Special Cases

Mogi | Heidi | Johnsons | Buddy | Sascha | Margarita | Duke | Dolly | Meagan | Trooper


I must confess that I personally don't have much patience with people that are openly hypocritical. It is hard to justify telling someone something and then doing something else.

     This is why it was a no brainer for me to decide on surgery for my own dog when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

     Mogi is a 10 year old corgi mix that my younger son found wandering through our neighborhood about 9 1/2 years ago. We took the puppy in and treated him for red mange and worms. We even had to send him to the College of Veterinary Medicine at UF for a special orthopedic procedure to straighten out a front leg. It was something that I was unable to do.

     But when he came limping in from his morning run a couple of weeks ago it was a different story. I had the feeling that eventually he might blow out a knee but it is hard for me to justify taking away those morning romps with his buddy Arlo the golden retriever. I firmly believe that even dogs have quality of life issues. Still it was a sickening feeling seeing him holding the leg in the air and me feeling the laxity in the knee joint.

     Surgical treatment of the ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in the dog is still a debatable issue. Some claim that untreated dogs do as well as those that undergo the surgery. The other debate about surgery is which procedure to do. Some recommend the extra capsular repairs. Then there is the TTA and the new "tight rope" procedure. Finally there is the TPLO which is the technique that I have been recommending on my patients for the last 7 years and now I have done over 650 cases.

     Certainly the outcomes of any surgery depend on the patient and the experience of the surgeon. I just firmly believe that as a general rule we have much better return to function with the TPLO.

     So it wasn't that I was too much afraid of being a hypocrite or recommending the TPLO to everyone else and then doing something different on my own animal. It was that I actually feel that this is the best procedure in my hands to benefit the patient.

    I have to admit though that it is pretty scary doing surgery on your own animals. I had previously removed anal sacs on one of my yorkies and did a total ear ablation surgery on my old golden retriever, but didn't relish working on this little dog that had totally bonded to me.

    I guess it was also that if I had someone else do the procedure and there was a bad outcome I would have blamed myself for not doing the surgery myself as well. I had to do it.

    Carrie and I took Mogi to surgery. Fortunately the orthopedic companies make the smaller TPLO plates to fit the smaller dogs. It is a slightly more difficult procedure in these animals due to the tiny joints and bones. Mogi was a challenge with that bent, crooked little corgi leg.

     The anesthesia went well and I always credit the dogs and technicians for that. We had Mogi on the monitors and he kept a steady normal heart rhythm and respiratory rate.

     I was fortunately able to view Mogi as just another surgery and kept my cool. The only time I almost lost it was after bending the plate and putting in the first screw the position was a millimeter or so too far forward as I had over compensated in trying to avoid the back of the leg. Also that crooked little knee made contouring the plate to a perfect fit difficult. We had to rebend about 4 or 5 times to get it right.

    When I was viewing the post operative radiographs I was pleased overall. We had achieved an angle that was very much acceptable and the plate and screws were fairly well positioned. I gave myself a B plus or maybe even an A minus.

     Mogi came home with me that evening. He was the typical drugged up dog with all the pain medicines on board. Marybeth made him a nice soft bed next to my side for the evening. Even though I was able to give the pup pain meds for the evening I had a horrible sleepless night. Every little whimper and I was wide awake and checking to be sure he was fine. The fact is that Mogi rested more comfortably than me. Probably both of us would have been better off had I left him at the Animal Hospital that evening even though he would have been unattended.

     It took him a couple of days to get back his appetite. Marybeth and I found ourselves hand feeding the little guy all his favorite treats. We kept him on his pain medications and antibiotics and I once again experienced first hand how difficult it can be to give a dog a pill.

     Mogi kept the leg in the air for the first 3 days after the surgery. Many of the dogs with the TPLOs are even toe touching the next day following surgery. I was beginning to wonder if I had done something wrong. Fortunately he started toe touching on the fourth day and weight bearing a couple days later.

     The biggest challenge has been trying to keep him from running, jumping and playing with Arlo. I am now able to sympathize and empathize with all the owners and pets that have experienced the aftercare associated with this surgery. Mogi is only going outside on a leash, doors are not being left cracked open and all the cushions on the chairs and sofas are turned upward. The laundry room has a soft padded doggie bed and water bowl and yes the door has a few doggie claw marks from an unappreciative patient in confinement when we are gone from the house and unable to supervise.

    So now I count each and every day. Yep, as I write this we are at Day 9. Suture removal is next week and I have to admit he has done a little incision licking but not much. So now we have 6 and 1/2 more weeks of strict rest until we take the radiographs that will hopefully show complete healing.

    And what will happen after that? Will I let him run again knowing that 40 per cent of the dogs that tear one ACL will tear the other?

     I think I will let him run because he loves it so much but I am definitely going to tone it down some. The exercise keeps both him and Arlo healthy and lean.

     Most importantly like I said, even dogs need a great quality of life.