Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Healing Nicely

It's been one week since Tango's surgery, and as you can see, the incision is healing nicely. The band aid came off yesterday. Actually, it was starting to come off, and Tango kept looking around at it like it was bothering him, so we took it off (which we'd been told we could). So now we're keeping an extra-vigilant eye on Tango so that he doesn't lick at the incision or try to remove the sutures himself...just kidding, well, partly.

To my unprofessional eye, it looks really good: no swelling, no oozing of any kind. I think the sutures will definitely be ready to come out this weekend.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Going to the PROM

Well...not exactly. Today is the sixth day after surgery, and we're starting passive range of motion (PROM) exercises with Tango. These involve gently pressing Tango's leg into a series of three positions designed to imitate the motions of walking...done while he's lying on his side. Each movement is held about 10 seconds, and the whole series of three is repeated 10 times...several times a day.

Tango allowed me to do five repetitions of the three-exercise series before deciding he'd had enough and turning onto his other side. Guess that just means we'll be doing more (but shorter) "sets" throughout the day.

I hope to add a video clip of this process in the next day or two.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Of Ice Packs, Heat Pads, and Nights on the Floor

One of the instructions we were given upon taking Tango home was that he needed to wear one of the dreaded (by dogs, that is) E-collars or one of the newer alternatives to keep him from chewing his bandage and licking his incision. The reason veterinarians are so adamant about this is that one of the primary post-surgical complications is infection. And, let's face it, if a dog licks his anus and then a surgical incision, there's a distinct chance that bacteria are going to get transferred.

So the advice--or warning--was merited. Unfortunately, Tango is and always has been a reactive dog that flinches or jumps at sudden sounds, is nervous around unfamiliar people and in novel situations...and sometimes takes a while to recover his equanimity. We have gone to great lengths over the years to help him make his way through life with a minimum of psychic stress. And we didn't want this whole experience to set him back.

So...when he freaked with the E-collar on and did little better with the stiff foam "no bite" collar I'd purchased, we decided, vet's orders or no, we'd have to go without these devices. Which meant that one of us would have to be with Tango pretty much 24/7. So we're taking turns staying home from work...and sleeping on the floor of our first floor sunroom with him. That's because he's not really supposed to go up and down stairs just yet and he's definitely not supposed to jump (or even try) up on our bed.

It actually hasn't been too bad. We've set up a TV, a laptop, his foam bed, the memory foam topper from one of our beds, a pile of quilts, and pillows. And Tango's been a model patient so far. He's checked his bandage a few times, but as soon as we say, "Leave it," he does. He's also allowed us to put ice packs on his knee three times a day for the first three days without complaint. Today we switch to heat pads.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Moment of Truth

We dropped Tango off for surgery on Tuesday morning. By noon I'd received a call from Dr. Lotsikas to let me know that all had gone well, and that Tango had been a "perfect gentleman"...which was a welcome surprise, considering how distrustful Tango can be around strangers. Amazing what a dose of narcotic painkiller can do!

We picked him up the next day, after having vet tech Holly spend more than 45 minutes reviewing instructions for Tango's post-surgical care. She even did a creditable imitation of a dog to show us the exercises we'd be doing with and to Tango over the following weeks. She told us what we could expect in the coming days (including that fact that Tango might not defecate for up to 5(!) days because of reduced food in his system and the affects of anesthesia on the digestive tract).

As we left with Tango (looking groggy but pleased to see us) and his Rimadyl, Tramadol, and antibiotic, I looked at the pages of instructions and restrictions that we'd have to impose on him over the next two months, and it occurred to me that surgery had been the easy part. Now the real work of rest, recuperation, and rehabilitation would begin.

Let's Start at the Very Beginning, a Very Good Place to Start

My 10-year-old dog Tango loves to fetch...specifically kongs and balls (of all kinds). He'll run across the back yard to retrieve them, wade into the ocean to retrieve them, and even drop them in the tub when I'm bathing and then try to retrieve them. My husband has been known to toss the ball straight to Tango's mouth more than 100 times on some mornings. An obsession perhaps?

One day a few months ago, Tango crashed through the bushes in the back yard in pursuit of a ball, yelped, and hobbled back on three legs. In a few moments, he seemed fine again. Then over the weeks he began to walk more slowly up the stairs, had trouble jumping up on our bed, and took much longer to stand after he'd been lying down.
We also noticed that he was favoring his left hind leg some and that the leg muscle seemed smaller than it had been.

So off to the vet we went, thinking, "Maybe Tango's developed arthritis?" Well, we were partially right. Tango does have some arthritis, but the vet suspected something more was causing his distress: a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament. The recommendation: a visit to the Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group.

Two weeks later, Dr. Peter Lotsikas, the orthopedic surgeon, confirmed our vet's suspicions. After reviewing the X-rays and discussing the options, my husband and I decided to have Dr. Lotsikas perform a procedure called a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, or TPLO.

And the journey began.