Dog Legs

Suddenly I no longer trust the millennia of evolution that resulted in the modern canid body. Hilda ruptured her Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL), the equivalent of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in humans. We opted for TPLO (Tibial-Plateau-Leveling Osteotomy) surgery which involves cutting through the stifle (tibial bone) and shifting the head of the bone in order to stabilize the knee. The shift is reinforced with a plate and screws. It’s a complex surgery and an even more complex recovery.

The first two weeks are pretty rough. Hilda was on pain meds until they ran out. Her surgeon believes that pain is necessary to keep her from overdoing it, but I disagree. Discomfort I will tolerate in order to keep her from re-injury, or worse, rupture of the other knee, but I will not subject my dog to pain. I disagree that pain is in her best interest. Fortunately, my regular vet (who, incidentally, had her dogs’ TPLO surgeries performed by the same surgeon) agrees with me.

Now here’s a detour… Because of the opioid epidemic in this country, vets are extremely reluctant to dish out powerful pain meds willy nilly. I get that. But pain meds are a medical tool that really helps recovery. Not providing them because they *might* be abused by a human is negligent. Because I have a strong relationship with my vet (she may even have a vacation home because of my insistence on vetting my pets thoroughly), she was more than happy to provide continued pain medication for Hilda.

That said, I’m working on finding that fine line between discomfort and pain with my girl. Hilda is like a Minnesota farmer who drives himself to a hospital and waits patiently for someone to look up from what they are doing while he holds his foot in his hand having amputated it in a tangle with a piece of farm equipment. Her range of affect is extremely narrow and she’s stoic like few animals I’ve ever known. Reading that she’s in pain is not difficult for me, but anyone else looking at her would think she’s fine. I’m not dosing her nearly to the extent to which I could be based on the prescription instructions. I want her to weight bear to the degree she is comfortable, but I do not want her to fully weight bear, bounce, climb stairs, or go charging down the driveway because a trash truck turns around in the cul-de-sac. Vigilance. Hypervigilance.

We leash walk and will be for a couple of months until she is cleared by the surgeon. That means no stairs, no bouncing, and sleeping on the couch with her downstairs for another month and a half at least. She desperately wants *her* bed back (and so does my back…), so she’s on the alert for opportunities to run upstairs and hop right up. Hilda, being a bull dog, epitomizes the stereotype. Stubborn. Leash walking requires packing a suitcase full of patience every single walk. As soon as I suggest a direction, she stops to contemplate the relative merits of my choice, generally outright rejecting it. She’ll go where she wants when she is good and ready. I remain humble.

I rearranged the furniture to prevent her from being able to watch out the front window for potential security threats. I even hung a sheet up over the window to assist in this endeavor. So far so good, but it’s early days. Hilda has taken to charging the window at delivery persons with such vehemence that I fear for the window itself. It may not be a match for a bull dog protecting her human. I keep either a noisy fan or a radio going when I’m not here to drown out street noise. Naturally, there is road construction a few hundred yards away all summer long, including driving pilings for a new bridge and constant large truck traffic.

All of this occurred because she has advanced arthritis in the opposite hip. Both hips are dysplastic (I now know because of the diagnostic x-rays), but her left hip is pretty badly arthritic. As a result, her right knee took more than its share of the burden when she moved in any way, let alone fended off all security threats. It was an inevitable injury I wish I’d known was likely so that I could have taken measures to prevent it. Beyond having her hips x-rayed (not standard veterinary practice, as it requires sedation), there were only the subtlest of clues I might have pieced together in hindsight, but I didn’t. I’ve had her on chondroitin and glucosamine for all the years she’s been with me (4 of her perhaps 6 years), but Dasuquin with MSM would have been better, as I am now aware. It has been an education, to say the least. She and Roscoe now both get golden paste (turmeric prepared specially to enhance absorption and bioavailability… that sounds complex but it’s 4 ingredients, one of which is water, and takes 15 minutes to make only because it simmers for 8 of them). I’m looking into GMO-free, organic, THC-free CBD oil for her as well. Does this sound like I’m obsessive about my dog’s well-being because it really does to me…?

Here’s where it gets scary. An estimated 40% of dogs rupture the other CCL within 18 months of the first one going. Plate rejection and MRSA infections are not at all uncommon. Re-injury during recovery happens all the time. The horror stories abound. I fear I will never be able to watch her bounce and play again without clutching my heart in my throat for fear she will have to go through all of this another time. Hence my opening comment. Wish us luck!


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