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Veterinary Medicine

Orthopaedic service preserves hope for budding canine athlete

by Rachel Griess

When Olympic champions are injured in competition, they go to the best orthopaedists available, and the same is true for athletic animals.

Take Flex - short for "Flexibility" - a 3-year-old Border collie who is visiting CSU's James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital from the Spokane, Wash. area, this week. Flex is a canine athlete who competes in nationwide agility contests and shows potential to compete at the world level.

The right facility

During a recent competition, Flex experienced the rare but painful rupture of two digital flexor tendons in a hind leg. The injury was caused by hyperextending his toes on agility-course structures.

He came to CSU for surgery to repair the injury, a procedure headed by Dr. Felix Duerr, a veterinary orthopaedist and director of CSU's Small Animal Sports Medicine service. After surgery - just like a human athlete - Flex will undergo physical therapy to regain his strength and speed.

"I took a lot of time to research who had the best knowledge on the injury and who could best help him heal," said Barb Davis, the dog's owner and a trainer who competes in world agility championships. "The facility is super, and I'm completely impressed with the team's knowledge and sincerity. You can tell everyone really wants this surgery and rehab to work."


To ensure a successful recovery, canine rehabilitation therapist Sasha Foster will work with Flex at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and will collaborate with the dog's veterinarians in Washington.

Davis said she identified Flex through his pedigree of champions and selected him from a litter in Denmark. Davis foresees that Flex, in the years ahead, will be among the ranks of world contenders along with another of her dogs. 

"Normally this time of year, we would begin training and getting him into competition shape," Davis said. "It's a serious setback, but this is what Flex is born to do, and I'm so invested in his well-being."