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Marcus is a young German shepherd who was a dog guide in training. Marcus was brought to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Washington State University last fall.

Marcus was having difficulty urinating due to the presence of a stricture (a narrowing) of the urethra, the tube through which urine is voided from the bladder (anatomy of the urinary system).

Surgery was planned to widen the narrowed region of the urethra. The urethra is a small, delicate structure and surgery in this area can lead to scarring and reoccurrence of the stricture so several surgical procedures had to be considered.


During Marcus’ first surgery a biologic patch derived from pig intestine was used to widen the narrowed region of urethra. Several companies produce biological patches which can be applied in various parts of the body and serve as a scaffold for the surrounding normal tissues to grow into.

The surgery went very well and resulted in a widened lumen of the urethra, but unfortunately the stricture reformed several weeks later. A temporary urinary catheter was placed from the bladder through Marcus' side which allowed for urine to be suctioned from his bladder using a syringe, and allowed for time for the surgeons to evaluate other possible procedures to treat the urethral stricture.

Two options that were considered were to place a stent, which is a hollow piece of tubing, in the urethra to keep the lumen open or to try to widen the stricture by stretching it with a balloon on the end of a catheter. The balloon dilation procedure was selected as the next step.

The urethra was dilated using the balloon catheter three times, 3 to 4 days apart. The catheter was placed using fluoroscopy, a form of motion x-ray, allowing the catheter to be guided to the narrowed region of the urethra. The balloon was filled with a sterile liquid to stretch the narrowed area. A contrast agent was included in the fluid so the position of the balloon could be seen and it could be guided to the narrow region. The fluid pressure was held in the balloon for 5 minutes, then the fluid was removed and the catheter withdrawn. The urethra was stretched a little more each time until the lumen was as wide as the surrounding normal urethra.

Radiographs (x-ray pictures)

Marcus is laying on his side with his head at your left. The bones are white/light gray. A radio opaque dye which is bright white has been placed in the bladder and urethra.  The picture on your left shows the stricture and the picture on your right shows the distended balloon in the region of the stricture. The thin white line is the catheter attached to the balloon.


After 5 weeks the temporary catheter was removed. Marcus spent almost 7 weeks in the intensive care unit at Washington State over the course of his multiple treatments and surgeries. He was discharged in late March.

Marcus is now able to urinate normally although he does not have full control of his bladder and wears a diaper in the house. Although Marcus is no longer able to become a dog guide, his story says his caretaker/owner: "is an amazing story of faith, perseverance, will to live, incredible talent, love, support and friendships to be honored. It is also a story of many life lessons learned by many people. People came out of the woodwork to support Marcus."

Today Marcus spends his time playing with Mavis and Dahlia and going for walks in the woods and loving life.

Marcus and his caretaker/owner send their thanks and love for everyone who supported him.


Additional Photos: Sept 2006

Revised September 18, 2006     |     Printer Friendly Version

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