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Tough Decision for Dog Owner

September 22nd, 2006, 07:35 PM
We are facing a tough decision and could really use some outside input. We have two dogs from the same litter that are now a year and half old. One of the puppies started limping on her front left leg when she was five months old and has had diagnosis after diagnosis of problems in pretty much all of her joints. She has elbow displaysia in both elbows, hip displaysia in both hips, and for the last 6 months we have been working to repair a torn cruciate in her left knee(stifle). Knowing she had all of these other problems and is so young, we had a tough decision to make to repair her cruciate or not thinking about her chances for a good outcome, costs, etc.

After lots of research and choosing to take her to a veterinary school orthopedic surgeon skilled in both TPLO and extracapsular repair, we chose extracapsular repair, mostly because of her size (49 lbs). The recovery was challenging. It was hard keeping her calm and crated for so long because she has ALOT of energy, and as soon as she started to feel better, our other dog sensed it and was eager for her to be back in action making restricting her activity of even greater importance. I did her therapy tirelessly, doing everything we were told to keep her headed in the right direction. After about three weeks, we were pretty pleased with the initial outcome. We continued restricting her as much as possible, and went back for a week 4 and week 8 visit. At week 4, they felt she just had some laxity in the joint that shouldn't have been present, but no biggee, she could still have a good outcome.

Then at week 8 they examined her and told us we were essentially back to square one. The laxity and cranial drawer etc. was as if she had a ruptured cruciate still, and the surgical repair was no loner providing any stability to the joint. We knew this was a possible outcome, that the suture could fail too early, but after all of our work, her patience, etc. it was a shock to hear where we were. Our options were and are to do the surgery over again or do nothing. As we are still paying off the first surgery and couldn't afford that, we don't know what to do. We love her so much and have given her such a good life so far, but we fear (1) having a bad outcome again, and (2) facing the future very real possibility of doing this all over again with the other leg that has now been under strain for six months or so.

Our vet who is also a friend has mixed emotions about what we should do. We have realized that her future issues, surgeries, etc. seem to necessitate her being in a one animal household. Currently, we have to restrict her much more than we would like because of our other dog, our cat she loves to chase, and our big backyard, tile floors, etc. It's hard on her and it's hard on us. She also never quite learned how to inhibit her bite and definitely has a tendancy to snap to the point that, although we don't have kids yet, we worry about her being around children. In the end, we would like to find her a perfect home, with owners that are willing to take her on with all of her congenital defects, but we feel it's so unlikely.

We have the option of becoming her "foster home" as rescue groups try to find a home, but that concerns us greatly since in the meantime she needs a surgery we can't afford, and we would lose control over her fate. The veterinary school does not find her situation crucial enough to take her do the surgery and find a home, so in the end we have few options. We think adoption is not an option.

We are seriously considering putting her to sleep, because we know she has had a really good life with us, and that it would be best for us emotionaly and financially at this point. But, we worry whether we are doing the right thing, since she is outwardly healthy. I worry about my own mental well being as I have a history of depression and I feel like it will be too hard on me to see her go backwards a bit more each day or each week with the limb.

So we think perhaps we should stop restricting her, let her be a dog again, and sometime soon put her to sleep. Please let me know if you have any advice, or think we are doing the wrong thing. I know it is a personal decision to make, but I guess in the end, we're afraid of the decision we think we've made.

September 22nd, 2006, 08:32 PM
I'm sorry you and your family are in such an unenviable position and facing a decision which we all dread.

It might be worth your time to explore in detail with an orthopaedic surgeon, the type and number of the surgeries your puppy will need over her lifetime and the potential for success for each of these surgeries and balance that against her and your quality of life. Some of the folks here who are involved in rescue may be able to best advise you on the chances of a successful adoption with a family who is able to afford the series of surgeries your puppy will need.

But at the end of the day only you know what you can live with and I guess that is the decision isn't it ? :grouphug:

September 22nd, 2006, 09:05 PM
When a dog is so young it always makes it far more difficult to choose a path. I have a 14 month old Berner that just went through a series of xrays and consultations with an Orthopedic specialist to determine his long term and short term prognosis. His xrays showed that he definitely has some changes in his joints but none that point to arthritic changes as of yet. His hind legs are more of an issue than his front although one of his front legs does give him a jolt if he gets playing silly. His ligaments and tendons in the hind are not really tight enough to stablize the joints, therefore his two "ankles if you will" can rotate almost 360 degrees. This in some ways is beneficial and in others can be a hindrance. He was on medication as during a period of about 6 weeks he was going through a rapid growth spurt and putting too much stress on his limbs and was in pain. We have now removed him from all meds and are allowing him to be a big goof and play how he wants. Prior to that, we were restricting his movement and worrying about the what ifs a lot. The best piece of advice I received was to let him be a dog and enjoy life. If he's in pain, give him meds for 24-48 hours to ease the pain then let him be a dog all over again. If he's going to tear something or injure himself somehow, then there's not much you can do about it but fix what goes wrong. Sometimes prevention isn't always the way to go.

I don't know if this helped or hindered your thought process but I just wanted to let you know that you don't have to feel guilty or worry that you are doing the wrong thing. You love your dog and know your dog best, so if she wants to be a dog and enjoy life for the next couple of years, then why not let her do so. The theory I most believe in is "treat the patient not the xray or diagnosis".

September 22nd, 2006, 09:10 PM
She has elbow displaysia in both elbows, hip displaysia in both hips, and for the last 6 months we have been working to repair a torn cruciate in her left knee(stifle).

I am so sorry to hear about your poor girl... how unfortunate for all these genetic defects to end up in one single puppy :( i hope both her parents were sterilised so more misery is not propagated.

here is some information (real people who posted what they went through with their dogs) which will hopefully help you decide what to do. it's worth it IF you can afford the costly surgeries, and IF your girl can stand the multiple surgeries, side-effects, rehabilitation, recuperation time, pain, etc. she will never be perfect, even after the surgeries, but she could live a long life. up to you to determine if trying to fix her is worth it, or letting her go in her loving family's arms is perhaps the best option...

elbow displasia:

hip displasia:


September 23rd, 2006, 09:02 AM
It's helpful to hear what you've been through. I think right now we're wondering whether she'll actually go backwards or not as I mentioned in my first post. Maybe we can let her "be a dog" and play, etc... and her lameness won't progress. Maybe we just have to take it one day at a time, huh? I think I've decided that if we know her surgery didn't work and that she might need to do it over in the future, we should just let her be and see what happens. She was a rural dog, one of 11 puppies found on someone's property.

They rescued the mom and all the puppies, but never found what were definitely multiple dad's. We think her abnormalities come from her paternal side, based on the health of the mother and the other puppies, but who knows? Anyway, we know the Mom was spayed, but I fear the Dad is still out there passing his genes on. One of the best things I've ever seen was this entire litter of 11 puppies being herded by the foster Mom's australian sheppard! My friend was the foster mom and each time the pups would be let out to run, the sheppard would eventually be put to work rounding them up. Our other puppy is of course the runt of the litter, and the one that she always ended up bringing in last. Too funny!

Anyway, thanks again for the input and keep posting if anyone has more advice or thoughts to share.