CVS’ Bristol Vet Specialists use new ultrasound software to predict recovery in dogs after spinal cord injuries

27th Sep, 2023

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Neurologists Drs Nicolas Granger and Jon Prager at CVS’ Bristol Vet Specialists (previously known as Highcroft Veterinary Referrals) are running a new study using pioneering ultrasound software to predict recovery in dogs after spinal cord injuries.

Dogs commonly suffer damage to the spinal cord from slipped discs. This can lead to loss of walking (paralysis) and loss of sensation. In dogs that lose sensation – a sign suggesting severe damage – the prognosis for recovery is around fifty per cent. There is no reliable way of determining which dog will recover and which will not. Owners must wait weeks to months to see if there are signs of recovery, during which time dogs may need anaesthesia, surgery, and intensive nursing care.

Research has shown that the stiffness of an organ can be a marker of how damaged it is. A new state-of-the-art ultrasound machine (GE HealthCare LogiQ E10) at Bristol Vet Specialists – equipped with an advanced piece of software (known as ‘shear wave elastography’) – will be used to measure ‘elasticity’, or stiffness, in the body tissue in dogs. In this study, it will be used to measure the stiffness of a dog’s spinal cord during surgery. The dog’s recovery to walking after surgery will then be monitored routinely. The results will allow neurologists to study if a relationship between spinal cord stiffness at time of surgery and recovery exists. If successful, this would help us provide a more accurate prognosis for dogs with spinal cord injury in the future.

Ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging test. Previous studies have shown that it is safe to use ultrasound during spinal surgery in dogs with slipped discs to look at the spinal cord. The new ultrasound machine will be able to detect precisely how ‘elastic’ (stiff) the spinal cord is by measuring the tissue’s response to a microscopic acoustic ‘impulse’, providing a novel way to assess the spinal cord. It will give a numerical stiffness measure, which may reflect the amount of damage to the nerves.

Additional benefits of conducting the ultrasound imaging during surgery will be that it will aid in identifying any additional disc material causing compression and, therefore may guide the surgeon for spinal cord decompression.

Dr Nicolas Granger, Head of Neurology & Neurosurgery at Bristol Vet Specialists, said: 

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“Many dogs are presented to us with spinal cord injuries. It has been difficult for us to predict when an animal may recover – as to date there have been no reliable tests to use. In this first-of-its-kind study, we are proposing to exploit this new ultrasound technology to assess spinal cord injury in dogs. We hope that our research will pave the way to better predict recovery in these dogs in the future.”

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BVS is actively recruiting dogs paralysed following thoraco-lumbar spinal cord injury for this trial. Dogs in the study will receive a gold standard treatment for spinal cord injury, which will include spinal surgery. They will also have an ultrasound of the spinal cord performed during surgery, a procedure taking approximately 15 minutes. For further information, to become involved, or to refer a case, please contact or

CVS Group operates across small animal, farm animal, equine, laboratories and crematoria, with over 500 veterinary practices and referral centres in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands. In the last five years the company has invested nearly £80 million in its sites, facilities and equipment, in addition to industry leading training and support, to give the best possible care to animals. For more information about careers with CVS Group, visit