pupdate: good news for squirrels

My poor little Bo! Earlier this week, Tala wasn't able to put any weight on her right hind leg. I suspected a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament, i.e., main knee ligament). It's a not-uncommon injury in larger dogs, something we went through with our first dog, Gypsy. We gave it a day or two to see if it would clear up on its own, then off to the vet for an exam and x-rays. The exam was super painful for her, it required healthy doses of painkillers and sedation. The vet also suspected an ACL injury, or possibly a broken bone.

The prognosis is a mixed bag. There's no fracture and the ACL doesn't appear to be completely blown. That should be good news but in a way is not. If the ligament is torn in one acute injury, it hurts like hell at first, then the pain subsides. The dog can't use the leg at all, it just kind of hangs there, and surgery is required. With a small or partial tear, the dog continues to use the leg, so the tear is constantly irritated. The tear worsens, and it hurts like hell. Tala seems to have a partial tear, based on what they can tell so far.

The vet says that with total exercise restriction, sometimes enough scar tissue can form to stabilize the joint and avoid major surgery. I am highly skeptical. I suspect we will soon need an orthopedist, and she'll end up having surgery. But I know that's not something to be rushed into, so we're following the vet's first suggestion: painkillers plus total exercise restriction.

Total exercise restriction?! Ouch. Tala is only allowed out on the leash for very short walks: no backyard play, no dog park, no squirrel-chasing. It won't be easy.

But right now, the pain is not under control. Tala and I were up most of the night together. For me, there is nothing worse than seeing one of my animals suffer. It is practically unbearable... which is why part of me is ready to rush into surgery, to try to fix the situation as soon as possible. But Allan and I keep talking about it, which helps me stay on a more rational track. It's not like surgery is an instant cure, anyway. There's a good six months of post-op healing time.

As I said on Facebook, the universe is playing its usual game with me. I have a second job, some money coming in... therefore we must have huge vet bills. It's the law: All Extra Money Must Go To A Veterinarian. There's no question that she's worth it. We don't "decide" on treatment, it's our responsibility. But for goddess' sake, could we possibly catch up with our bills or get ahead? (No!)

Last night, we didn't want Tala to feel left out as we had dinner outside, but she couldn't be loose in the yard. You can see the solution, above. At first, Diego ran around and around the crate, barking, pawing at the crate and going into "play bows". When he realized Tala wasn't coming out, he lay down next to her. Diego says, Solidarity! An injury to one is an injury to all.


Northern Girl said...

I hope Tala feels better soon.

impudent strumpet said...

Awww, poor Tala! :( :(

Does Tala mind having to be in the crate when Diego gets to be loose?

laura k said...

Thanks, NG. :)

Does Tala mind having to be in the crate when Diego gets to be loose?

Oh yes, very much. When we first put her in the crate, she cried and pawed at the bars. I put her favourite toys in with her, and after a few minutes she settled down.

It sucks, but we think she's happier this way, then being stuck inside while everyone else is outside.

laura k said...

Just now, Diego took off after a squirrel and Tala whined and cried. When he was finished with the squirrel, he came back to the crate and lay down next to her!

This photo has been a huge hit on my FB page.

laura k said...

Also, we're only keeping the crate outside while we're outside. We're not leaving her outside by herself all day.

Amy said...

Does she have to be crated indoors also? Can she put any weight on the leg when walking?

Uch, I hate the thought of the whole thing. The money, the concern, and mostly watching her in pain.

laura k said...

She doesn't have to be crated inside. She can walk slowly in the house or on the leash.

We considered putting her on a run outside - we have an old corkscrew-stake style run from our days in upstate NY - but we think she would be likely to run to the end of the lead then get jerked back. That could do some serious damage to her knee. Both Huskies and German Shepherds do not do well tethered. We thought it would end badly, hence the crate.

I appreciate your sympathy - a lot!

johngoldfine said...

That is a fine picture. Both dogs with ears pricked, looking at the camera and subtly curved toward their person, but both in position to have their noses a friendly few inches apart once the camera is gone and they can lay their heads down.

I have a dog with degenerative disc disease and know the amount of care, worry, time, money, concern, anxiety, and changes in daily routine a dog's problems can cause. A dog's yelp of pain is truly dreadful to hear because there really is no comfort you can offer.

Total exercise restriction was also our vet's advice, but once her pain was gone, we had to weigh the possible risk of recurrence against the certainty of her mental misery if she never had a chance to be with her pack in the fields and woods. We've cut her way back and harden our hearts once she's had her daily ration of running.

But part of the reason we love dogs is their beauty and that beauty manifests itself so much in their movement and excitement (the squirrels disagree, no doubt), so the loss of a good deal of that aesthetic pleasure has been a real diminishment in our lives' quality. It just isn't the same without Boca charging off into the puckerbrush!

I know you and Allan are feeling something similar--stress, sadness--, and Tala even more so. My best to all four of you.

laura k said...

Poor Boca, and poor John and Jean. It's much worse for you, as Boca's is a chronic condition.

Total exercise restriction is much more bearable when it's temporary - or at least we now believe it is! If it's not temporary, we haven't gotten there yet.

Kathryn said...

Your dogs are amazing. You talked about how quickly Diego fit in and this picture shows it!! Hugs to them both.

James said...

We have an 8x8 X-Pen with a 4' fence -- a little roomier than a crate, but still confining enough that Tala wouldn't be able to run. Would that help?

laura k said...

James, that could be great! I'll email you.

We have M@'s baby gate blocking the stairs. I'm grateful to have friends who can take the edge off this money pit. :/

laura k said...

Plus... perhaps we could leave a pen in the garage, and not have to tote the crate in and out of the house.

laura k said...

Thank you, Kat. :)

Anon Ymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about Tala Laura! I hope she gets better ASAP! I just went to the vet this past Friday to get his shot, he was not pleased. I really hope Tala will have a speedy recovery that girl needs some exercise!!!

laura k said...

I wonder if I'm supposed to know who that is.