22 October 2008

Minding the Dog

Today, I am sitting at home minding the dog, Max. He's just had major surgery on his right leg because of a damaged cruciate ligament. Actually, this is the second time he's had this procedure, his left leg having been repaired in January this year. We were hoping never to have to go through this process again but that was not to be; he damaged his right leg a few weeks ago.

The procedure is known as Tibial Plateau-levelling Osteotomy (TPLO) and basically comprises the re-orientation of the tibial surface of the knee joint to reduce the slope and obviate the need for a functional cruciate ligament. It's an amazingly successful procedure, as Max's recovery from the previous episode demonstrated. It's also quite expensive. The insurance paid for the first procedure but I've a dreadful suspiscion that they will try to wriggle out of paying for this one...

The recovery from a TPLO is long and tedious. The first ten days are probably the worst: he has stitches and a remarkable ability to remove them if given the chance, a wound that has the potential to become infected or to fail to heal (both of which happened last time), and a unfailing explosive reaction to anyone knocking the door or making a noise outside. Until the stitches come out, one of us has to sleep downstairs with him because he is too big to fit into his large cage whilst wearing a buster collar (colloquially referred to as his 'lampshade') and we have to be ready to restrain him if necessary. Once the stitches are out he can sleep unattended in his cage and we can sleep in our bed again. For the first six weeks while the bone repairs he is allowed no exercise at all, except for walking into the garden for toilet duties. Thereafter, and up to six months post-op, we will be gradually building up the levels of exercise on the lead (starting at five minutes) until the patient is able to run about again.

Actually, Max did remarkably well the first time around, reaching full fitness as early as five months after surgery. Full athletic performance was restored, and he was able to enjoy again all the pleasures he was used to - such as swimming, running, chasing tennis balls and generally charging about like a mad thing. All-in-all, the prognosis is good, although it will involve putting our lives on hold for a couple of months (again), and we are looking forward to having our wonderful doggie back to his old self. Fortunately, he has only two back legs and so neither he nor we will have to go through this one again...

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