How Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick helped save my dog’s life

Adele Jones’ dog Alfie has overcome hip dysplasia, lumbosacral disease and thyroid cancer (with a little bit of help from Professor Noel Fitzpatrick along the way) and is now healthier and happier than ever.

Back in 2015, three-year-old Alfie was having his muddy paws wiped when he yelped in pain. Owner Adele was instantly concerned and booked him in for a check-up at the vet the following day.

‘The vet performed some x-rays, then asked if I had insurance for Alfie,’ says Adele. ‘I was told that he had severe , and if I didn’t have pet insurance, the kindest thing would be to put him down, due to the cost of treating this in dogs. Thankfully Alfie has always been insured by Petplan, so I knew that wasn’t an option.’

Treating Alfie’s hip dysplasia

Alfie was referred to an orthopaedic specialist and prescribed a cocktail of medications to manage his condition. But the veterinary experts couldn’t agree on whether a hip operation would help Alfie, or if suspected spinal problems ruled that out. A year later, when Alfie was finally cleared for surgery, a bout of diarrhoea on the operating table meant he was too unwell to proceed.

Alfie was booked in for an MRI, to get to the bottom of his spinal problems. But when this finally went ahead, the news wasn’t good. ‘It showed he had an abnormal disc, and the damage was in an unusual area the specialist couldn’t physically reach to operate,’ Adele explains. She was told that the kindest thing would be to have Alfie euthanised.

‘I was devastated,’ Adele says. ‘That was when my mum suggested contacting Noel Fitzpatrick (a Petplan veterinary expert who is also known as Supervet). I wasn’t ready to give up on Alfie, but I thought if Noel couldn't save him, nobody could!’

The complications of lumbosacral disease in dogs

The team at Fitzpatrick Referrals agreed to see Alfie. Further diagnostic imaging revealed he had lumbosacral disease, also known as degenerative lumbosacral stenosis. This degenerative condition was affecting the lumbosacral joint and surrounding nerves at the base of the dog’s spinal column. It was recommended that Alfie’s spine received treatment before his hips.

‘Noel Fitzpatrick seemed to care about Alfie as much as I did,’ recalls Adele. ‘He told us that if it had been left much longer, Alfie may not have been able to get up on his back legs at all.’

She booked Alfie in for his spinal operation, a lumbosacral distraction fusion, which went well. ‘The following year his right hip was replaced, which again went smoothly. Then he had his left hip replaced.’

Alfie struggled more with his recovery this time, due to scar tissue around a nerve after the operation that left his paw knuckled over. Adele’s concern was that the leg might need to be amputated – but with physiotherapy at home, Alfie’s paw gradually recovered.

‘Noel commented on how amazing Alfie’s attitude and temperament had been,’ says Adele. ‘He must have been in excruciating pain at times – yet he was always such a loving, affectionate and funny character. And finally, we thought he’d live the happy, carefree life he deserved.’

Alfie’s brush with cancer

Unfortunately, that wasn’t yet meant to be. At the beginning of 2020’s lockdown, Adele noticed a lump on Alfie’s throat. Unsure about symptoms, she called the vet, who told her to monitor the problem. But Alfie soon became weaker and started coughing and struggling for breath. Meanwhile, the lump was growing.

After more tests and a biopsy, the lump on Alfie’s throat was diagnosed as thyroid cancer, which urgently needed removing.

‘My stomach dropped when I was told, but I also felt confident,’ says Adele. ‘He’d been through so much, and I felt that this wasn't going to beat him! Surgery was successful, and after an agonising week, I was told the cancer hadn't spread.’

A happy (and healthy) ending

Alfie has now made a full recovery, and is fitter than ever. ‘If I hadn’t contacted Noel, Alfie wouldn’t be here today,’ says Adele. ‘And if it wasn’t for Petplan, I don't know what I’d have done, as they took the financial pressure off my decisions.’

‘I can't explain what Alfie means to me; he helps my anxiety and calms my breathing,’ she adds. ‘And my Grandad, who has dementia, would really struggle without him. The two of them sit and talk, and Alfie even nudges tablets towards my Grandad when he needs them. I’m lucky to have him – and finally he’s living his best life.’

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