Pet Care Resources

When Playtime Turns Tragic: A Pet’s Remarkable Road to Recovery from IVDD

Learn how our team treated a pet's debilitating spinal injury and improved its quality of life.

Written By MedVet Team


December 18, 2023

It’s been nearly a year since Groot, a 5-year-old Beagle/Pit Bull mix, suffered a serious injury at a pet boarding facility while his parents were on vacation in Mexico. The memory of that heart-wrenching phone call, informing them that their beloved dog was not his usual joyful self, is still vivid in their minds. It’s a call that no pet parent ever wants to receive.  

Groot, a 5-year-old Beagle/Pit Bull mix, sitting in the back seat of a car.

The Call That Changed Everything  

Groot had been happily running around a pet boarding facility, playing chase, and jumping with his furry friends. But when the facility’s staff went to settle him in for the night, they noticed Groot was behaving differently and reached out to his family, David and Caitlin Lyle, to share their concerns.   

“On Christmas Eve, we received a call and then a video from a pet boarding facility, which knows Groot well and cares for him. We could see that he wasn’t himself on the video and that the right side of his body almost looked like he had a stroke.”  

“Thankfully, the facility had cameras that captured the incident,” recalls Mr. Lyle, Groot’s Dad. “Upon reviewing the footage, we were able to pinpoint the exact moment Groot’s injury occurred. It was a simple play session between my dog and another, with both jumping up in excitement. Unfortunately, during the landing, Groot came down a little crooked, causing a tweak in his neck. There was nothing malicious or unusual about it; just a normal day of play that resulted in an unexpected injury.”  

Mr. Lyle says that how Groot’s furry friends responded to his injury was remarkable. “Before it happened, he was running and playing without a care in the world. But in that moment, everything changed. He sat down, motionless, for what seemed like an eternity. The other dogs that had been playing with him gave him space and created a protective circle around him, as if they sensed his pain.”  

The Lyles asked the facility staff to take Groot to an emergency veterinarian for evaluation of his injury. The facility manager drove through the snow with Groot to MedVet Hilliard. Without delay, MedVet’s dedicated team assessed Groot’s condition and swiftly concluded that an MRI was necessary to pinpoint the source of his discomfort. Groot was transferred to MedVet Columbus where MedVet’s esteemed neurology and surgical teams conducted further evaluations.    

Groot’s Injury and Treatment  

Groot’s MRI revealed that he had ruptured a disc in his neck. The ruptured disc was the result of a condition called cervical intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) which was compressing his spinal cord causing him pain and impaired mobility. While IVDD is most common in short-legged breeds with long backs, like Dachshunds and Beagles, it can occur in any dog and occasionally, cats.   

To ensure the best possible care for Groot, MedVet’s team of experts from various disciplines, including Surgery, Neurology, Anesthesia, Emergency and Critical Care, and Rehabilitation, collaborated closely. Together, skilled caregivers thoroughly evaluated Groot’s condition and presented his family with a range of treatment options, along with an outlook for his recovery.  

After careful consideration, the team recommended a ventral slot surgery as the optimal course of action for Groot. This procedure involves removing a portion of the vertebral body in order to gain access to the spinal canal and remove the protruded disc material compressing the spinal cord.  

“The compassionate and knowledgeable staff did an amazing job of guiding us through the difficult decisions. They shared Groot’s odds and the financial options for surgery, while remaining optimistic,” Mr. Lyle says.    

Dr. Andrew Taylor, a highly skilled specialist in Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care, was among the dedicated caregivers attending Groot. He likens injuries like Groot’s disc rupture to compression of a jelly donut, explaining that when squeezed forcefully, the soft disc material, like jelly, oozes out. Similarly, when a disc is subjected to significant compression, as in Groot’s case when he landed awkwardly after jumping, the disc material itself and subsequent inflammation can exert pressure on the spinal cord. To alleviate this pressure and provide relief, the protruding disc material must be removed.  

Despite being unable to return from Mexico in time to be present for Groot’s initial care, his family recognized the urgency of the situation and the necessity of immediate treatment. Driven by their profound bond and love for Groot, they made the decision to proceed with the surgery and associated expenses.  

“Not having Groot in our lives would be too much of a void. It’s impossible for us to imagine moving forward without him,” says Mr. Lyle.   

Groot’s ventral slot surgery was skillfully performed by Dr. Shawn Kennedy, one of our Board-certified Veterinary Surgeons. While the initial surgery was successful, Groot encountered a complication in the form of a hematoma (blood clot) in around his spinal cord post-surgery. To alleviate the pressure caused by the clot, Groot underwent a second surgery known as a dorsal laminectomy. This surgical procedure involved removing another portion of the spinal vertebral bone from Groot’s neck to remove the hematoma to relieve the pressure on his spinal cord.    

