On and off this year, Joy the Puppy, our four year old Lab X Something, has favored her left hind leg. She will hold it up and smile and wag her tail like a Lab with a damaged cruciate ligament, rest on Mom-prescribed Rimadyl and be back to her non-hind leg favoring, smiling, tail wagging self in a matter of days.
By the fourth or so episode of intermittent hind limb lameness (Kudos to YOU – You ALWAYS bring me your dogs on the FIRST or SECOND episode of lameness), I did a full physical and orthopedic exam and found to no one in the family’s surprise, because I had been saying it for months…Joy had torn her left cruciate ligament.
The cruciate (“cross”) ligament is a double band of connective tissue behind the kneecap that stabilizes the long bones of the leg while allowing for all the movements the leg needs to make. Except for sharp turns of down-hill skiers. And sharp turns of football players who have already planted their cleats of the shoe holding the foot attached to the leg that is turning.
And dogs with degenerative ligament disease. And sometimes cats. Sometimes the cruciate ligament does NOT stabilize the long bones of cats who have degenerative ligament disease. I have only seen cruciate ligament damage in ONE cat, and he had Cushing’s disease, a condition in which ligaments can be weakened and sometimes…tear.
ANYWAYS, Joy has the dog sort of cruciate damage secondary to degenerative ligament disease of unknown origin. Yes, she most likely turned like a skier or a football player with two crucial (haha get it?) differences…
1. In dogs, it is likely that cruciate disease is most often secondary to a degenerative process – It would most likely happen with or without injury.
2. If the tear was hastened by an injury, Joy PROBABLY did not have an underlying noble cause like dodging a pine tree or catching a ball. IF she indeed did make one or more tough-on-her-knee moves and IF she had a reason for turning on a dime and IF she could remember and IF she could talk….she would probably say, “it just seemed like it would be fun…and it was!”
Surgery was scheduled with Dr. Merkley, one of two excellent veterinary surgeons in Omaha. Dr. Merkley is also my surgery teacher from vet school last century, and I have always enjoyed learning from him and working with him.
Word to the wise – even if you love your surgeon and he is about to do a super cool surgery, ONLY go into the surgical suite with him if the surgery is NOT on your own pet. Anyways, now I know.
Surgery was about two hours long. I sat next to Joy on the stretcher after surgery, both of us exhausted, she from her long morning of anesthesia and surgery and I from my long morning of observation and empathy.
THANK YOU Doc, for fixing our dog.
THANK YOU Allison, for keeping Joy alive.
THANK YOU Boss, for discounting the portions of Joy’s adventure that were not the actual surgery so severely that I fear you may be as financially beaned by this case as are we.
Joy is five weeks into recovery, and is doing great. Client compliance has been an issue. In fact, she just ran past me…on three legs. Back to the leash *sigh*
I will never boss you to strictly rest your own pet again without a (even more) kind and (even more) sympathetic I-know-this-sucks comradery, that frankly, I have not felt this strongly since the strict rest I mandated for my own Wuzzy Rat during her recovery from spay surgery.
Three more weeks of STRICT rest, then post-recovery radiographs, then back to full activity. We should be back to neighborhood walks just in time for the huge Christmas snow drifts! It is a short chapter in a very long life. I am so grateful that it has gone so well.