Need Advice From Other Owners Who've Helped Dogs Through Joint Surgery (Hip/Knee)
(Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
Sydney, August 2014
I'm looking for advice and experiences of other Australian Shepherd owners who have gone through joint surgeries and recoveries with their dogs. Specifically hip and knee surgeries, as we have been advised to pursue a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) or a Tight Rope® Procedure to repair a Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture ( where they will re-shape the bones in her knee to stabilize the joint to reduce pain and compensate for the ruptured ligament within her knee); as well as a femoral head and neck excision to reduce the pain and improve mobility caused by hip-dysplasia. As these are major surgeries, and very costly (about $5,000 for one hip and the knee surgery if we do both at once as recommended) with the possibility the other hip may need to be done later on at a cost of $2,300 for a single femoral head excision) we are looking for information from others on what the recovery was like, what your dogs mobility was like afterwards, and general quality of life. The longevity of my dogs life is largely beyond my control, but the quality of her life is well within my control and It's my responsibility to ensure she has the best quality at every stage possible. We've been advised that leading up to surgery we need to limit our dogs movement, to prevent pain and further damage, so have been carrying her up and down stairs as she moves about on three legs and has trouble with stairs and can no longer jump up to her place on our bed. We've also been told the recovery will be 8-12 weeks, crated, with minimal short walks on a short leash, with pain medication for the rest of her life. Our dog hasn't been crated since she was a pup, and is used to having the run of the two-storey house, including all the beds, as well as the run of our nearly two acre yard, so this will be a big adjustment. We want to prepare for it as best as possible, based on tips and experience of others, but due to the changes and investment, we are also looking to ensure we are doing the right thing for our dog ( our fist baby, for two years before we had kids) and not being selfish.
Our beloved red-tri girl Sydney is 8.5 years old, (she turns 9 in February 2015), and is about 50 lbs. She's been on Hill's prescription diet J/D since 2008 (specialized food for dogs with joint disorders, full of glucosamine and chondroitin). She was recently diagnosed with a torn cranial-cruciate ligament, after we noticed lameness in her right hind leg. Since the onset during a camping trip about three weeks ago she had been favoring the leg, and more and more frequently not using it and supporting herself on the remaining three legs. We initially tried rest, and then went to the vet who prescribed Deramaxx, as we suspected her hip dysplasia was perhaps causing more problems with her advancing age. As the medication, meant to reduce her pain while her leg rested, seemed to have little effect we pursued X-rays ( 3 separate views), which after review by our vet of 7 years and a visiting veterinary orthopaedic surgeon, seemed to suggest the torn ligament.
As I previously alluded, Sydney also has hip dysplasia. She was diagnosed as a pup in her first 2 years, after we noticed variances in her gait and especially in the way she ran during flyball practices, which we had to stop shortly after the diagnosis. At the time our vet advised it was minor as a pup but would likely worsen with age and may need surgery. For the most part she has been fine in the intervening years, and has regular exercise and is usually limited to mild to moderate activity, with some occasional limping after heavy physical exertion after playing with her best friend, a Siberian husky.
With this bout of lameness though, and a new set of X-rays that show the suspected ruptured ligament and worsening of the bone wear and some mild muscle atrophy in the right hip (which has always been the worse of the two), our vet is now recommending we pursue the TPLO to stabilize the right knee, and that we seriously consider doing the femoral head excision on the right hip at the same time, to try and correct both issues and rectify the current pain and lameness, as we aren't sure whether the knee or hip is the primary cause at present. We are concerned about what her mobility, quality of life and range of motion will be afterwards- especially as the ligament will not be repaired in the knee, only the bones re shaped, and the hip will be supported by the muscles alone once the head of the femur is cut away, to relieve the misshapen and painful joint. She is otherwise happy and healthy, and aside from her very limited mobility and a slightly reduced appetite possibly due to pain and likely due to reduced activity level as well, she seems to be herself. Although she is whining slightly more when her mobility keeps her from following us around, and she is normally a Velcro dog and sticks as close to us as possible.
As you understand, this is a big decision, and seems like a lot to put our girl through (crating, pain, recovery, changes in lifestyle, constant medication, limited mobility), though we want her to live out the remainder of her life as happily and comfortable as possible and are bearing in mind that at almost nine, she could reasonably live another three to five years.
Any advice from the experience of other Aussie owners would be very very much appreciated.
Sydney's loving family, Jo-Anne, Jeff, Eva (5 1/2 ) and Lily (2 1/2)