Dr. Taylor sheds light on a potential complication that can arise after neck surgery, explaining that severe inflammation can prevent nerve signals from reaching the muscles needed for respiration, thus impeding a patient’s ability to breathe properly. Unfortunately, this was the case for Groot following his second surgery, rendering him unable to breathe reliably on his own. In a crucial decision, Groot’s family granted our team permission to place him on a mechanical ventilator, providing the necessary assistance for breathing.  

Helping Groot Breathe   

“It was very difficult not being with Groot for his surgeries,” says Mr. Lyle. “But the team constantly updated us by phone. When we returned to Ohio, Groot was on the ventilator, and we visited him each day.”  

Dr. Roger Hostutler from Internal Medicine and Dr. Taylor from Critical Care managed Groot’s care while he was on the ventilator in the MedVet Columbus ICU.  After two days of mechanical assistance with his breathing, the team made the decision to remove Groot from the ventilator, hoping that he had regained enough strength to breathe independently.  

“Unfortunately, when we tried to wean Groot from the ventilator, he was still struggling to breathe,” says Dr. Taylor. “We were hopeful that if Groot was given more time for the inflammation to resolve, he would be able to breathe on his own.”  

The Lyle family agreed to give Groot another day on the ventilator, hopeful he would soon be able to smell his favorite gingerbread toy and know his loving family was near.   

“One more day on the ventilator is just what Groot needed,” says Mr. Lyle. “During our first visit after he was taken off the ventilator, he could barely open his mouth. But when we brought our faces closer to his, he licked us. It was evident that he found comfort in knowing we were there. By our third visit, he was wagging his tail. We could see that he was gradually returning to his usual self, and we were optimistic that he would regain his ability to walk.”  

Groot recovering from surgery snuggling his favorite gingerbread toy on the floor.

The Long Road to Recovery  

Following Groot’s two significant neck surgeries and three days on a ventilator, both the Lyle family and our MedVet team understood that his road to recovery would be a lengthy one. After spending approximately 10 days in the hospital, Groot went home. At the time, he was still unable to walk and required spoon-feeding and water administration through syringes. His dedicated family provided an amazing level of care at home to help him get stronger.   

Shortly after his discharge, Groot began attending physical therapy and rehabilitation sessions at MedVet. Under the guidance of Dr. Olivia Oubre, Groot’s treatment consisted of three sessions per week for six weeks and included walking on our water treadmill to build his strength and endurance.   

“The physical therapy team at MedVet was absolutely amazing and incredibly enthusiastic about helping Groot improve,” Mr. Lyle shares. “When he first started, they had to carry him in from our car. However, by the third or fourth session, he was already doubling the time he spent on the water treadmill and even walking into the facility on his own. It was at that point that his progress seemed to skyrocket.”  

Groot’s recovery has been a long journey, but the Lyles say he’s living life to the fullest, enjoying exploring and running through creeks on the family’s property in Hocking Hills. He also loves visiting his grandparents in South Carolina, where he can walk along the beach and feel the wind on his face during golf cart rides.  

“We are fortunate to have the means to cover Groot’s treatments, but we understand that not all pet owners are in the same position. That’s why my family is actively working toward establishing a nonprofit organization to help those who cannot afford pet care,” shares Mr. Lyle.   

Dedicated Family, Teamwork Key to Groot’s Wellbeing  

Groot’s vibrant personality and the love he radiates have endeared him not only to the Lyle family but also to everyone fortunate enough to meet him. His presence brings joy to those around him, and his human-like qualities, such as wearing pajamas and being tucked in, only add to his charm.  

“The care Groot received from the MedVet team was incredible,” expresses Mr. Lyle. “They did a phenomenal job throughout Groot’s journey, and we’re thankful for their dedication and expertise.”  

The MedVet team is equally grateful to the Lyle family for their kindness and entrusting us with Groot’s care. Dr. Taylor says, “It truly takes a village of multi-disciplinary specialists to provide the level of care Groot needed, and we’re honored that the Lyle family allowed us to do that. We also appreciate the Lyle family’s thoughtful gesture of providing T-shirts and stickers featuring Groot, who serves as the mascot for the gym they own. We’ll always remember Groot and his remarkable journey.”  

Groot’s story serves as a testament to the power of resilience, love, and the remarkable bond between humans and their furry companions.

Pet Care Resources

For ways to ensure your pet lives a happier, healthier life, visit our Pet Care Resources library.

View Resources

Pet Care Resources

For ways to ensure your pet lives a happier, healthier life, visit our Pet Care Resources library.

View Resources