Well, it’s the midst of finals week and I have revisions of a very important paper due on Friday. Instead of working on that though, I thought I’d redirect my anxiety into blogging.
As I mentioned last week and posted on Facebook, we had thought Zoe had partially torn her ACL in both her hind legs. The plan was to just try to keep her calm and see if the anti-inflammatories made a difference. If the tears were partial, there was no need for a surgical consult right away. However, after giving it more thought and speaking with our vet again, K.and I decided that it would be best to take Zoe to an orthopedic surgeon now because it would allow us to know exactly what is going on with her. Once we had all the necessary information, then we could begin to outline all our options.
So, I took Zoe to the orthopedic surgeon for a consult last week, and the news was not what we were hoping to hear: Zoe has fully torn both her ACLs. She needs surgery as soon as possible. The longer we wait, the worse the potential for severe arthritis in her knees becomes.
After examining Zoe, the surgeon explained that she is a classic patient for this kind of injury: young, exuberant, and athletic. Her limp isn’t as pronounced because the injury is in both of her hind legs, which has allowed her to better mask it. (I know, it sounds counterintuitive to me too). The good news is that Zoe hardly seems to know she’s hurt. While she is very stiff going up stairs or climbing up furniture, she does not act like she is in serious pain. But after examining her x-rays and palpating her knees, the surgeon said that there are basically no ligaments left.
While she said she wouldn’t recommend this for all her patients, the surgeon recommended that Zoe have a TTA procedure on both her hind legs at once. Operating on both legs at the same time used to be frowned upon in the veterinary world, but apparently the technology has gotten better and for dogs like Zoe, it’s the best option. The alternative would be to operate on one leg, wait 8 weeks for it to begin to heal, and then put Zoe through the surgery and recovery all over again.
So here is the new plan: Zoe will have surgery on January 7, 2013. She will stay overnight at the hospital, and then will be in an e-collar for two weeks to avoid infection. (The surgeon said that she’s had dogs lick the incision site, and then develop a fierce infection. Upon treating the infection, it would go dormant and reassert itself a year or two later, forcing the removal of the implant!). After the surgery, Zoe is not to run, jump, or play at all for eight weeks in order to allow her knees to heal. (Obviously, the cats will have to remain separated from her at all times). We will also do extensive physical therapy with her for at least three months.
In the weeks leading up to the surgery, we are supposed to keep Zoe as calm as possible. She is not supposed to run, play, or walk longer than 10-15 minutes at a time. We usually walk 2 hours a day, but now we can only do 10 minute walks, three times a day. That is a quarter of her regular exercise.
We also have to carry her up and down the stairs (we live in a building without an elevator).
To help us with the stairs, we purchased something called the “help ’em up harness.” It’s great — the only problem is that Zoe hates it and starts shaking whenever I take it out. She doesn’t understand why she can’t just get up and down the stairs in her own way (who cares if she looks like a bunny trying to do it?!). I’ve been trying to slowly get her acclimated to the harness by associating it with positive things like treats and short walks, and in the meantime, I have been carrying her up and down the stairs. My arms, legs, and back are pretty sore, so I think I might need to move to the harness soon to avoid really hurting myself! Though Zoe is a petite girl, she’s still 50+ pounds.
Then there’s the financial issue. Let’s just say that we will be paying off this surgery for a long, long time. Unfortunately, we do not have pet insurance. We had been planning on purchasing it for Zoe, but then her allergies started, and we thought we would no longer be able to be approved anywhere. I don’t think that’s even true, but it’s too late now. (See Two Pitties in the City for a fantastic post on dog insurance — don’t make our mistake!!). Obviously, we would do anything for Zoe and want only the best for her, so we will make it work somehow.
Beyond those challenges, we’ve encountered other side effects resulting from Zoe’s decreased physical activity. See Exhibit A:
|Do you see Zoe in this photo?
We received this gem of a photo from our dog walker. As you can see, Zoe pulled the blanket that was over her crate inside, and also managed to pull a pillow from our couch into her crate and destroy it. Such an event happened twice in a week.
See Exhibit B:
|Ironically, I gave K. this blanket while he was recovering from his own ACL surgery.
Yes, she destroyed K.’s beloved Bears blanket, which she somehow pulled into her crate from the couch.
Over the past two years with Zoe, she’s only shredded something in her crate twice — and that was within the first few weeks of bringing her home. Without her regular exercise, Zoe is redirecting her energy in negative ways. I’ve tried using brain toys and giving her special bones to chew, which do seem to help. Still, nothing replaces a good long walk — for either of us. I’m particularly devastated to miss SociaBulls walks, which have been a regular part of our weekend routine for the past year (though at least I can participate in my capacity as new member co-coordinator
and as a dogless walker!
I’m sorry if this post has been a downer, but I’m still processing all of this. I know that we are lucky that Zoe is not suffering from anything life-threatening, and that we have access to such wonderful veterinary care. The months ahead will be a challenge, but I know we will get through it somehow!
If anyone has been through a similar experience, I would love to hear how you managed. Any advice about keeping Zoe calm (and anything else) is welcome! Thanks for the support, friends.