Pioneering spinal surgery at an award-winning Yorkshire animal hospital has seen surgeons implant a non-synthetic substitute derived from living organisms to help cure a dog with severe walking difficulties. 

Two-year-old Rocco, a French bulldog, underwent the ground-breaking operation at Linnaeus-owned Paragon Veterinary Referrals in Wakefield after an MRI scan found four of the vertebrae in his spine were misshapen.

The study of impact of the non-synthetic material known as Durapair Medtronic in the outcomes of patients undergoing surgical treatment for subarachnoid diverticula is a long-term research project at the Neurology and Neurosurgery service at Paragon Referrals, whose head is Massimo Mariscoli EBVS and RCVS Specialist in Veterinary Neurology .

In Rocco’s case, his spinal cord was protected and covered with Durepair with his long-term outcome being closely monitored. Michal Mol, a ECVN resident in Neurology and Neurosurgery, performed the operation alongside Ricardo Fernandes, EBVS specialist in Veterinary Neurology, at Paragon Referrals. 

Ricardo said: “Rocco was initially presented to Paragon’s orthopaedic service with a suspected hip problem.

“An MRI scan confirmed the presence of a subarachnoid diverticula, which meant the spinal cord was being compressed by a cyst-like accumulation of spinal fluid. It is a common neurological disease seen in French bulldogs and Pugs.

“Rocco underwent corrective spinal surgery with his spinal cord decompressed and then protected with the non-synthetic dural to understand if patients that have the spinal cord covered with Durepair have better post-op outcomes.”

Following the operation, Rocco was hospitalised for five days and before returning home to his grateful owner Sophie-Leigh Whitworth from Huddersfield.  

Sophie-Leigh said: “I first noticed a problem when Rocco started to walk differently and was becoming incontinent and having accidents in the house, which wasn’t like him. 

“The pressure on his spinal cord was causing a cyst-like build-up of fluid which was blocking some of the signals from his brain to his hind-end.

“It was clear the surgery held the highest chance of Rocco living a normal life, so this far outweighed any worry.

“Rocco is still in his initial recovery stage but is already back to his mischievous antics and can’t wait to be back on his walks and jumping around the garden.” 

Paragon provides expert care in anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics and soft tissue surgery. 

For more information on Paragon Veterinary Referrals, visit or search for Paragon Veterinary Referrals on social media. 

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