready for Keizer.

The operation went ahead and was a success, with the implant fitted he was back on his feet, the hardest part was not being able to visit him during the 22 days he was at Fitzpatrick's, as this would distress him too much. We were, however given daily updates by Noel or one of his team with more than one of them mentioning how well behaved and loveable he was.

Sadly, during his convalescence he developed an infection in the wound, which very quickly developed into a nasty infection. Noel re-opened the wound on more than one occasion, flushing out the infection with litres of saline and then treating the wound with antibiotics. Despite Noel's and his teams' best efforts, the aggressive nature of the infection (an E-coli strain) continued to grow onto the implant preventing the normal anticipated tissue growth. Furthermore, the highly specialised surface finish which was designed to encourage the growth of healthy tissue ultimately had the same attraction to the E-coli bugs. Although not life threatening, this meant that Keizer would have an infection within his leg for the rest of his days.

Another hurdle Keizer had to deal with was an issue which had developed with his kidneys. This only came to light when carrying out routine checks prior to Chemotherapy treatment (essentially to reduce the risk of further cancer), any Chemotherapy would probably worsen his condition, (the chemicals are 'washed' out of the body by the kidneys)… so no Chemo and potentially an open door for the cancer to return.

That was all back in September 2012. He still has the infection in his leg, which we re-dress once or twice a week, he's a regular visitor to Moor Cottage (he loves the amount of fuss and treats he gets there J, he even goes on the scales now !), he's on antibiotics for life, he's on a renal diet, to help his kidneys, but we have our Keizer back, physically and emotionally. He runs, plays, chews sticks (actually chews anything!) and is back to his huge adorable, affectionate self. The prognosis we were given, by a very honest and compassionate Noel Fitzpatrick, was, "a dog with this type of condition has an average of 11 months life expectancy from first diagnosis". Keizer was diagnosed in August 2012, just over a year ago!! Fortunately his last check-up revealed no apparent re-occurrence. Ironically there is some anecdotal evidence that animals with on-going infections can fight off cancer better, something to do with the bloods increased antibody generation……fingers crossed.

The title of this story was, Keizer 'a Fitz Bionic Hero'. In August 2013 Fitzpatrick Referrals held their inaugural two day Dog Fest, open to all and free, "a celebration of the unique bond of unconditional love that we have with our dogs and a fun social family day out". There were dog shows, with prizes being awarded by Michael Ball and Chris Evans, agility displays, stalls, all the things you expect at a dog show. Keizer received an invitation from Fitzpatrick's "To be a Fitzpatrick Hero at Dog Fest 2013". We attended on the Sunday and Keizer took part, along with lots of other dogs who had been treated at Fitzpatrick's with a huge range of injuries/issues, (including limb replacements!!). Keizer's category was 'invisible bionics', where you can't see the bionics because it's inside him! One of the amazing things on the day, apart from the honour of the award and seeing other dogs walking around with artificial feet without a care in the world, was the number of staff that came up and said 'hello Keizer, how are you,' having not seen him for almost a year, but still remembered him and cared. It was a great day, roll on Dog Fest 2014.

Keizer had a hard time of it post op due to the infection but when we look at him on the lawn in the summer sun, or wake up to a wet nose in the face, was it worth it? should we have put him through it? … yes, he has every right to be given the same chances we have and we would do the same again without hesitation.

We can't thank all the staff at Moor Cottage and Fitzpatrick Referrals enough for their care and professional help they have given our 'little' fella, without them he would not still be enjoying life and we would not be enjoying him.