23 January 2017

We can rebuild her. We have the technology.

Over a year ago, Reese started limping after a trip to the doggy beach. We initially chalked it up to too much running around and merely needing some rest. Alas, this was not the case. She would rest (read: not get her tennis ball thrown every thirty seconds) for a few days, then immediately start limping as soon as we ramped up her activity level. It was time for the vet.

The Dr. Vet poked and prodded her leg and knee, while Reese glared at him. The joint was swollen and clearly causing her discomfort. We tried everything Dr. Vet recommended, such as anti-inflammatories, but nothing produced a lasting result. Finally, months later, it was time to visit Dr. Orthopaedic Vet.

Apparently when dogs tear their CCL (cranial cruciate ligament, the doggy version of an ACL), it is usually degenerative rather than acute. That means instead of a sudden tear and lots of howling, it slowly tears over a period of time. Dr. Orthopaedic Vet further explained that the ligament can't recover from tears, but it can be replaced with string and scar tissue. She couldn't be 100% sure about how badly, if at all, the ligament was torn prior to surgery, but, in her experience, it was torn and needed to be fixed.

After much debate, we chose the less invasive option to fix her knee. Basically, a bunch of fishing wire is wrapped around the knee to hold it together, and eventually scar tissue builds up and keeps everything steady. As the knee heals, stretches and increased mobility prevent the scar tissue from locking the knee in place while simultaneously building up strength.

We scheduled her surgery for as soon as possible. Afterwards, Dr. Orthopaedic Vet said her ligement was 90% torn. She kept Reese in the hospital overnight for observation, after which she was very ready to come home.
The blue dangly thing is a leash.

Sadly for her, Reese had two months of rehabilitation in front of her. At first, she was stuck in her crate most of the time, to prevent her from trying to walk around. At first, she was groggy enough to not care.
Zero dragged over his bed to keep her company.
That lasted for about as long as you'd expect. With her normal imperviousness to pain, she wanted to run around and eat tennis balls. However, the doctor said she was limited to five minute potty walks and nothing else. Let's just say the two weeks until her stitches were removed were very loud.

Once the stitches were finally out, the cone came off and physical therapy could begin. At first she was super excited to be out of the house and meeting new people. When the therapist laid her on her said and began stretching and massaging her leg, Reese changed her mind and wanted out of there. It took at least one vet tech to hold her still enough for the therapist to do her job.

Next came the obstacle course. Normal dogs are lured through the course with treats, but Miss Picky Pants wanted nothing to do with the offered food. She even turned up her snout at cheese. Thankfully, she was willing to follow Matt through the course. I helped by pointing and laughing.

Finally, the water tank. It's basically a treadmill in tank with varying amounts of water. In Reese's case, the water resistance forces her to use certain muscles, strengthening them. As she still refused to be lured by traditional nom noms, they threw a tennis ball in the tank. That got her moving.

With increased activity levels and regular physical therapy, Reese's leg was clearly healing nicely. The only problem was that her other hind leg was getting worse. It is common for dogs with one CCL tear to tear the other one. What no one mentioned is that by favoring the good knee both before and after surgery, the good CCL can develop a degenerative tear. I'll give you guess as to what happened.

We got to repeat the entire process over again. Reese's other knee was fixed over Thanksgiving, as she needed to be boarded at the vet anyway since she couldn't run around at the normal place. She recovered more quickly this time, as there wasn't another torn ligament hindering her progress. And thankfully, she's out of knees to replace.

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